Just days before the International Olympic Committee’s Bid Evaluation Team arrives in London, a new publication by English Heritage and the Royal Institute of British Architects has highlighted the importance of public spaces to London’s Olympic Bid –

The report highlights how London’s heritage sites, several of which will be used to create stunning sports settings and backdrops for the Olympic Games, are a unique asset to the 2012 Olympic bid.

The report was launched at Wellington Arch today (8 February 2005), a week before the arrival of the International Olympic Committee in London to assess the capital’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on behalf of the UK.

The reports highlights how London’s heritage can offer an unrivalled environment for the Olympic Games, with such internationally familiar and historic spaces and landmarks as the Tower of London, Hyde Park, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade and Regent’s Park, among many others, featuring as venues and backdrops for the London Olympic Games.

“Olympic athletes and Olympic sports will be showcased in stunning sporting, cultural and environmental settings that will create unforgettable sporting moments and memories for athletes, spectators and the Olympic Movement,” said London 2012 Olympic bid leader, Sebastian Coe.

“Evocative cultural and environmental landmarks familiar around the world such as Hyde Park, Regents Park and Horse Guards Parade along with landmark sporting venues such as the new Wembley, Wimbledon and Lords will provide a tapestry of beauty, grandeur and distinction to showcase Olympic sports in the heart of the world’s most visited city,” Coe said.

“Extensive use of London’s landmark venues and locations will also reduce the cost and complexity of staging the Olympic Games,” he said. “Many of our venues for the London Olympic Games are already in place.”

Extensive use of London’s historic locations will be balanced by state-of-the-art ‘next generation’ venues in the new east London Olympic Park where the Olympic Village, Stadium, Aquatics Centre and other core venues will be co-located.

The reports also highlights how bringing the Olympic Games to London will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of deprived and neglected areas such as the Lower Lea Valley in the city’s eastern gateway, where the new Olympic Park would be located along with key Olympic venues such as the Olympic (Athletes) Village, Aquatic Centre and Olympic stadium.

This will be the catalyst for London’s biggest urban regeneration programme in over 100 years, creating thousands of new jobs, affordable homes, business opportunities and much needed new sporting facilities.

Capital Spaces also calls on all those who make and manage the changes to London’s urban realm to make the most of this unique Olympic opportunity to transform the city’s streets and public spaces.

The report urges local authorities to appoint Urban Space champions and prepare sustainable public space strategies which integrate historic landscapes and buildings. The publication calls for a wide range of stakeholders to be involved early on in all development proposals and for the creation of a public/private sector London Urban Space Commission.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: “London is a great global city and its rich historic environment and cultural heritage make it, in my view, a very strong contender for hosting the 2012 Olympics. Capital Spaces illustrates how, over the next 10 years, London will be reinvigorated and transformed with revitalised historic places complementing high quality new development. English Heritage wants to embrace the challenge and work with all those involved in the management and improvement of the capital to achieve this.”   

George Ferguson, President of the RIBA, said: “Holding an Olympic Games means evoking history. We hold this launch at Decimus Burton’s spectacular Wellington Arch – a great London Monument honouring the architect of Napoleon’s demise. Does this augur well for a more peaceful victory over our friends across the Channel?! It is certainly a fitting site to glorify the work of our partners, English Heritage and their remarkable achievements in enabling the restoration of this and many others of the capital’s monuments and spaces for the public’s enjoyment. I truly believe that London of all the candidate cities has, in quality and variety, a unique mix of old and new to offer the millions of national and overseas visitors that will come in 2012. As a profession, we shall be doing all we can to contribute to an historic result in the true spirit of the Olympics which celebrates both beauty and legacy alongside great sporting endeavour.”

Richard Caborn, Minister for Sport & Tourism, said: “English Heritage and RIBA’s Capital Spaces makes a positive contribution to the ongoing debate about the transformation of London. It demonstrates the important role played by London’s rich built environment in that transformation and rightly stresses the importance of the public realm. That realm, with the built environment at its heart, is not an abstract concept but an integral part of the way we experience the city from the moment we leave home to when we arrive at our destination. Capital Spaces provides a very useful snapshot of the changes occurring in London today. It shows how the opportunity to host the Olympic Games could reinforce and enrich these changes and illustrates how the built environment can help London to retain its status as a world-class city in 2012 and beyond.”

Jude Kelly, Chair of London 2012’s Culture and Arts Committee, said: “The Olympic Games and Paralympic Games invite the world to celebrate human achievement in one chosen city. In 2012 we want that city to be London. The beauty and boldness of the ideas for new urban landscapes show Britain’s instinct and flair for melding heritage with contemporary aesthetic and civic purpose. The Olympics would bring the whole world to London – a city where every nation has a resident community whose influence has helped sculpt our culture. In 2012 the renaissance of the east of the capital would be mirrored by new visions across the whole capital. It’s a thrilling gift to the next generation.”

The report urges local authorities to appoint Urban Space champions and prepare sustainable public space strategies which integrate historic landscapes and buildings. The publication calls for a wide range of stakeholders to be involved early on in all development proposals and for the creation of a public/private sector London Urban Space Commission.

For more press information please contact Anya Matthews, English Heritage Corporate Communications, on 020 7973 3372; Marie Clements, RIBA Press Office, on 020 7307 3761 or London 2012 Press Office +44 (0)20 7093 5100.


Capital Spaces: Transforming London is written and produced by English Heritage and RIBA. It is endorsed by the Department for Culture Media & Sport, Central London Partnership, the Mayor of London, CABE, London 2012, the Landscape Institute, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Urban Design London, and Transport for London.

Copies of Capital Spaces can be downloaded from

www.english-heritage.org.uk/capitalspaces or www.architecture.com

Images from Capital Spaces are available from PA PICSELECT www.papicselect.com

Details on the London 2012 Olympic Games venues can be accessed via the official website at http://www.london2012.com/

English Heritage
English Heritage protects and provides advice on this country’s unique legacy of historic buildings, landscapes and archaeological sites. It also manages over 400 sites and welcomes in excess of 11 million visitors to these each year.

Royal Institute of British Architects

The RIBA exists to advance architecture and promote excellence in the profession. It does this via an unrivalled programme of lectures, exhibitions and events; community architecture projects and community architecture schemes. It also runs a prestigious awards programme, including the annual £20,000 RIBA Stirling Prize, for the building making the biggest contribution to British architecture.

For its 30,000-strong membership in the UK and abroad, the RIBA provides specialist information and advice, practice promotion, professional support, commercial products and social and cultural events.

The powerful collective voice of its membership is in constant dialogue with government, clients, users and the construction industry. The RIBA campaigns in defence of professional standards. It consults widely via its system of experts on issues from energy and conservation to planning and procurement.

Wellington Arch

Recently opened to visitors, this splendid London landmark was initially designed as a grand approach to Buckingham Palace, later to become a triumphal arch commemorating Wellington’s victory over Napoleon.

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