Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bid - but Learn from the Dome; to Make a Success of the 2012 Olympics London Must Recognise Past Errors and Return the Games to the People

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Bid - but Learn from the Dome; to Make a Success of the 2012 Olympics London Must Recognise Past Errors and Return the Games to the People

Article excerpt

Byline: SIMON JENKINS

SO the Government is to back London's bid for the 2012 Olympics. A massive pound sterling2.8 billion is to be raised to stage a spectacular event to coincide with Tony Blair's 15 years in power. With the wounds of the Dome still healing, Londoners will greet the news with cheers and groans in equal measure. Here, it seems, we go again on another grand project, a splurge of public money for a month of someone's glory.

There is only one way in which London should host the Olympics. It is by learning the lessons of past schemes of this sort, and by recasting the Games in a new form.

One thing every city knows from history is that these "lumpy projects" rarely have an afterlife. They are alien. They have nothing to do with how cities evolve and grow. A curse seems to settle on whatever site they colonise.

London's own record is ominous. The 1851 Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham and burned to the ground, the site blighted for half a century. The White City, laid out in 1908 and site of the Franco-British and Anglo-Japanese exhibitions, remains a derelict wilderness. Wembley has never recovered from the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 - pavilions of which still survive - and from the 1948 Olympic Games.

THE 1951 Festival of Britain was regarded politically as so unpopular that its buildings on the South Bank were demolished on closing day. The site of its Dome of Discovery remains a car park, the curse defying all attempts at redevelopment. The Millennium Dome in Greenwich fared no better. It proved, if proof is needed, that good intentions to use one-off projects to regenerate hard-toreach districts do not work.

Whatever happens when they are open, when they close they stay closed.

Location, location, location is the truth. The new Excel exhibition centre in Docklands is plagued by inaccessibility.

Nor is London unique. The relics of World's Fairs and Olympic Games, some a century old, litter the outskirts of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Brussels and Seville. Planners claim that buildings are designed to have an afterlife. They rarely do.

What is designed for a single spectacular event is hard to fuse into the grain of a city. The Seville trade fair, intended as a "new city", still stands gaunt and deserted across the river from old Seville.

The Government claims to have pound sterling2.8 billion set aside for London's bid. Ken Livingstone's plan to levy the money from businesses in the capital has been abandoned. It was the surest way to bring about the first known capitalist revolution. The money will be raised instead by stinging the Lottery, London's domestic ratepayers (who never revolt) and a giant dip into London's regeneration funds.

This is a huge sum for just one month of sport. …

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