Economic Boost of the Olympic Park
One of the major factors in London being awarded the 2012 Olympic Games by the organising committee was the legacy that the bidding process highlighted in several keys areas. Chief among these legacy issues was the redevelopment of some regions of the capital which had undoubtedly become run down over the preceding decades. The most important of these sites was a former industrial zone in East London, bounded by the A12, to the west and north, and the A11 to the south. This bleakly industrial area of Stratford was chosen to be the site of the main Olympic stadium. However, there was so much more to the redevelopment of this section of the capital than the mere building of sporting facilities, like the much-vaunted aquatic centre. The site, which today incorporates Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, would also be developed as a mixed residential and business space that provided housing, retail, office and light industrial workspaces. Years after the games have come and gone, this legacy is now reaping benefits to Londoners in terms of the economic boost in the area it has brought.
To begin with, housing prices had been somewhat depressed in the surrounding neighbourhoods of the old industrial site, certainly compared to the high levels of growth which could be found in other parts of the capital. With the industrial units removed and some state-of-the-art apartments built - initially used to house many of the competing sportsmen and women - the first economic boost following the games came to home owners in nearly every part of East London. Economic upturns in housing are nothing new in the capital which has escaped the worst of the global economic downturn, with or without the Olympic Games. However, there can be little doubt that the redevelopment of the Stratford site, notwithstanding other economic stimuli, has led to a great deal of local growth. After all, the area is simply much more desirable to live in or near, given the attractive nature of much of the housing built as a result of the successful bid.
However, not everything in the Olympic Park was built from scratch and some of its historic water-fronted buildings were re-imagined as, for example, film and television studios. A success story since it was redeveloped, 3 Mill Studios is part of the former Olympic site which provides facilities to the TV and entertainment industries in the heart of the capital. Prior to the games, the east of the capital was probably not associated with the technological or creative industries in most Londoners minds. However, since the site was redeveloped, keeping some of its best old buildings and turning them to new uses, TV executives and film producers now use the site regularly, feeding the economic growth of the locality, providing jobs and offering a wider range of opportunities to learn skills in the digital age.
One of the great successes of the games in London was the up-to-date broadcasting facilities that were on offer to the globe's sporting media. The Press and Broadcast centre, however, would only have a short-lived span which ultimately came to an end following the Paralympic Games. Nonetheless, it was always planned that this centre would be converted to another economic use, thus boosting the capital's economy into the longer term. Today, the centre is now called Here East. It is a digital hub for tech innovators and new media entrepreneurs who are able to find low-cost business premises which have super fast connectivity to match anywhere in the capital.
Another key factor in the economic upturn of the park area and that of its surrounding neighbourhoods was the significant amount of time and effort that was spent upgrading the nearby transport network. Stratford has always been a stop on the Underground network, but a new terminus was built for the extended Jubilee Line along with improvements to the overland rail services, too. Stratford is now a stop on the European rail services that extend in the central part of the city at St Pancras, further augmenting it as a place of commercials destination within London, not a mere side issue.
The park's legacy is currently seen in a number of initiatives which are designed to boost the local economy. Business support services, often taken up by start-up companies operating from the site, are among these legacy issues, helping to provide an overall framework of business and commerce. Tender opportunities, for local business people, regularly come up for companies that might provide services to the park, for instance. In addition, there is a 'Fit for Legacy' programme which helps business to upskill, where needed, to help them win public sector contracts and this scheme is supported by all of the neighbouring London boroughs, including Barking & Dagenham, Tower Hamlets and Newham.