The 2020 Olympics are well underway in Tokyo, Japan. Whilst eager to witness incredible athletic achievements, there is an equal sense of anticipation to view the structures and developments of urbanism and town planning that have been carefully and thoughtfully designed to encapsulate these moments and are, for the decades to come, embedded with the ethos underpinning modern Olympics.
A combination of new and reused structures
Although new purpose built structures include the Japan National Stadium by Kuma, ‘several venues that were completed for the previous Olympics in Tokyo in 1964’ have been reused (Dezeen, 22.07.2021). The repurposing of structures has therefore raised the question; to what extent are former Olympic villages reused?
This is a query that is reverberated in London, which has been host to the Olympics on three separate occasions. Hosted most recently in 2012, the atmosphere and the memories that have been engendered at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford continues to resonate with spectators today, although, arguably, in a different social and architectural context.
The London Olympic Park repurposing efforts has received mixed reviews
The area, wherein evidence from the Bronze Age, and Victorian period have been identified, the Stratford Marshland remained largely unoccupied throughout the late 19th to 20th century (The Guardian, 27.07.2017). Cartographic evidence shows that whilst its environs were developed with mills and factories, the area itself was only developed as recently as 1995.
As such, the development of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park would have resulted in a change of use in the first instance and its ongoing use would further diverge from its working-class historic context. In doing so, and as acknowledged in the article Legacy, what legacy? Five years on the London Olympic Park Battle Still Rages (The Guardian, 27.07.2017), its development received mixed reviews not merely upon its construction but also in the ongoing efforts to reuse and repurpose this large, purpose-built space.
What is the London Olympic park like now?
Nearly a decade following the London Olympics, the area is now populated with large business, event spaces, a shopping centre, and mixed-housing. A breadth of visitors from all over are welcomed by the conglomerate of different activities, venues and parks.
Examples of reuse include the London Stadium which is now the home of West Ham United Football Club and the ‘Pringle’ which continues to be used for recreational and leisure activities, and mixed-housing. The Olympic venues have also encouraged other developments in this area such as the development of educational campuses, including UCL’s Here East.
New meaning for the spirit of the Olympic games
Although these approaches to reuse are notable for their economic prosperity, it is acknowledged in the article (The Guardian, 27.07.2017) that, for example, the Clays Lane Housing Estate was purchased and demolished to accommodate the Olympic master plan. The article has also raised that the area is strictly managed as a means to prevent anti-social behaviours. Despite this, the article acknowledges that the area is a nice and demographically diverse place to live and visit.
The community and social environment can therefore be understood to have persisted in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and therefore the spirit of the Olympic games, which are becoming a distant memory, have taken on new meaning in its evolving urban context which will ensure that its legacy continues to thrive for the decades to come.