Olympic Games: Transport Infrastructure Development

Source: e-architect.co.uk

The discussion of the Olympic Games as a catalyst for urban development will now examine one specific aspect of the urban environment: the transportation infrastructure necessary to sustain that environment. This post is the third of the series.

Transportation is part of the tertiary structure of development for the Olympic Games. I’d argue that transportation infrastructure is every bit as important as building the Olympic sporting facilities because if you cannot get to the facilities, there will be no Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recognized this fact and one of the chief mandates of the Olympic Charter to the Olympic Committee for Organizing the Olympic Games (OCOG) is the “provision for transport…of participants and officials and other matters which, in its opinion, concern the well-being of competitors and officials and their ability to perform the necessary functions at the Olympic Games”. The problem that the IOC is most concerned about involves the efficient and timely transportation of the athletes and officials to the Olympic venues. Prior to the bid for an Olympic Games, the host city often has long-standing plans to solve its transportation problems. The opportunity to host the Olympic Games has expedited these plans.

Many host cities see large investments in transportation. Tokyo, while not the first city to invest in its transportation infrastructure for an Olympic Games, was nonetheless known as the first city to significantly reorganize its transportation infrastructure prior to the Olympic Games for the long-term benefit of its metropolitan area. Due to its dense urban form, Tokyo had to build Olympic facilities across its wide metropolitan region, including the Olympic Village itself, which was composed of smaller satellite villages. In order to connect the Olympic Villages with the Olympic venues, spread far and wide, Tokyo realized it had to focus on transportation investments. Subsequently, $2.7 billion was spent on 22 expressway projects and 5 subway extensions for the Games.

Transport during the Olympic Games needs to link the sport venues, the Olympic Village(s), and hotels and accommodations in an efficient manner, while also considering the daily transport needs of local residents and businesses. For a candidate city to win a bid to host the Olympic Games, the candidate city must have a strategic transport plan that accommodates these concerns. In order to facilitate the process of developing a transport plan that can spur infrastructure investment, the IOC wants to know what transport infrastructure the candidate city has in place when applying to host the Olympic Games. This includes:

  • Existing transport infrastructure
  • Planned transport infrastructure
  • Additional transport infrastructure
  • Main airport capacity, distance to city center, and public transport linkage
  • Current transport challenges and how the candidate city intends to overcome these at Games time

By strategically thinking about how the above concerns are addressed, the host city has the opportunity to create or expedite its transport plans. And, as previous host cities have shown, the exposure to the massive numbers of visitors, as well as the logistics of the Games can justify the investment needed to improve and extend transport systems. Below, we’ll examine how London is using the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to revitalize its transport infrastructure.


In 2005, London won the bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. London holds the distinction of being the first city to have hosted an Olympic Games three times (1908 and 1948).  The impetus for London to host the Games yet again is due to its vision of urban regeneration in the Lower Lea Valley, expanding transport infrastructure, and providing modern sport facilities.

The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is the local OCOG responsible for the planning and implementation of the Games. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is the public sector authority working with LOCOG to ensure the delivery of sport venues and infrastructure. Among the responsibilities of the ODA are:

  • Building the Olympic venues
  • Planning and delivery on both transport infrastructure and services to support the 2012 Games projects
  • Converting the Olympic Park for long-term use after the Games
  • Making sure the project sets new standards for sustainable development.

The venues of 2012 Olympic Games are to be concentrated in three zones in London: Central Zone, Olympic Park, and River Zone. The Central Zone comprises a number of venues in the City of Westminster, utilizing space in Hyde Park. The Olympic Park will be located at Stratford, in the Borough of Newham, East London. Olympic Park will contain the Olympic Stadium, Olympic Village, and a number of smaller venues. The River Zone comprises a number of venues in Greenwich and near London City Airport.

The Olympic Park site at Stratford is the crown jewel of the urban regeneration initiative. It is an area that has seen little investment for decades. The land was used as landfill after the WWII bombing of London, it has poor drainage issues, and utility and transport infrastructure had crisscrossed the site. The objective of using the Stratford site is to provide quality infrastructure: social, physical, and economic to enhance the value of the site and surrounding areas. Olympic Park, when completed, will be a 270 acre park hosting a variety of venues for the Games. It will be considered a sustainable development, in terms of its impact on climate change, waste, biodiversity, healthy living, and inclusion.

The Olympic Village. © 2007-2012 The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

The Olympic Village (left)will be developed adjacent to the site, allowing minimal travel time for athletes to their venues. After the conclusion of the Games, the Olympic Village will be turned over to the market for additional housing (of which 30% will be affordable). The Olympic Village will house 17,320 athletes and officials, which will place 80% of the athletes within 20 minutes of their venues. Adjacent to the Olympic Park and Village is the neighborhood of Stratford. The Stratford town center is a $6 billion office and commercial development adjacent to the Stratford rail station. Among the facilities included is a hotel, restaurants, clubs, cinemas, housing, schools, and parkland.



Transport Infrastructure

London, like other host cities, would like to make travel to the 2012 Olympic Games 100% via public transport. London already has a large and comprehensive public transport system to accomplish this goal. Yet, London has other transport objectives, which involve safety, financial prudence, and regeneration themes. Some of these key transport objectives for the Games include:

  • Provide frequent, reliable, friendly, inclusive, accessible, environmentally friendly and simple transport for spectators and visitors from all around the UK and overseas
  • Leave a positive legacy and facilitate the regeneration of East London

The ODA estimates that 7.7 million tickets will be available and that peak crowds will tax the transport infrastructure with 800,000 people on the busiest day. The bulk of this traffic flow will be at Olympic Park. London also estimates that its mode share, or choice of transport, will be predominantly by rail (78% rail, 18% bus share). These estimates reinforce the decisions of ODA to focus infrastructure investments intensively on rail infrastructure. Total transport investments from the ODA are projected at £900m ($1.8 billion) although there are transport investments being made by other parties.

The location of Olympic Park at Stratford has several unique transport advantages. Olympic Park is located near two key transport stations that will be served by 12 different rail services with connections to areas throughout London, Great Britain, and even Europe. These stations are the Stratford Regional Station, Stratford International Station, and West Ham. Services that operate from these stations include the London Underground (Tube) metro system, the London Overground commuter rail system, the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) system, the Network Rail national rail system, and the High Speed 1 rail system which provides Eurostar rail service to Europe. Below is a description of a few of the major improvements.

Stratford Regional Station

Stratford Regional. Source: e-architect.co.uk

Stratford Regional Station (above) is a major transport interchange in East London. Its location lies at the south end of the Olympic Park. This station serves the two tube lines, the Jubilee and Central lines; a DLR line, a Tube line, and five Network Rail lines. Future transport investments for the Games include an additional DLR service to Stratford and Greenwich and additional platforms at the station for capacity improvements.

Infrastructure improvements to Stratford Regional Station include both capacity and service expansion to the station. Capacity improvements include additional platform construction and extensions on the Jubilee line, a new mezzanine, and improved accessibility throughout the station. Service improvements involve new platforms for the new DLR North London line, which will pass through Stratford Regional en route to Stratford International. A new ticket hall will be constructed which will link the station with the Stratford town center. Overall, the ODA budget for transport investment at Stratford Regional Station is £119m ($239 million).

Stratford International Station

An aerial view of Stratford International Station with a Channel Tunnel Rail Link train passing through in March 2009. © 2007-2012 The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

The Stratford International Station is a legacy investment of the Games. Located in the heart of Olympic Park and 400 meters from Stratford Regional Station, it will provide easy access to the venues in Olympic Park or to Tube, DLR, and National Rail service connections. During the Olympic Games, a high-speed shuttle service, the Javelin, will operate from St. Pancras with a travel time of just seven minutes and service frequencies of ten trains per hour. Following the Games, Stratford International will become be a station for Eurostar trains from continental European route to St. Pancras. Stratford International was completed in 2006 at a cost of £210m ($422 million).


In the next post, we’ll analyze what it all means. That is, why do cities invest so heavily in infrastructure and urban development in the lead up to the Olympic Games? What is the ultimate legacy of the Games on its host cities?




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