Critical Timing in the Planning of Physical Legacies: Contrasting London 2012 with Manchester 2002

Article excerpt

Introduction

Issues around the planning of physical legacies as a result of staging major international sports events remain a critical concern. While there is evidence of cities that engage in long-term planning, there remains little evidence of appropriate timing being applied, and, therefore, there continues to be concern over the production of redundant buildings that at best don't make money and at worst are a drain on resources. This paper considers various examples of these issues and then focuses on the contrast in planning adopted by two UK cities, Manchester and London.

Planning in Retrospect

Not all cities strategically plan for after-use and therefore successful legacies from the infrastructure they provide for their major international sports events. Some cities have hosted major events that have included new facilities but have then only got around to planning after-use retrospectively. For example, there is a serious concern for the after-use of some of the new facilities Beijing put in place for the 2008 Olympics. Since the Games there have been no events of any significance held in the Bird's Nest (National Stadium) and the Water Cube (Aquatics Centre), and there has also been a reported refusal from the Beijing based Guoan Football Club to use the Stadium for its matches. While there are currently an impressive 20-30,000 daily visitors/tourists at the Olympic Green site paying to go into both venues and this level of income would go some way to paying off the capital loans and maintenance payments, there is a doubt that the 'Olympic factor' can sustain this level of interest despite the introduction of daily shows to keep the impetus going. There is little other event income or sport activity in evidence. (1) The previous Olympics in Athens has also produced an alarming case of another 'white elephant' with its 2004 Olympic site now totally redundant and looking very much a ghost town.

Building new, even refurbishment, is a risk if there is no clear future for a facility beyond the comparatively short length of an event. Despite there being cases where this gamble has paid off, it is clear the risk is considerable. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for example was built to stage the 1999 Rugby World Cup, and while future usage was researched and identified, there was no actual, long-term usage planned. Its long-term view was simply to make the eventual post-event planning easier by designing the stadium so that it could accommodate a number of activities and multi-users. According to Cardiff City Council the urgency of the task in building the stadium meant that there was little time to consider future usage at the planning stage, and that bookings were acquired after the event via post-event marketing. (2) Fortunately, this has been successful with the acquiring and staging of sell-out concerts, international football matches, F.A. Cup and League Cup Finals and Football league promotion play-off matches. (3) While this is an example that has a successful outcome, it is used here to highlight two points: a) it cannot be assumed that this success is categorically related to any pre-event planning; and b) gambling with public and commercial resources is a risk.

The planning of the Stade de France for the 1998 World Cup provides a further example. It consisted of a complicated process in order to justify the build in Paris where there were already several existing stadia. Dauncey and Hare highlight the moving in of a top-flight football club as one of several solutions to the question of long-term usage, and at one point there was even thought given to creating a brand new club for that purpose when there was no agreement on which existing club should go in. (4) The thoughts as to future usage were retrospective to what was already a done-deal for a new stadium, but there were at least strategic considerations for the long-term usage of the facility. In contrast, this gamble and lack of long-term strategy can also result in failure, as the bankrupt case of Stadium Australia in Sydney also demonstrates. …