We must make the most of the Olympic opportunity

Lynda Relph-Knight

Britain’s outstanding success in last week’s Track Cycling World Championships revived our pride in our national sporting capabilities. While the England football team fails miserably to impress on the international stage, at least cycling has the talent to take us to the Beijing Olympics as a medal hope and a strategy that bodes well for 2012, when London hosts the Olympic Games.

Would that the same could be said about the design aspects of the London event. Public opinion went against Wolff Olins’ lacklustre identity for the 2012 Olympics, which has yet to show the diversity we were promised as it evolves, but the building programme is under way, with some architectural gems in the offing. Now, word is that some consultancies are winning contracts for the design tasks involved.

Details have yet to emerge as to which these design groups are and what they have been asked to do. Sources suggest they don’t yet know themselves what they have been lined up for in the lottery for work that starts with an unwieldy and, some say, inappropriate tendering process. Experience shows that you don’t get the best design through form-filling, but through mutual understanding and partnership.

We have huge creative talent in the UK, yet there is a strong chance it won’t be evident at the 2012 Olympics. The weakness of the logo suggests poor understanding and management of design on the official side and there is no hint of change. One eminent designer suggests that the Royal Designers for Industry might be involved in ensuring quality or that an Olympics ‘design czar’ be appointed, but so far that hasn’t been the case.

With four years to go, there is time for a change of heart and for Britain’s best to join the team that not only competes in the Olympics, but presents London to the world. If the authorities don’t take heed, we could miss the opportunity to show off our creativity, as we did with the Millennium Dome, and politicians’ words in favour of design will mean nothing.

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