The logo for the 2012 London Olympics has been described as a broken swastika
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2012 London Olympics to regenerate
one of the poorest areas of the capital
By Andrew Stevens, UK Editor
4 April 2008: The 2012 Summer Olympics will take place in London, mostly in Stratford, an area of East London. The sailing events will be held in Weymouth and Portland, on the English south coast. London’s 2012 bid was rivalled in contention by Madrid, Moscow, New York City and initial frontrunner Paris, the result being announced amid much fanfare and acrimony in Singapore on 6 July 2005, one day before the suicide bombings, which hit London's transport system.
The road to Britain's hosting the Olympics began with the Labour Party's General Election manifesto of 1997, which promised that a Labour Government would work to bring the Olympics to Britain. This followed failed bids by regional cities such as Birmingham and Manchester for the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Games, with the British Olympic Association (BOA) deciding in 1995 to focus future bids on London.
After its election, the Labour Government commissioned consultants Arup to undertake a feasibility study into a potential British bid for the 2012 Games, identifying the Lea Valley, an undeveloped area of East London, as the primary location for the Olympic Village and main facilities, with other events taking place elsewhere in the capital. Arup's study projected major regeneration gains for East London, with over 3,000 jobs created, £70m added economic growth and between £280-507m additional expenditure from tourism. The study also identified additional benefits such as future use of sporting facilities, cultural diversity and the promotion of sport among younger people.
In 2003, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons argued in a report that it was "clearly desirable" that London should bid for the Games and Government support followed in May that year, with the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary announcing its intention to give political support to the bid. Public scrutiny of the bid was first made possible in February 2004 with the British Olympic Committee's response to the IOC questionnaire to candidate cities, with the IOC's report making a number of criticisms of London's public transport system, which has suffered from decades of under-investment.
The IOC visited London in February 2005 to inspect the proposed sites for hosting the Games, as part of the bid overseen by London 2012, a consortium set up on behalf of the UK government, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the BOA to represent their combined interests. However, the Mayor of London alone was empowered to sign contracts on behalf of the three partners, such as the ‘Host City Contract’ agreed in Singapore when London’s winning bid was announced in July 2005, with the UK government acting as guarantor of London’s ability to stage the Games. London 2012 was wound up following the bid decision and in 2006 the government legislated for the London Olympic Games and Paralympics Act to establish the necessary agencies, budget and protections (copyright) to host the Games in 2012.
Why was Stratford chosen as the Olympic venue?
Stratford in the London Borough of Newham, East London, is one of the capital’s most diverse and economically deprived areas (the 11th most in the UK). However, in terms of facilitating the Olympics, the area has the twin advantages of sizeable available brownfield sites for redevelopment, as well as the green spaces of the Lower Lea Valley, and a major transport hub in the form of Stratford International Station, which will open in 2010 and will provide services to both Paris/Brussels via Eurostar. ‘Olympic Javelin’ trains will serve the station from London St Pancras also. The Olympic Park at Stratford will contain the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre, Hockey Centre and Velopark, as well as the Olympic Village itself. In addition to Stratford, certain events will take place elsewhere in the capital, such as the Greenwich Millennium Dome for gymnastics, Wembley Stadium for football and Horse Guards Parade in central London for beach volleyball. The Olympic Park will be adjacent to the £4bn Stratford City mixed-use development, which was planned before the 2012 bid as a means to regenerate the area.
What about the proposed benefits of the Games?
Aside from the much-vaunted regeneration benefits for the community in around Stratford, already the site of the £4bn Stratford City development, the staging of the Games is also predicted to bring a bounty of tourist revenue to the capital, currently estimated at £2bn. However, a study by the European Tour Operators' Association (ETOA) in 2006 was dismissive of such data, citing similar claims made in advance of the Sydney and Athens events which were not born out by actual increased tourism levels. The ETOA study claimed that anticipated increased tourism levels were not based on any evidence to support such expectations and that the statements of massive economic benefits were solely based around hope and illusions. As Olympiads are televised, the onus on spectators to travel to the host city itself is reduced. In fact, the costs of staging the games are not recouped by tourism revenues and the attendant rise in travel costs and accommodation in the minds of travellers effectively deters them from visiting host cities before, during and after games. The economic evidence presented shows that tourism revenues have decreased during these periods on the last five Olympiads, while the business case for staging the events always optimistically inflates the likely benefits.
Who are the principal agencies overseeing the Games?
The 2006 London Olympic Games and Paralympics Act established the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), an executive agency of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, in order to oversee the provision for infrastructure and security for the Games. However, responsibility for staging the Games itself rests with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), the successor body to London 2012. The bodies concerned compare this relationship to the difference between a theatre company, as stagers of the production, and the theatre itself, as owners of the venue. LOCOG is chaired by Lord Sebastian Coe, a former Olympic medal winner and Conservative MP, who oversaw the London 2012 bid. The ODA inherited the preliminary work and staff from both the London Development Agency and Transport for London, both agencies of the GLA.
As part of the 2007 government reshuffle, Gordon Brown allocated the post of Minister for the Olympics to former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who will attend cabinet but not as a full member.
The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority was created in 1966 by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority Act to develop the ‘green wedge’ situated in the jurisdiction of 12 local authorities in Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire and owns a fifth of the land which will be used to construct the venues for the Games.
What is the role of the London Boroughs in the Games?
The 32 London Boroughs and the City of London, through the then Association of London Government (now renamed as London Councils), backed the London 2012 bid, with particular support coming from the boroughs most closely associated with staging the events. Each borough involved in staging the Games, principally Newham but also Greenwich, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest, has an Olympics Unit which is coordinated by a Five Borough Central Team.
How was the 2012 logo chosen?
LOCOG commissioned designers Wolff Ollins to design branding for the 2012 Games that reflected the capital’s diversity and would act as a logo for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The brief also stipulated that the logo should avoid assimilating imagery from the city itself, in a distinct break with the past. However, the resultant design was afforded a mixed reception at best, with a number of unflattering comparisons being made between it and other imagery, such as it resembling a broken swastika.
Will the Olympic facilities be built on budget and on time?
Critics of the bid have pointed out the already over-running construction budget and the government’s past failures, such as the ill-fated Millennium Dome in Greenwich, now included as a key Olympic venue itself. Also, the opening of England’s national football stadium in Wembley, North London, was delayed by one year. With the opening date of the 2012 Olympics fixed, delay is obviously not an option for the London organisers.
The 2012 Olympics had been estimated at costing £2.4 billion when London initially won the right to host the event in 2005. Latest calculations suggest a price nearer £6 billion. In March 2007 Olympics minister Tessa Jowell even thought the budget might reach £9.35 billion, a figure ridiculed by London Mayor Ken Livingstone. The £9bn figure included a £2.7bn contingency amount and also had costs for such items as regeneration and infrastructure built into it. However, Mayor Livingstone maintained that the budget was set for £5.5bn. “Inevitably, things will crop up and it will almost end up at £6bn. I'd be quite proud if we kept it at that. If it starts going over £7bn that will be a defeat,” he added.
Are the Games supported by British people and/or Londoners themselves?
For the most part, yes, as people are mindful of the economic benefits and prestige of hosting an iconic international sporting tournament. However, the government has had to work hard to promote the benefit of hosting the Games in London to other parts of the UK, not least because of Manchester and Birmingham’s failed bids, encouraging local authorities outside of the capital to engage with the Games in order to generate support and interest locally, such as in schools and sports clubs.