The Olympic Park is an extraordinary achievement, but even more impressive will be the slow regeneration of east London
Is it a fortnight-long party that will end with a crippling hangover or a once-in-a-lifetime boost to the UK’s struggling economy? With a week to go before the Olympics’ opening ceremony, opinion is tending towards the former.
While the mood is not helped by the security shambles, the Orwellian attitude of Locog and, of course, the weather, the truth is somewhere between the two.
Yet, what the Games has shown is we can move mountains if we need to.
When the Queen visited the site in 2005, it had the equivalent of 10 football pitches of Japanese knotweed, acres of fly-tipping, landfill and contaminated soil. By any standards the Olympic Park is an extraordinary achievement that no amount of naysaying can change.
Whether Britain can recoup the £9 billion-plus cost of the staging the Games, as David Cameron claimed this month, is doubtful. But Olympic success needs a completely different kind of measure than how much business it will generate in the future.
It is not simply that the Games was delivered on time and under budget, the legacy has the potential to change our approach to regeneration, from the old model based on large amounts of debt and ever-increasing property values to a slower and more inclusive one.
For east London this has meant fewer local jobs or affordable housing than promised. The stitching of the poorest part of London into the rest will also be slow and painful, and can no longer rely on government bailouts and lottery money.
But the slower pace allows those in charge of legacy to be more prudent and experimental. Small-scale projects like the White Building and alternative types of housing tenure are positive signs.
Architects and all those involved in delivering the Games should be given full credit — you have done a brilliant job. But the real test, and the real work, is still to come.