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Urban regeneration for the London 2012 Olympics: issues of land acquisition and legacy

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This article sets out to explore issues associated with the immediate legacy of the assembly of land to form the site for the 2012 Olympics. In selecting this focus, we recognise the difficulties of defining Olympic legacy - given that the concept has come to embrace a multitude of meanings - and also the challenge of speculating on how current plans for it will unfold beyond 2012. We begin this paper by setting out what we mean by Olympic legacy. In the first part of the paper, we explore the process of planning for legacy along with some of the debates and issues this has raised. We focus particularly on the question of how much difference winning the bid in 2005 has actually made, given that plans for the regeneration of east London’s Lea Valley were already in progress then. The preparations for hosting an event can have a significant impact on the decision-making process as the tight timetable, and specific Olympic objectives, shape behaviour. One dimension in this process is the impact the preparations and the process have had on the people living and working on the Olympic site. In the second part of this article, we look at the way the process has been affecting the people that were relocated from the site in 2007. How have they been affected and what kind of legacy has the Olympic project produced for them, at least in the short-term? Specifically, we examine the impact of the Olympic timescale on community participation opportunities and the way in which land acquisition has been undertaken. We conclude that experiences and results of the process have been varied, suggesting broader challenges of delivering local or evenly distributed benefits through mega-event driven development.

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