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SHOULD REGENERATION BE BASED ON A FLEETING AND EXTRAORDINARY EVENT?

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EDITORIAL

Talk of the 'Olympic legacy' is so common that it has started to sound like a tautology; shorthand for the perceived wisdom that the Olympics has everything to do with urban regeneration and only a passing concern with patriotism, athletics or public spectacle.

It's an assumption that can justify a multitude of sins: indecision; slow progress; chronic overspending. It also glosses over the fundamental lunacy of basing east London's long-term development plans on a phenomenon that is both extraordinary and eeting. Is it really desirable, or even possible, that architecture designed to accommodate high spectacle, intense security and intensive use can magically morph into a framework for a functioning community with everyday needs?

The view put forward by Ian Ritchie, who lives and works in east London, is that such thinking is fundamentally awed. It makes sense to seize the Olympics as an opportunity to put in place the cornerstones of successful regeneration - the housing, retail and transport projects that can survive the transition from Olympic support structure to community use. But the business of temporary public spectacle would be better left to the professional event designers; to those who know how to do it best.

While architects and politicians squabble about the desirability, speed and cost of different forms of procurement, they blithely ignore the inherent wastefulness of building a permanent backdrop for a 17-day extravaganza.

Imagine the political consequences of creating a blueprint for a less costly, less cumbersome Olympics, without the endless decision-making that permanent buildings demand. Which would be the most meaningful Olympic legacy? A blueprint that makes hosting the Olympic games a viable aspiration for developing countries? Or a host of megastructures that have outlived their primary use?

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