Stan Hornagold on the regenerative powers of the Olympics
Lord Coe’s passionate final address to the International Olympic Committee in Singapore may have been the final lunge that secured London’s stunning Olympics victory. He invoked the inspiration he drew from watching the 1968 Mexico Games as a wide-eyed 12-year-old in arguing for London.
So what sort of legacy will we be able to point to when we wake on the day after the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Games?
Will people be talking about another Barcelona? The Olympic Games of 1992 transformed the Catalan city and regenerated its entire waterfront.
I believe we can achieve the same for east London and the Thames Gateway. The advantage for London is that the Thames Gateway, or its predecessor the East Thames Corridor, have been in the making for more than 15 years. But what the Thames Gateway always needed was a fanfare and there can be nothing better than the Olympics to add the much-needed impetus.
It could be the catalyst for the regeneration of the whole area, not just the Lea Valley, and bring a better east–west balance to London.
The Olympic win demonstrates what can be achieved through clear leadership, visionary thinking and sheer hard work. With the same leadership, the Olympics and the Thames Gateway could be good for each other, creating a concurrent wave of activity bringing about unprecedented transformation.
But to achieve it we need to plan carefully. We will soon have an Olympic Delivery Authority, with strong powers and ministerial patronage. Within the Thames Gateway it will sit alongside the two urban development corporations. They must not be allowed to be the poor relations. There is a need for strong overall leadership and a clear plan to bring the efforts of the public and private sectors together behind a vision for the Thames Gateway as a whole.
Each element of the Olympic Park must have a role in Thames Gateway
Each element of the Olympic Park must have a role in the overall Thames Gateway masterplan. Each mile of road and rail must also link to developments further east.
To achieve this, the public sector has to demonstrate brave leadership and to create the right planning and funding mechanisms for the private sector to follow. The massive public investment in the Lea Valley must lead to greater private investment further east.
Imagine the same quality of public space to the east of London as the west enjoys in Richmond Park, providing the same magnet to quality development and sustainable communities. There has to be a vision to create an area where future generations will aspire to live.
In short, the momentum created in Singapore ought to act as a starting pistol, not just for a middle-distance race over six or seven years, but a marathon continuing well into the middle decades of the 21st century.
Stan Hornagold is senior partner at management consultant Hornagold & Hills