London keeps pledge to avoid white elephant

Updated: 2013-02-14 07:27

By Agence France-Presse in London (China Daily)

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London keeps pledge to avoid white elephant

Five months after the London Olympic Park closed to the public, 1,000 construction workers are toiling to transform it into an entirely new neighborhood of the British capital.

Within a few years, the park in east London will be home to apartments, schools and wide green spaces, studded with the sports venues that have been scaled down since the Olympics and Paralympics.

Reporters given a rare post-Games tour of the site last month saw the distinctive temporary stands at the Aquatics Centre being dismantled and without the appendages, architect Zaha Hadid's "sting-ray" design is slowly emerging.

The pool's fan capacity will be reduced from 17,500 during the Games to 2,500, making it suitable for national competitions and community use.

Maintaining the organizers' pledge to recycle the temporary venues, the Aquatics Centre's stands are set for a new life at a racetrack in Miami.

In the basketball arena, which shook to the sound of delighted fans as Kobe Bryant's US team won gold in the summer, they hope to have taken down the 10,000 seats by April.

Over at the Athletes' Village, the competitors' simple rooms are being transformed into 2,818 rather more luxurious flats, with the first tenants due to move in later this year. New houses and flats will also be built.

A school to serve the new residents is due to open by the end of the year, and two more are under construction.

Surrounding it all will be a park, where once an industrial wasteland lay, after the $460 million) in adaptation works are completed.

Planners hope that within 20 years the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will be home to 8,000 people, with a third living in affordable housing - a boost in a city where rents are out of the reach of many.

The northern section of the park will open to the public in July.

Dennis Hone, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, said: "We're trying to make sure it's the best of everything, so that we build houses, new neighborhoods, on the park, where people will come and live.

"But it will always have sport at the heart of the park, in terms of the iconic venues left over from the Olympics, and in terms of the landscape areas for people to enjoy."

Despite the organizers' optimism, a question mark remains over the centerpiece of the park, the 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium that hosted athletics and the opening and closing ceremonies.

After much wrangling, Premier League club West Ham United is the preferred bidder to move into the stadium on a full-time basis, with a final decision due to be made by March.

Meanwhile, it was announced recently that the stadium will host a series of concerts next summer, as well as the London Grand Prix athletics meeting on July 27, the anniversary of the Olympics opening ceremony.

(China Daily 02/14/2013 page11)