Federation for
Housing and

Re-visiting London after the greenest Games ever

The IFHP Travel Squad reports from London: London is still riding on a wave of success from the Olympic Games.

London is still riding on a wave of success from the Olympic Games. During the summer and fall 2012 we've seen ideas of 'green growth' and 'sustainability' materialized in the city of London. In a megacity that has the ambitious goal to reduce carbon emissions with 60% by 2025, the Games and the legacy present a great example of how to envision, realize, and run a mega-scale development project sustainably.

The Olympic Games in London where the 'greenest ever' and based on 'One Planet Living' and 'Bio Regional' that provide principles for green, low-carbon development such as recycling and preservation of biodiversity. One of the key lessons learned from London must therefore be that the clear green, low-carbon aims for the Games and the city at large, have shaped a strong collective image, and a framework for private as well as public parties involved in the Games and the city's development on a larger scale.

Learning from London
What other cities can learn from London and the Games is that there will always be people reacting against this type of mega-projects that combine a cohesive and long-term development plan with a contemporary plan for the Games. Thus, city planners and decision makers have to push the idea to a tipping point where the city, its Mayor, the team of planners, urban designers, the sponsors, and off cause the population own the idea - and off it goes. The route to the mountaintop is the hardest part. But, once you've reached the summit things suddenly looks much easier. 

Now all eyes look to Rio 2016 to see whether it can rise to challenge and overcome the official benchmark for sustainability, building on the mile high standards set in London. However, in terms of innovation and technologies available to achieve the low-carbon targets in Rio, four years is a long time, and with a bit of luck enough to bring forward the key learning points from London. Taking the timeframe, the technologies on hand, and level of innovation into account, Rio in 2015 will without doubt deliver even greener Games than London.

The Stadium and the Post-Games Plan
In many ways, London did a much better job than many of its predecessors in that it has successfully secured a future for most of its new Olympic sites. Some, like those for basketball and field hockey, are being dismantled, removed. and recycled. Others, like the aquatics center, are being reconfigured as new public sports centers.

The park - set over 560 acres in a once-derelict section of East London - is to reopen in a set of stages, beginning with Queen Elizabeth Park that is planned to open in July 2013. However, looking at the financial success, this depends in part on what happens to the Olympic Stadium, capable of bringing in tens of thousands of people at a time. Officials say they hope it will be used this summer for yet-to-be-scheduled rock concerts, part of a broader program of concerts and festivals at the park, while its long-term future is being worked out.

On the other hand, if the Stadium is left unused, it will create a black hole not only in the park yet to open, but also jeopardize the business plan for the Olympic site and the entire East London regeneration. Much of the problem stems from what appears to be poor decision-making and lack of a holistic approach to planning and development. When the stadium was built, the post-Games plan supported that the stadium after the Games would be reduced in volume and size.

But after the games, a group of powerful stakeholders came up with the idea to find a soccer team to move in. The future of the stadium is left unclear, and will without a doubt cause a lot of attention and critique when the park opens in July.


See also

>> A new form of urban transport (blog)
>> Is the skyline being screwed? (blog)
>> The IFHP Travel Squad reports from London (news)
>> IFHP Centenary Congress 2013, 08-11 June 2013 (event)