Richard Sumray - Former Chair of the London 2012 Forum
It was well over fifteen years ago that, having looked at fifty possible sites across London, Stratford stood out as being the one that could be the most transformational. This was years before the bid for London to host the 2012 Games became official. From my perspective, I had always believed that London could host a magnificent Games but I also believed that it could do what no other host city had more than very partially achieved which was to create an enduring and sustainable legacy that would change London for the better for decades. Centring the Games on Stratford could act as the catalyst for the regeneration of the whole of the Thames Gateway, transforming areas of deprivation into thriving and cohesive communities.
Deciding to bid and then winning it in 2005 ensured a national and regional focus on East London for a decade. So what has changed? There is no doubt that Stratford with Westfield Shopping Centre and the Olympic Park is unrecognisable compared to when we first assessed its potential. Not only that but the establishment of the LLDC, led by the Mayor but with borough involvement will ensure a healthy future for its geographical area of responsibility. The long term future of the venues is secure but, more important than that, the approach taken to engage and involve local communities as stakeholders has been and remains critical to long term success. (Incidentally you cannot host something as large as the 2012 Games without some communities being adversely affected).
Crossrail, to open out and properly connect East London, has been a major prize even though it wasn’t ready in time for the 2012 Games.
The boroughs are working more closely together through the Growth Boroughs Unit and that will help create a coherent approach in the period ahead especially with the aim of Convergence being so central.
The question in the title, though, still remains. Mainly this is because we won’t know the answer probably for another twenty years. My own view is that, looking back, the picture will be mixed. Government attention and investment still needs to be focused on East London but for now it has been withdrawn. There may be pockets of investment such as in Silvertown which will make a difference but I’m doubtful that the regeneration will be as coherent as it could be. The boroughs and the Mayor cannot do it by themselves. Other opportunities have already been missed with benefits from the highly successful Games Maker volunteering programme not being maximised and community sport having a patchy legacy.
One thing I am sure of, is that London’s Games has already achieved and, with continued focus, will achieve a richer and more diverse legacy than any previous Games. Maybe we can’t ask for more than that?