After games, London still eyes golden legacy
By Katherine Haddon ,AFP
January 1, 2013, 12:59 am TWN
LONDON -- London may have basked in the euphoria of a successful Olympics in 2012 but now that the party is over, local people are wondering if its legacy can improve the deprived area which hosted the games.
Parts of Stratford in East London, located in one of Britain's poorest boroughs, were dramatically reshaped by an Olympics which will cost the country nearly 9 billion pounds (US$15 billion).
Olympic Park was built on partly derelict land once strewn with old tires and disused fridges, and the huge new Westfield shopping mall has drawn brands like Prada and Hugo Boss, plus customers from across the city.
But on the other side of the railway tracks which swept most of the 11 million ticket holders to the Olympics and Paralympics in the summer, the picture is different.
Here, locals shop at a run-down mall a stone's throw from Westfield, where market stalls and fast food outlets do steady business. Some ask when the rest of the area will start to benefit from the Games.
"It's almost like they have forgotten this side of Stratford," said Abbey Collins, 22, who works in a bank in the second mall.
"I don't really see this part of Stratford changing that much. The hype, it was built up. It's not really lived up to that."
Officials are confident that a 300-million-pound project currently under way to transform Olympic Park into a community of 7,000 new homes plus schools, health centers and parkland can change that perception.
It was always part of London's manifesto to regenerate Stratford and the revamped Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is to start reopening from July 2013, with a full opening in the first half of 2014.
Four Olympic venues will remain after the transformation, including the Olympic Stadium. It still has an uncertain future but West Ham United, the local Premier League football team, appear the likeliest future tenants.
Some question whether many Stratford residents will be able to afford to live on the park after the redevelopment or whether it will attract more outsiders.