Fifth birthday for the Park
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London is celebrating it's fifth anniversary this month (April 2019) since re-opening to the public in April 2014. This birthday month provides a timely opportunity to revisit the legacy of the wider concept of creating a dynamic new metropolitan centre for London and develop a place where people can live, work, play and visit.
The backdrop to the Park's sporting and community legacy played host to the IAKS Conference this month. The first IAKS (International Association for Sports & Leisure Facilities) UK spring event discussed the development of community sports and legacy.
Delegates had the opportunity to visit former Olympic venues including the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre, Copper Box Arena and the iconic London Aquatics Centre. At the Copper Box delegates were able to watch a handball tournament and at the Aquatics Centre see Tom Daley, a 2012 Olympic diver, perform an open training session as part of the Tom Daley Diving Academy. This diving academy is now the most successful diving school in the country and operating out of the Aquatics Centre and a further six GLL managed sites under the Better brand.
The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) provided information to the on-going legacy projects in what is the biggest park built in Europe for 150 years. Besides being home to the former Olympic sporting venues the Park now has 35km of paths and nature trails, 111 acres of open space including gardens and wetlands planted with over 300,000 plants. Residents enjoy shared features like roof gardens, landscaped parks, secure bike storage in five new communities where up to a third is affordable housing.
The former London Olympic Athletes Village is the largest sustainable homes project in the country at East Village, a collection of mid-height towers, in the grounds of the 2012 Olympic site seven years on. The 67 acres now has around 6,000 people living there, many in homes originally built for the visiting athletes. East Village is possibly the largest test case in the country for a new model of renting called Built to Rent, BTR, where renters pay no deposit and no fees just longer tenancy agreements with built-in flexibility. The Village is managed by Get Living, owned by Qatari Diar, who also operate BTR at the new development at Elephant and Castle in South London.
The LLDC impressive figures include that more than 27 million visits have taken place since re-opening. In total the Park covers 560 acres and has 6.5km of waterways, 30 acres of woods and 4,300 new trees have been planted. Planning permission has been granted for over 4,000 homes in the Park so far with an estimated 20,000 new homes by 2031. By 2025 up to 40,000 people will be working in the Park's International Quarter which includes Lendlease's mixed-use 4 million square feet of commercial development.
Over the coming years the project known as East Bank cultural quarter will become a new destination for culture and education. This area will be home to Sadler's Wells new 550 seat theatre, the new BBC Music studios (which is moving from the historic home in Maida Vale). The Victoria & Albert Museum, V&A, will display its world-famous collections at two sites, a new museum, plus a research centre at Here East, part of the former Press Centre. The former broadcasting centre is now a tech hub and home to BT Sports. The USA Smithsonian Institution will establish a presence in London for the first time in partnership with the V&A. The London College of Fashion will bring its six sites into one new campus for over 6,500 students. University College London, UCL, will create a new campus for multi-disciplinary research in robotics, smart cities and culture for around 4.000 students. It is estimated the East Bank developments will bring an additional 1.5 million visitors to the Park and more than 2,500 jobs will be created.
It was also announced this month that the Park will host the World Para-swimming Championships after Malaysia were stripped of the event. The event will take place at the London Aquatics Centre from 9-15 September 2019 which is a key Tokyo 2020 qualifier. About 600 athletes from 60 countries are expected to race in what will be the first global para swimming competition since 2012.
At the Copper Box Arena, the third largest sports venue in London plays host to hundreds of events including the Street League Skateboarding World Tour, Netball Super league Grand Final and this month the World Cup of women's tennis with over 100 nations involved. At the VeloPark over 200 cycling clubs are in the Winter Track League with an estimated 10,000 cyclists participating. The UCI Track Cycling World Cup is a key event within the Track Cycling calendar with only the World Championships and the Olympic Games attracting more World Ranking points. It forms a major part of the qualifying campaign for Tokyo 2020. The UK have hosted the event 16 times rotated between the three main velodromes in Glasgow, Manchester and London while Japan have hosted the event only once so far. Currently, after 6 events Tomohiro Fukaya of Japan is in 5th position with 945 points.
For those who follow the English Premier League Football you will know that the former Olympic stadium is home to West Ham United, currently 11th in the league with 42 points who are playing at home on the 20th April to Leicester City who are 7th in the league with 47 points. The stadium has the Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees London Series this summer. The major league baseball (MBL) first venture into Europe has two of the high-profile franchises for their London debut. According to London mayor Sadiq Khan the MBL venture will help 'balance the books' a reference to the stadium still being funded by the taxpayer. The 2019 Japan Opening Series in March served as A's home games and was the fifth time that MLB has opened its season in Tokyo. Baseball has history in Japan, being introduced in 1872 and is currently among the country's most popular participatory and spectator sport. Japan has won the World Baseball Classic twice since the tournament was created and the sport will return in Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Further information on IAKS in Japan can be obtained from Prof Dr Takazumi Fukuoka and Prof Dr Mitsuru Senda. The next major gathering of IAKS will be in Melbourne Australia in July 2019.