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Mike Hall - Architect’s Notebook: Transferable Skills

Facilities built for major events need to be nurtured in legacy mode to ensure they fulfill their post-games targets. Knowledge transfer from previous hosts is key to this, as FaulknerBrowns' Mike Hall discovers

by Mike Hall, FaulknerBrowns Architects | Published in Sports Management 2014 issue 2
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The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London is now in legacy mode / photo: Shutterstock/Ron Ellis
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London is now in legacy mode/ photo: Shutterstock/Ron Ellis

In March of this year, I was fortunate enough to take part in the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Observers Programme in Sochi. The programme, run in partnership with Manchester-based World Academy of Sport and the IPC Academy, provides a mechanism for knowledge transfer from host cities to future host and bidding cities. It includes a series of daily workshops and visits to both competition and non-competition venues.

It provided an excellent opportunity to go behind the scenes, to meet the operations teams and to see what had worked and, even more importantly, what hadn’t worked. While the Sochi ‘school report’ will read ‘could do more’, it was evident that great strides had been taken in attitudes to accessibility, environmental issues and built environment.

In a similar vein, I took a tour around the recently opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and visited the three Olympic venues which are now accessible to the public – the Aquatics Centre, Velodrome and the Copper Box. After the 2012 Olympic party, I was pleasantly surprised, albeit two years later, to see legacy in action and the park landscape looking great. The sporting facilities were, however, all experiencing teething problems to varying degrees.

The Aquatics Centre, for example, is experiencing severe glare problems from the extensive area of glazing which accommodated the temporary seating during the Olympic Games. This will need to be properly addressed for both future competitions and the comfortable and safe use of the main pool.

Generally, however, it's still very early days and the lessons of history tell us Olympic facilities can be notoriously difficult to make work practically and efficiently in terms of long-term legacy of operation and sporting outputs.

While the sporting jewels of the Olympic Park facilities are now being put to work to fulfill the needs of the day job, and the major event baton passes to Glasgow this summer for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, knowledge transfer is one of the more immediate legacies we have in the short term.

I write from personal experience, having gained a wealth of knowledge from the benchmarking research and visits which FaulknerBrowns have undertaken over the past few years, and which have been so beneficial in informing our design and delivery of the Dubai Aquatics Centre, Lee Valley White Water Centre, Coronation Community Recreation Centre and Indoor Cycle Track in Edmonton, Canada. There is also the Derby Multi-Sport Arena, which is due open in September 2014.

In the UK, as we are still emerging from the recession, we are faced with drastically reduced public investment in sporting facilities. Budgets are tight and funding very challenging, but knowledge in accessibility, sustainability and lessons learned is perhaps one of the key legacies of the Games. The same intelligence, resourcefulness and innovation must be carefully applied to the continued delivery of new sport and leisure facilities around the UK, if we are to genuinely claim a wider facilities legacy.

Mike Hall, sports partner, FaulknerBrowns
Tel: +44(0)191 2683007
e: [email protected]
w: www.faulknerbrowns.co.uk

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