The public cost of London’s Olympic Park

U.K. taxpayers have spent billions on Olympic Park. But what will happen to its venues after the Games end?

 

The London Olympics have been dubbed by some as the “Lego Olympics.” Past Olympic sites have often left a legacy of useless infrastructure, but London is hoping to avoid that fate with temporary and movable facilities. Until recently, the future of some permanent structures was uncertain. But recent announcements have all but solidified the long-term use of Olympic Park—at least for the time being.

The Olympic Delivery Authority is the public body charged with developing and building facilities for the Games. Recent estimates peg the ODA’s budget at £6.76 billion, all bankrolled by taxpayers. About one-third of that budget is being spent on venues in Olympic Park, an east London development on a plot of roughly 500 acres. The London Legacy Development Corporation is responsible for the long-term planning, development and maintenance of the site, and organizers are hoping it will leave a positive legacy in east London, an often neglected part of the city.

Here is a breakdown of venues in Olympic Park and what they’re expected to cost. Scroll to the bottom to find out what will happen to the venues after the Games end. (Anticipated final costs are based on a June report from the British Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport.)

1. Olympic Stadium. The stadium was expected to have a long-term tenant by May 21. For quite a while, the expected tenant was West Ham football team. Instead, the LLDC reopened bidding for a third time in May. Throughout the process, fears have mounted that the Olympics might produce yet another “white elephant”—this time in the form of London’s signature venue. As of now, the LLDC will select from a list of four candidates, which again includes West Ham, as well as plans for a Formula One racing circuit.

2. London Aquatics Centre. The aquatics centre is expected to become London’s premier swimming and diving facility after the Olympics. It will be open to the public, community swimming clubs and elite athletes.

3. Copper Box. This venue was previously known as the Handball Arena, but adopted its new moniker now that it’s hosting pentathlon, fencing and shooting. When the Games are finished, the Copper Box will be adapted into a multi-sport arena for community use.

4. The Olympic and Paralympic Village, International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre. The government was forced to pick up the tab on both the athletes’ village and press centres after private financing dissolved during the financial crisis. After the Olympics, the housing complex will be converted into some 2,800 new homes, about half of which will be affordable housing. The remainder was sold to the Qatari ruling family’s property company for £557 million. According to The Guardian, that deal exposed U.K. taxpayers to a £275 million loss. As for the media centres, the LLDC recently announced that iCity, a joint venture between a data centre firm and property company, was the preferred bidder for the space.

5. Basketball Arena. This venue will be dismantled after the Olympics conclude. In January, the Daily Mail reported that the basketball arena could be sent to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics. Those plans have since been shelved.

6. Other Olympic Park venues. Some of these facilities include Riverbank Arena (pictured), Water Polo Arena and Eton Manor. After the Olympics, Riverbank Arena will be scaled down to a 5,000-seat venue and moved to Eton Manor, while the Water Polo Arena will be dismantled.

7. London Velopark. In addition to the velodrome, the park includes a BMX track and will eventually have a mountain bike circuit and purpose-built road course. After the Games, the velodrome will remain for athlete training and community use.

(Photos by Tom Hevezi/AP; Sang Tan/AP; Matt Dunham/AP; jonsmith/Wikimedia Commons; Alastair Grant/AP)

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