Glasgow Must Look Past 2014 to Judge Commonwealth Success
June 2 2008
Having had the long winter months to enjoy the achievement of winning the battle to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014, Glasgow must now face up to the huge responsibility it has to convert this opportunity into a magnificent success for the city, its people and the country at large.
Huge amounts of money will be spent on infrastructure, sporting facilities and accommodation for the visiting athletes. If the Games are to be judged as a success in the years that follow them, the money spent must work for Glasgow in the long-term and not just in creating a spectacle for the short-term.
Scotland has hosted the Games twice and in 1986 when they were last staged in Edinburgh, the city faced significant financial difficulties in paying for the work that was done. Just over 20 years later, there is little remaining legacy of the event.
Similarly Manchester, which hosted the Games in 2002, had issues in meeting the financial commitment placed upon the city and debate still rages over the impact the event has had on the local area.
There is no doubt that in terms of profile, the Commonwealth Games in 2014 will be a huge shot in the arm, but the real work will be in making sure the high that it generates is long-lasting and widely beneficial.
The main area to benefit from the Games will be the East End of the city, which has fallen on hard times over the years and well needs the economic and structural injection the event will bring.
In particular focus will be on the Athletes’ Village, the National Indoor Sports Arena and the National Velodrome that are being centred on this part of Glasgow.
Looking first at the Athletes’ Village, the challenge lies in genuinely incorporating it into what already exists. Take a walk past many of the new housing developments in and around Scotland’s cities and it is easy to see that rather than adding to the local area, they actually serve to introduce boundaries. There has to be serious thought put into how the development will integrate with the community or how it can improve the local environment.
The Athletes’ Village cannot simply be an isolated residential development that is out of place and ineffectual at bringing change to the local area. It must be designed to reach out to the local community and once the Games are over, have the ability to incorporate new amenities, recreational areas, commercial units and housing that provides for families and individuals across a broad spectrum.
In the past, local authorities have been guilty of selling off individual plots in large residential development sites to different builders who do not coordinate their construction projects. The builders may make a tidy profit, but because there is no overall structure for the development as a whole, they ultimately fail to realise their potential to have a positive impact on the local area.
This approach must not be taken with plans for 2014 and there must be a consistency of thinking across the whole project. There must be an overall development style and over-arching strategy into which all of the work fits. This does not mean things have to be done on a uniform basis, but rather that the various parties involved all have an understanding of the scales, materials and principles that they must work within.
If the design of the project is sophisticated enough, it will encourage further investment in the area, make it easier to convert into a thriving residential community and cement its benefits for the long-term.
The site for the village extends to something like 35 hectares and will provide around 1500 residential units after the Games are finished. There must be an interaction created between the old and new buildings; either through the amenities built on this site or the way it is built out into the surrounding area.
Getting this right will require real attention to detail and the ability of those involved to keep the bigger picture in focus and not become myopic to the long-term requirements of the project.
This is also the case with the National Indoor Sports Arena and the National Velodrome being built alongside the Athletes’ Village. How will these venues be used in the future? How can they be adapted to cater for different events? How can the local community be encouraged to use them? Who will manage them in the future and what sort of planning has been done around this?
It is not just about getting the sites ready for the athletes, but about turning them into long-term assets for Glasgow to benefit from. No one needs to be reminded of the Millennium Dome and the wrangling that took place over how to put it to best use. These are things that should have been sorted out before it was ever built and are mistakes that Glasgow must learn from.
Glasgow has a wonderful opportunity to showcase the excellence of its design and construction industries and if it gets things right create a well deserved and long lasting boost for parts of the city that desperately need it. Let’s hope the organisers make the most of the expertise that lies at their disposal and create a legacy we can all be proud of.
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