Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The expensive, state of the art facility bears little resemblance to media accommodations for the 1948 "Austerity Games."
For London's 1948 summer Olympics, the fittingly titled "Austerity Games" had its Broadcast Center (used mostly by the BBC) situated inside the city's old Palace of the Arts. Media personnel crammed into the historic building, which was constructed for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, leaving behind no permanent upgrades to the facility once they departed.
In stark contrast, London's new media digs for the 2012 Olympics show little sign of austerity. The massive, publicly funded complex officially opened over the weekend. It's the first venue at Olympic Park to be fully open for business.
The Media Centre is a critical portion of the built legacy of these Olympics, replacing the derelict Hackney Wick Stadium that once stood in its place. It consists of almost 900,000 total square feet of space, costing an estimated $460 million to build. While the Games are ongoing, it will be used by journalists, photographers, broadcasters, and Olympics staff.
When plans to build the facility were first announced, officials anticipated an entirely privately funded project, thinking it would be easily seen as a permanent employment hub after the Games, especially for creative industries. By 2010, local Olympics officials realized it had to be publicly financed thanks to a poor credit market.
Its post-Olympics future has also been a cause for concern among locals, with its size and public cost seemingly too high to secure a healthy long term future. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, officials have narrowed down the media center's potential post-Olympics tenants to two bidders, UK Fashion Hub and iCITY. UK Fashion Hub would use the site for manufacturing and design. iCITY would develop an information technology research center. The winner will be announced after the Games.
But rejected bids have been allowed to reenter and an extension has been made on a final decision. A Financial Times report also states that advisers to Boris Johnson are examining the costs of tearing down the entire complex, perhaps suggesting more public financing could be needed to keep it open, a move likely to be poorly received for an already expensive redevelopment of East London.
As of now, the Media Centre as well as the Olympic Stadium have uncertain futures upon the conclusion of the Games.