Briefing for London and the Olympics: Predicting the legacy of the twenty-first century

Time and location

Wednesday 6 October 2010 from 18:30 to 20:00. (The  Conference Centre bar will be open from 17:30 and here won’t be drinks afterwards.) Please can you arrive at the Conference Centre for 18:00.

Location: British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Look for anyone from the Story of London Festival. Ask for us at registration and we will introduce you to your fellow speakers and your chair, and pass on any final updates.

Event description

In 1948 London hosted the Olympic but it was a time of austerity. The main athletics circuit in Wembley Stadium was a hastily converted dog track. The athletes were asked to bring their own towels. With the country still in the grip of rationing, there was no money for new buildings or stadia. In 2012, by contrast, the country is investing £9bn and will create the largest new urban park in Europe for over 150 years, a project promising to exceed the scale and scope of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the post-War Festival of Britain. The hope is for the Olympics to transform east London, creating new jobs, new housing and an increased interest in sport and culture. How will London 2012 achieve this, and will it live up to expectations? The Olympic Park is allowing British talent usually on display elsewhere in the world to excel at home. Will this inject vigour here and encourage us to raise our game in other ‘grand projets’? Will the spending cuts affect the legacy? With the Olympic park currently on time and on budget, can Brits finally allow themselves to be a bit proud or is it too soon to tell?

All debates Future City Keynote Debates

  • Bankers and Bonuses: What has the City ever done for London? on the evening of Monday 4 October
  • Is London growing too big too fast? on the evening of Tuesday 5 October
  • London and the Olympics: Predicting the legacy of the twenty-first century on the evening of Wednesday 6 October
  • Is London missing out on the potential of new technologies? on the evening of Thursday 7 October
  • London and the future: Will we still be a major player in the world in 2050? on the evening of Friday 8 October

More information and booking: British Library Story of London page.


Alison Nimmo, Director of Design and Regeneration, Olympic Development Authority


Alison is a chartered surveyor and town planner specialising in regeneration. She has worked in both the public and private sectors and is probably best known for her track record in delivering major regeneration programmes in Manchester and Sheffield city centres. In 2004 Alison was awarded a CBE for services to urban regeneration. Later that year she was awarded an honorary degree from Sheffield Hallam University. Alison worked on the London Olympic Bid, advising London 2012 as its Head of Planning and Regeneration. From July 2005 she was tasked with establishing the Olympic Delivery Authority (IODA) and in July 2006 was appointed as Director of Design and Regeneration.

Point of view for this debate

  • Won’t cover masterplan. Will focus on delivery and learning and how you design something for legacy and then accommodate the Olympics in the middle. And the economic transformation.
  • Will tell the story of design, construction and innovation on the site. It’s a very visual story.
  • What are the insights, stories, lessons from this stage? How do you start from scratch. It’s a long term investment but only have five years to design a legacy in short order.
  • Likes the theme about artists, artists and engineers coming together ‘in a way I have before seen before’ and actually deliver.
  • We wouldn’t get this energy without a national plan.
  • There is the long shadow of Wembley: we’re British, we will fail (note context of Delhi experience)

Bob Allies, Allies & Morrison, Games and legacy masterplanners


Bob Allies and Graham Morrison founded the practice in 1984 and together they continue to retain responsibility for its design direction. Bob Allies trained at the University of Edinburgh and was awarded the Rome Scholarship in Architecture. He was a lecturer at the University of Cambridge and has held visiting professorships at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Bath and the University of Maryland. He has been a member of the faculty of the British School at Rome, has served on the Council of the Architectural Association and was a member of the Advisory Board for the CABE/DETR document ‘By Design’. He is currently a member of the CABE National Design Review Panel, a member of the RIBA Awards Group and chairman of the annual Brick Awards.

Point of view for this debate

  • Will talk about the masterplan for the Olympics
  • Will show 1943 plan – what is so compelling about the image is that it’s a plan about the future but also helps people understand what they have – this is an important part of the marsterplanning process
  • Lea Valley is an industrial area and that underpins the site. That is its character and this is the moment that this will change. Its history has produced a huge discontinuity in the fabric of the city, and how you restore connections and continuity across the valley needs addressing.
  • Masterplan needs to be open and flexible. Abercrombie and Forshaw didn’t forsee the decline of river trade. Within 30 years all the docks had closed.
  • Masterplan delivered over 25-30 years. It’s not a project in that you design it and build it, it has to be more open ended and flexible. It’s a guide, not a constraint.

Ricky Burdett, Centennial Professor of Architecture and Urbanism, LSE and advisor to the Olympic Park Legacy Company


Ricky Burdett is Professor of Urban Studies at LSE and Director of LSE Cities research centre, and was a founding director of the Cities Programme.  He convenes the MSc City Design and Social Science core course Cities by Design.  He is Principle Design Adviser for the London 2012 Olympics, and was architectural adviser to the Mayor of London from 2001 – 2006, a member of the Greater London Authority’s Architecture + Urbanism Unit and sat on the City of Barcelona’s Quality Committee.  Burdett was founder of the Architecture Foundation in London, and has been a key player in promoting design excellence amongst public and private sector organisations in the UK and Europe. and[email protected]

Point of view for this debate

  • The legacy masterplan is aimed at 20 in the future not two years. What does this mean in terms of design?
  • One challenge is how not to make Olympic Park an enormous ghetto, where it’s not connecting to anywhere else – in the case of Canary Wharf and the Athens Games.
  • Another is how not to make it uniform in activity, again Canary Wharf – shopping and work.
  • How do we keep the public space open rather than controlled in a privatised way
  • How does it connect to the surroundings in four boroughs.
  • Connectivity: Design and planning of public space.
  • The nature of spaces: where are people going to live?
  • This is a model for how to create a sustainable urban communities.
  • What have we learned in the process of developing the masterplan? We need to plan to create a long term impact and have have failed to do that in the past in East London (for instance se the Visions of Thames Gateway).
  • Examples: Barcelona Olympics created a port, habitation, driving tourism
  • Impact: Amazing transport assets: high speed rail and tube and bus lines. And DLR. And major shopping centre.
  • Are expectations too high? Will have the desired effect.
  • Is it inspiring? Not as ambitious as could be. But ArcelorMittal Orbit will be extraordinary.
  • Other issues: Who will own it? Will it be divvied up? Or held by an organisation that has a long-term interest in quality?

Professor Paul Brickell


Paul Brickell is making a significant contribution to the regeneration of east London but arrived by a circuitous route. From 1985-95 he led a successful research group at University College London investigating the molecular and cell biology of limb development.  In 1995 he was made Professor at the Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital and established a top rated interdisciplinary childhood cancer research department.  From 1994-99 Paul contributed in various voluntary capacities to the development of the Bromley by Bow Centre, a pioneering community organisation in Tower Hamlets, and in 1999 he changed career by becoming its Director of Regeneration.  He helped to establish strong, successful partnerships between the Centre and local agencies involved in housing renewal and regeneration; to develop the “Water City” vision for the Lower Lea Valley; and to secure the investment required to begin to realise the vision.

In 2002 Paul became Chief Executive of Leaside Regeneration in order to deliver its innovative physical, social and economic regeneration programme.  He also chairs two NHS LIFT Companies, which have designed, built and now manage fourteen new high quality primary healthcare facilities across London.  In each of these roles he has encouraged the practical, entrepreneurial involvement of local communities in small- and large-scale regeneration schemes. Paul is Visiting Professor at University College London and the University of East London and is a Councillor in the London Borough of Newham where he is the Mayor’s Adviser for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  In addition to his many scientific publications, Paul has written extensively on health and regeneration issues for Demos, Policy Network and others.

Stephen Bayley, architecture and design writer, author of Labour Camp: Failure of Style Over Substance


Stephen Bayley was once described as ‘the second most intelligent man in Britain’. This is controversial and very possibly untrue, but he is indisputably one of the world’s best known commentators on modern culture. Tom Wolfe said of him ‘I don’t know anybody with more interesting observations about style, taste and contemporary design.’ He is a consultant and author.

Point of view for this debate

  • We are bringing talent home? We have exciting talent here already!
  • Can the vitality we have be sustained? New York seems positively sleepy today by comparison to London.
  • Wary of the idea of trying to create legacy. You can’t create icons, or brands. We’re hubristic in how we talk about these things.
  • Skeptical? Did agree with Simon Jenkins about this but think we might need this level of of investment in the recession [check].

Chair: Michael Owens, regeneration consultant


Michael has a long career in regeneration, working in public/private partnerships, drawing on experience gained in East London, Park Royal, and North West England. He was formerly Chief Executive of Leaside Regeneration Company in the Lower Lea. As Head of Development Policy at the London Development Agency, Michael played a leading role in developing the strategy and programmes for the Thames Gateway. His current commissions include work on the masterplan for Stratford, East London, led by Urban Initiatives.

Format and presentations

We would like you to prepare introductory remarks to be presented in five minutes.

After the introductions there will be a short panel debate lead by the chair, and the discussion will then be opened to the audience for questions and points. We hope we will have more than half an hour for this element of the event.

As time will be very limited, we will not be asking for visual presentations, except where visuals are necessary to support an introduction. (If you do want to present we check with the AV staff at the British Library that your presentation will work, and if your time allows work with you on your presentation.)

Marketing and promotion

Online advertising for the Festival has already started. On 23 September the printed guide will be distributed with Time Out (75,000 copies). On 25 September the guide will be included with the Saturday Guardian (230,000 copies). This will be followed by a Tube poster run, and a large screen Tube platform advertising campaign.

If you want to share information about the event or promote it you can use the following text:

London and the Olympics: Predicting the legacy of the twenty-first century, 6/10 (British Library) #StoryofLondon

The Mayor’s Story of London Festival 2010 #StoryofLondon

The Twitter handle for the Festival is @StoryofLondon and the hashtag for Tweets is #StoryofLondon.


There is also a Facebook page for the Story of London.


The event may be filmed or otherwise recorded. We may ask you if you will allow us to use these recordings for event documentation.


If you have travel or other expenses please keep your (dated) receipts and we will arrange for you to be reimbursed.


Nico Macdonald: +44 7973 377 897 Laura North: +44 77 7924 0556 [email protected]