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THE POST-OLYMPIC CHAMPION

AGENDA

Brian Newman is not what you'd expect from a man charged with turning Sydney's 2000 Olympic Park from a sporting wasteland into a thriving, modern community.

You'd expect someone older, less tanned, someone a bit more like, well, David Higgins - the man behind London's preparations for the 2012 Olympics.

Newman is the chief executive of the Sydney Olympic Park and is currently in the UK to talk about delivering a 'lasting legacy' after staging the Games.

Although Sydney was credited with hosting one of the best Olympics in the modern era, it was criticised for its legacy, with the Sydney Morning Herald describing the area as 'ghost town-like' a year after the Games - nished.

Cue Newman. The UKborn Aussie has largely been credited for turning the Olympic Park's fortunes around, and he knows better than anyone how important a well-planned legacy can be.

'If we had had the lead-up in place 10 years before, we would not be fitting the town around the Olympic venues, such as we are now, ' he says.

'It's a bit like the tail wagging the dog. We would have liked the town to dictate the Olympics, but instead we had the Olympics shaping the town, which is extremely difficult.'

Sydney has already binned its 2002 masterplan, which was deemed too conservative, and a new proposal, Vision 2025, has been produced, and is three times larger.

London, he says, is right to put as much emphasis as it can on this early stage if it is to get its legacy right. 'You want to plan your strategy as early as possible. You have seven years to prepare for the big event, from being announced as the host to actually staging the Games. That time goes by very, very quickly, ' says Newman.

'You can concentrate so much on delivering the games on time that you begin to forget about the legacy, because you know you can't be late. There is an awful lot to be done to stage the games, and so post-Olympic issues become secondary.

'Nothing would be more embarrassing than being late, ' Newman adds. 'Athens came closest, and they ended up throwing an awful lot of money at it to make sure they were on time. Now they have been left without any kind of legacy.'

The 2012 Olympics plans use a mix of temporary and permanent venues, which Newman believes sets London apart in terms of developing its legacy. Sydney's legacy is far more reactive than London's.

Most of its venues have remained in place, and only a few have been reduced in size, making Newman's job a case of creating an urban community out of a sports precinct.

'The decision to create temporary venues is a very logical approach, ' he says.

'It avoids the possibility of any white elephants. By removing the stadium there may be a much better way of using that land. You can have too many sporting facilities, especially if you are trying to create a medium-density urban model, which is more filand hungryfl.

'London, and England as a whole, is different to Australia in this respect. Australia hadn't invested in a national stadium for 100 years, so we had a need for an 80-90,000-seat stadium.

'But we are now trying to deal with the problem of turning a coarse-grain space, with our many venues, into a finer-grain one, which is more permeable and easily inhabited, ' he adds.

Newman stepped into the breach by taking control of the Sydney Olympic Park, and is all too aware of how people's expectations need to be managed; indeed, as much as the park itself.

The Sydney Aquatics Centre is still operating at a loss, and will for at least another year, if not more.

London, he said, has to be prepared for such eventualities.

'Holding a successful Olympics is not about throwing as much money as you can at it, ' Newman says. 'The best games are not necessarily the ones with dramatic venues - although you have to avoid creating monumental eyesores.

'For instance, Beijing has wonderful designs, and will no doubt be remembered as the grandest games of all, but those venues will not be viable after the games. Its Aquatic Centre is a giant bubble more than 150m long and there is no way they will have the demand for such a large swimming venue after the games are over.'

A perfect example of this is the 2002 World Cup, which saw Japan and South Korea squander millions of pounds on state-of-the-art stadiums, only for them to be left underused, or worse, not used at all.

A key message from Newman was that although London is right to be concentrating on the legacy of its Olympics, it also has to create proposals that are exible enough to deal with any eventuality. 'London must remember that the Olympics is not about expensive venues, but about the personal experience, ' he says. 'The Sydney Games were rated so highly because they were seen as being the friendly Games. Everything went like clockwork, and people really got into the spirit of the Games.'

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