Today’s announcement that the 2012 Olympic Games will be held in London is great news for the residents of the East End. It’s an area that has been crying out for investment for many years, yet sadly has been generally ignored.
The Canary Wharf developments of the late 80s and early 90s are of course the only exception to that – but they were very business-focused, creating quite a cold and unwelcoming environment outside of “business hours”. Docklands is a ghost town at the weekends, and despite its high-property costs, very few can honestly say it’s an aspirational place to live.
I believe that the Olympic regeneration will be very community-orientated; creating a framework of developments that will be of benefit to local people before, during and after the games. Although the focus will no doubt be on creation of the Olympic Village, I also believe that much of the investment will be spread further a field – as other sites are developed and infrastructure generally improved. This distribution will hopefully prevent the creation of a similar situation to the Canary Wharf/Poplar divide – where investment is kept to a predetermined boundary, creating a stark contrast in a very localised area.
Of course, we mustn’t forget this is about sport and the opportunity for athletes of the world to come to London to compete. However, this announcement comes at a time when schools would normally hold their annual sports day – a tradition that is slowly disappearing as schools are being asked to discourage competitive activities from their classrooms (and playing fields).