Almost exactly one year to go to the opening ceremony for London 2012, the Leader of Epping Forest District Council and fellow councillors have been talking about the impact the Games will have on local people and businesses.
In addition to Essex being a host county, providing the Mountain Bike venue at Hadleigh Farm in Castle Point, the district’s local boundary in Waltham Abbey is literally a few yards from the Olympic Canoe Slalom at Lee Valley White Water Centre. Travelling by Central Line, residents and visitors to Epping Forest district are also no more than a few minutes from the main Olympic venue in Stratford.
The White Water Centre is the only brand new Olympic venue completed and opened to the public before the Games. Councillor Lesley Wagland described this as a “fantastic site” which has already taken bookings from almost 90,000 people since opening in the spring. While Canoeing will form the Olympic focus, white water rafting in the legacy period after the games is expected to be the main public activity.
The White Water Centre is due to close its doors temporarily for three weeks while it goes through a rigorous test event designed to make sure the Olympic show goes faultlessly. In the short time it has been open, it has attracted rafters and canoeists from across the region and abroad.
With a local venue and the Olympic Park in Stratford so close, Councillor Wagland believes local business is well placed to benefit. Among the business opportunities listed by LOCOG as still currently available are printing, events management, security, training volunteers, crowd control, graphics for buses, parking, fire alarms, signage and flagpoles.
Councillor Wagland said: “We are all excited by the opportunity that this event will provide. It’s a great opportunity for local businesses. ‘CompeteFor’ is a website set up for businesses to register an interest in supplying goods and services the games. Currently 93 local companies have taken up the challenge. We would like to encourage more local companies to register. Some local companies have already won contracts.”
Councillor Liz Webster is a former Chairman of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (owners of the Lee Valley White Water Centre) and the ‘Olympics Champion’ promoting the Games on behalf of Epping Forest District Council.
“We are so lucky to have the White Water Centre on our doorstep,” said Councillor Webster.
Councillor Webster and Derek Macnab, Epping Forest District Council’s Acting Chief Executive, also sit on a Legacy Board, attended by the Lee Valley Park Authority and the other key partners, charged with maximising the benefit at the White Water Centre for local people.
“In the long run the White Water Centre is much more than just the best Canoe Slalom facility in the world. We want to make the White Water Centre appealing for families. We want to encourage tourists into the area. We have many historic visitor attractions such as Waltham Abbey. We are already benefiting from the fact it has been opened ahead of the games,” said Councillor Webster.
She added: “The legacy looks even brighter since an announcement earlier this year that the White Water Centre is also to host the World Canoe Championship in 2015. The Olympics and World Championships can showcase our district, encouraging people to return again and again.”
Councillor Ricki Gadsby, Leisure and Wellbeing Portfolio Holder for Epping Forest District Council, sees 2012 as an opportunity to invest in Waltham Abbey. Events such as the W Festival are already drawing greater attention to the town which must benefit from the spotlight.
Many events are planned leading up to the Olympics. The W Festival is part of the Cultural Olympiad. Other major events next year include the Queen’s Jubilee. While the route of the Olympic Flame is a closely-guarded secret, councillors hope this will also come to the district as part of the 2012 celebrations.
These Olympics are planned to be the most environmentally-friendly ever. Travel forms an important part of that strategy and Epping Forest District Council is making a direct contribution. North Weald Airfield (owned by the Council) will become a Park and Ride facility for spectators visiting the White Water Centre during the Games.
As a ‘host council’ Epping Forest District Council bid for tickets on behalf of local residents. Two tickets each for the opening and closing ceremonies plus 50 tickets for the actual White Water events were obtained and these will be given to lucky local residents. Some are earmarked for local school children. Others may be offered to local charities. Others may be given to local residents nominated by friends, family or neighbours. None will be used by councillors or council staff.
The council has run park and ride before in conjunction with international scouting events. It is confident cars and buses can be managed with minimal disruption to local residents and normal airfield activities, such as flying and the Saturday Market.
However, residents and businesses across the district are being advised to think about the potential disruption to their daily lives next year. The message is think about what you will be doing during the period of the games. Don’t stop doing your normal things but think about how you can adjust your timetable to try and take some of the pressure out the system and transport network.
It is particularly important for businesses that rely of staff, customers, supplies and transport links to start planning now if they have not already done so.
Anyone planning a large-scale event or activity during the Games period is also being urged to talk to local people, neighbours and their town or parish councils. Many activities require official permissions, such as licences or planning applications but there may be other good reasons to stop and check before going ahead.
Information on planning your own event is just part of the resource available on the Epping Forest District Council website.
The London Olympics 2012 offers opportunities for everyone across Epping Forest district. The council is looking at plans with LOCOG to ‘dress’ the district. “The Games will be a festival for the whole community” says Councillor Wagland. She hopes people will embrace and enjoy the events. “We want to spread the celebration around the whole district. Waltham Abbey will enjoy a special place during the Games but there is a role for every parish and community.”