McGuinness on…how the Olympics will change East London

Posted on January 27, 2011


While all the debate in the headlines may be about the stadium, let’s take a moment to reflect on the benefits to the area, if there are any.

Coming back from Upminster to Earlsfield at the weekend, it caught my fiancee and I by surprise. Trains waiting at the DLR platforms at West Ham, the first time we’ve seen any trains there since forever (I’ve been using the station regularly for around five years and intermittently before that, never having seen any train go through that platform).

No passengers yet, but not long until the line opens

Additionally, it seemed odd through the glass bricks that make up the outdated design of the station. In our shock we both turned to go through the gate leading down to the DLR platforms, despite knowing full well that it wasn’t for us.

Transport improvements = good (although benefits will probably be negligible after the Olympics have finished).

In a week that has been dominated by the competition between West Ham and Tottenham for the rights to move to the Olympic stadium after the greatest show on earth, we are probably overlooking the long-term impacts and the definite legacy that will remain following the Games.

Battle for Stratford = medium (good that there’s competition, but controversial and unlikely to help proceed the move towards a proper legacy in one of the most deprived areas of the country)

The proposed inside view of the Olympic Stadium on a competition day

I have moaned before, but I guess I kind of understand the DLR extension to some extent over in the East. I don’t think that there need to be stations as regularly as there are; few people from the area will likely be able to afford to attend any events at the Olympics, nor to shop at the new Westfield – Stratford City, set to be the largest city-based mall in Europe.

The economy will probably improve (good), but the only way to guarantee that is by job creation and job demand. The demand for jobs will only be there if a product can be found, as the Olympics alone cannot provide 50,000 positions for Eastenders left unemployed following public spending cuts (bad). Generally the country needs to start producing more or consuming less, and the Olympic stadium is perhaps the embodiment of what is probably wrong at the moment.

Firstly, the longevity is in question following Spurs’ proposals to rip down the £500m stadium, replace it with a purpose-built football arena and redevelop Crystal Palace. That produces no legacy, instead just a business proposition. With government spending on school sports set to be decimated, they absolutely need to keep ploughing cash into the Olympics programme to ensure we strive for further success on the track or field.

Redevelopment at Crystal Palace = unnecessary (the stadium and facilities are ample for our needs, and there remains a limited interest in athletics outside of big events. Unless there’s a bigger call for school and university sport to take place there. Which will need substantial investment from the government or local authorities)

Stanford University Football stadium - fans at the front are still quite a long way from the action

Secondly, it cannot be allowed to become a white elephant, like the Millenium Dome was for so long. How about developing a new use for the stadium as well as the athletics and football? How about university sports? This is where many of the champions will come from, with the time to train around their studies and not necessarily requiring funding from sports boards when they are being subsidised elsewhere. Perhaps it could be the base for an American Football team, such as the Olympians or the Blitz (large areas around American Football fields are set aside for the huge benches and coaching staff of the teams, so it wouldn’t detract from the ordinary atmosphere of a game, unlike football specifically).

Basing an American Football team there = good (a new sport, appeals to new people, puts London on the map for another reason. Wembley’s difficult to get to as well, Stratford has better links to the continent and NFL Europe was massive out there, thus could be justified in resparking the international league. Additionally, it could be the step towards a larger multi-sport franchise which could be marketable as a global commodity)