Arts + Culture

The Olympics Effect

by Bob Payne

London, U.K., Summer 2012:
The Sensible Olympics

Going for gold: You'd think there'd be a great sense of history driving the 2012 Games, as they will make London the only city to have hosted the Olympics three times. Within Britain, however, the Games are being promoted primarily as a means of massive urban renewal, with the development of large sections of the economically derelict Lower Lea Valley, three miles north of Central London. At $18.3 billion, the estimated infrastructure costs will be less than half of Beijing's, leading one to wonder if the Brits will set a standard for fiscal responsibility or just prove to be really cheap. Perhaps a hint can be found in the largely negative responses to the designs for the venues: "Tragically underwhelming," the Times of London architecture critic called the Olympic Stadium, which appears to be clad in bubble wrap.

Tourism legacy: Visitors may benefit from the eventual conversion of the Olympic Park into what is claimed will be the largest urban park built in Europe in the past 150 years. The 500-acre space will consist largely of open meadows and parkland interlaced with bike and pedestrian paths.

Results: Our prediction: silver. An undistinguished but probably solvent effort will mostly help locals—which is fine, because visitors are finding their dollars can hardly stretch to a plate of fish and chips these days.

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