POSTED: September 27th 2017

NEIL WILSON: LA's way is not the only route to Olympic legacy

The LA Memorial Coliseum is a landmark for multi-use venues and again will be a feature in 2028 © LA 2028
The LA Memorial Coliseum is a landmark for multi-use venues and again will be a feature in 2028 © LA 2028

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) The legacy that the Games of 1984 in Los Angeles offered the Olympic Movement was priceless. Not in bricks and mortar because there was little of that but in its proof that the Games could be hosted on the cheap.

That is not to be pejorative. LA84 provided everything that was required. It just did not need to build much to do it because it existed already.

LA84's legacy was the proof it provided that the Games does not need to saddle its citizens with debts for a generation. Or in the case of the 1976 Games in Montreal, for several generations.

That legacy attracted hosts of cities to bid to host that might previously have been frightened away by Montreal's example. Now, it is hoped by the International Olympic Committee that LA can repeat its trick in 2028 and prove that a Games need not be exorbitantly expensive.

To be blunt, to prove that a Games need not be like Beijing in 2008 - estimated cost $40 million - or Sochi in 2014 - estimated cost $51 billion.

But let's not be blinded into a belief that LA's way is the only way. Legacy can be tangible. It can be left in bricks and mortar, or, more likely, in concrete.

This week the Financial Times, a medium accustomed to objective analysis of facts and figures, declared the London Olympics of 2012 a success. Not the 16-day festival of sport which everybody enjoyed but what it left behind on the ground.

The FT reported 11 towers under construction on the 560 acre Olympic site that will house 4 million square feet of office space, a quarter of it leased already. It found 6,000 residents where the athletes lived during the Games, half of them in social housing, with two more residential blocks for 600 under construction.

And in another article the FT extolled the beauty of the largest park created in Europe in the previous 100 years which is the centre of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

All that at a cost of $14 billion. Not cheap but not a lot for the regeneration of a derelict part of a city probably two decades before it would have been done without an Olympic Games.

And London is not alone. Everybody in the Olympic Family points with pride at the regeneration of Barcelona by the Games of 1992 but what about Athens in 2004.

Remembered for a last minute struggle to be finished, it is widely derided for venues like the sailing marina, rusted and chained up since the Games.

But Athens is a far better city because of its Games. Its airport, its tram and suburban rail, its ring road, airport access highway to downtown, its north-south highway, its revamped energy and telecoms infrastructure...I could go on.

Contrary to the jibes of its critics, even many of its Olympic sports facilities continue to serve useful existences. Its refurbished Olympic Stadium has been used almost every Sunday since 2004. Its badminton hall is now an acclaimed concert hall.

So LA offers one route to an Olympic legacy but not the only route. Barcelona, Athens, London, probably Paris in 2024 offer another equally valuable. And if the price is right, one to be celebrated.

** NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

****The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sports Features Communications.

Keywords · Olympics · Neil Wilson

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