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East London Still Waiting for Olympics Legacy

East London Still Waiting for Olympics Legacyi
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August 07, 2013 11:41 AM
London is marking the first anniversary of what were widely hailed as very successful Olympic Games. Officials say the promised long-term benefits from the games are being delivered. But VOA’s Al Pessin found that many people who live near the Olympic Park are still waiting to see them.
Al Pessin
London is marking the first anniversary of what were widely hailed as very successful Olympic Games. Officials say the promised long-term benefits from the games are being delivered.  Many people who live near the Olympic Park are still waiting to see them.

It seems like a long time ago that people crowded the Olympic Park, decked out in national colors and ready to cheer for their favorite athletes.

Now, there are some events in the Olympic Park, but the stadium and iconic tower stand mostly silent behind homes in the Stratford neighborhood.  There is a shiny new shopping center, but the nearby High Street looks much as it did before the Olympics.

Steve, a demolition expert, has lived in the area for 20 years. “It was like a building site while they were doing it.  It was like a holiday park when it was on.  And when they’ve all gone, it’s like the circus has left town,” he said.

Construction of expensive new housing doesn't impress many local residents, who are disillusioned about the promised Olympics legacy.

“It created a lot of revenue, but that was a one-off.  So, in the long term, I don’t think it’s done a lot for this area at all,” said student Maria.

“It’s brought lot of jobs but let’s just see how it goes in five years’ or 10 years’ time,” said Frances, rehabilitation worker.

Frances has the right idea, according to Professor Allan Brimicombe of the University of East London. He's been studying the "Olympics Effect" for years.    

“It will come but it’s not going to be immediate.  And those types of benefits gradually grow," explained Brimicombe. "It’s on the politicians, to make sure that the benefits that can come from this are actually obtained.”

One of the key politicians with that responsibility is the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. He claims the city is already getting an Olympics boost. “I think that it is very largely, or at least partially, as a result of those Olympics and Paralympics that we are seeing what I think is an unquestioned surge of confidence and optimism about investment in London,” he said.

Officials claim there has been more than 15 billion dollars of job-creating investment directly linked to the Olympics, with more on the way.

And it would be wrong to say everyone in the Games’ neighborhood is a skeptic. Andrew, an umemployed laborer stated, "I’d say it’s a pretty positive impact, because it’s sort of like brought the area up to speed.”

“It’s just great for everybody, just fantastic,” added homemaker Linda.

For some, the aura of the Games lingers as they wait for tangible benefits the organizers and politicians have promised.

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