What brings 150 of London’s business leaders, politicians and public servants together on a September evening in a part built East London shopping centre?
Olympic regeneration, that’s what!
On the evening of 15 September 2010, Westfield Stratford City, the largest urban retail development in Europe played host to London First’s Summer Party, where leading Londoners from public and private sectors socialised with a purpose. London First is a business organisation, whose members are London’s largest employers, from across the capital’s many business sectors including BT, Deloitte, EDF, Invensys and Macquarie. Sports and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson was guest speaker.
Stratford City overlooks the Olympic Park, where the 2012 venues are at such an advanced stage, we could almost start the 2012 Games in 2011! And though Westfield were brave in letting VIPs into their development, at such an early stage, it’s clear that Westfield Stratford City, anchored by giant John Lewis and Marks and Spencer stores, will be open for business in September 2011.
We have reason to be proud of what already has been achieved. The ODA and its many contractors, including CH2MHill, Cofely, Buro Happold and Atkins have pulled out all the stops. The Olympic Park Legacy Company, though little over a year old, is making great progress in securing legacy uses for the Park and venues. LOCOG has its sponsorship in place and I’m confident will deliver Olympic and Paralympic festivals memorable for all the right reasons.
The Olympics and Paralympics have a tremendous power to catalyse change: change in the enthusiasm for sport among young people, change in the aspirations of people living in some of London’s most deprived communities in the neighbourhoods around the Park and change in the physical landscape. It’s as if a giant pebble has landed in the pond, a pebble represented by the Olympic stadia, athletes’ village, new international rail station and the aforementioned Westfield Stratford City. The challenge now for Government, the Mayor, the Olympic bodies and Olympic Boroughs is to make sure that we surf the ripples from that big splash, to the maximum benefit of the whole of East London and indeed the whole UK.
There is a great opportunity here to create a new iconic quarter of London, bound by the O2, ExCeL, the Olympic stadium and Canary Wharf. With excellent transport links provided by train, Tube, DLR and London City Airport, this location is as well connected as any part of London. So let’s all ensure that this spectacular new ‘quartier’ of London becomes a favourite place to live, to work, to visit and most important of all, to invest.
Baroness Jo Valentine is Chief Executive of London First.
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