For all the flag-waving and general Britishness, however, the underlying vision is outward looking. London won the rights to host the Olympics by presenting itself as uniquely global, rather than quintessentially British. And the city remains ideally placed, both geographically (with GMT, it has the ideal world time zone), historically, and linguistically.
Thus, more than perhaps any other Olympics in history, legacy-planning has been at its heart. Many twenty-year “visions” proffered in 2010 showed the London of 2030 will be thriving and modern – based in many ways on the work achieved during the Games . Already, it was announced in November that London had beaten Doha to host the 2017 world athletics championships. But it’s hoped the legacy will permeate further.
From an economic point of view, it’s hoped London will reassert its place as the centre of world finance – just as regulations and threats of a Europe-wide transaction tax bite. The nascent “mini-Shanghai” on the Isle of Dogs will grow with several recently approved new skyscrapers, while the Olympic village should stimulate huge growth to the underdeveloped east of the city – spurred on by the Crossrail scheme dissecting the capital. And there are infrastructural hopes too. Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, is overstretched and badly ceding business to Paris and Frankfurt. Will the Olympics force the building of the controversial third runway? Or an entirely new airport on the Thames Estuary?
Thanks to the Olympics, it’s possible: British bureaucracy that would have normally taken years to overcome has already been being swept aside.
Planning permission for large beautification projects has been accelerated; funds for long-overdue renovations of city centre tourist traps like Leicester Square (£15m) and a new two-way traffic system for Piccadilly Circus (£14m) have appeared from nowhere. To reduce emissions, a ban on taxis older than 15 years has been put in place. Roadworks have been accelerated to ensure minimum disruption during the games themselves – while, to reduce congestion, night deliveries to shops have been permitted for the first time ever.
Indeed: just as more people watch the Olympics than ever before, and more engage with the city of London through social media and press coverage, the city could look at its best and most glorious in decades.
London Mayor Boris Johnson is also capitalising on what he calls “A Summer Like No Other”. A new website, MOLpresents.com, reveals details of a rich programme of events, from “sculptural soundscapes” at Fairlop Waters to a live busking competition. Three open-air locations in the heart of the capital – Hyde Park, Victoria Park and Trafalgar Square – have also been corralled for the crowds of visitors, featuring TV screens of Olympic events and live music in conjunction with LiveNation.
But what then? As in Los Angeles 1984, London could see its already world-class restaurant scene, with 48 Michelin-starred venues , become even more exalted after the Games. And is there an opportunity for other new pop-up dining establishments?
The nightlife scene could benefit too, after the world experiences the way the city parties. Already, plans for several new pop-up clubs near the Games site have appeared – not least a superclub based in a former furniture factory just 100 yards across the river from the Olympic Stadium, built by the owners of London nightclub Mahiki. The capacity is almost limitless. And the result could change the city’s fortunes immeasurably.
- What other cultural offerings could be discovered by foreign fans, leading to a new tourism wave of tourism?
- Would a rise in tourism impact the growing isolationism/closed border trend?
- London Mayor Boris Johnson has hinted night deliveries could become permanent – what else could change forever?
- What effect might a summer without the thud of pneumatic drills have on residents?