Could an athletes’ village be your new home?

Posted: 30 Jul, 2014.

International sporting events, like the Commonwealth Games, help regenerate communities and supply much needed housing

It is difficult to miss that the Commonwealth Games are in full swing in Glasgow and I am sure that many of us will be following avidly as competitors strain every sinew to achieve their best in their chosen event.

These large sporting events are a bit like travelling circuses as they roll into town and create great excitement and then roll out again; leaving what? There is much talk of legacy, which will define the games in the future by increasing participation in sport and also leaving buildings and venues which will be used rather than left to decay.

From my perspective being involved in the construction sector it is interesting to see how events like the Commonwealth and Olympic Games affect their surroundings after the event. Certainly from a housing point of view, they make a difference in terms of urban regeneration and act as a stimulus for investment.

Housing legacy

The buildings and venues of the games in Glasgow have been designed to ensure future use. It is planned that the athletes’ village will be redeveloped to create around 700 new homes of which 300 will be used as social housing. This is planned to be part of a larger development which will eventually include 10,000 new homes. The area where this activity is planned is in a deprived post-industrial landscape and is a positive improvement for this community.

The Olympic Games held in London has led to the creation of a housing development called the East Village, which is hoped to create nearly 3,000 houses. The old athletes’ village has been modified to make the residences fit for long term use and it is hoped that this development will provide further regeneration for the Hackney and Stratford districts of East London.

Housing can also occur indirectly from a Games held in a city. In Manchester, for example, the athletes’ village was not used as housing but as student accommodation. After the games, the other investment put into the East side of the city where the Games were held, has seen regeneration in housing and business relocation.

All big events like the Commonwealth or Olympic Games involve huge amounts of both public and private investment and operate to varying degrees of success. The Olympics in Sydney for example were very successful and resulted in a new suburb called Newington which is now home to over 5,000 residents. By comparison the Athens Games was considerably less successful, with a village being created to house 10,000 people after the Games, but sadly it is regarded as a ghetto by Athenians with poor transport links and little infrastructure.

Good thing or bad thing

The cost of mounting Games of whatever genre is massive and the resulting housing legacy has been mixed. The word “legacy” is much bandied about and it can be temporary like the “feel good factor” that we experienced in 2012 or more concrete like buildings and infrastructure. It might be argued that if the money spent on the various Games was invested directly into buildings and infrastructure there would be more to go round, but equally something like an Olympic or Commonwealth Games gives a focus rather than a vague plan to do something. The lasting effect of these events won’t be known for many years, and maybe we’ll look back and regard them as a seminal event when things changed for the better. Let’s hope this is the case.


By James Cadman

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