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Mathews Interview in Time Out: London

Professor of Art and English architectural scholar Stan Mathews was interviewed by one of the most prestigious English publications, Time Out: London. He answered questions about “what the success or failure of the 2012 London Olympics would mean,” Mathews said.

“I am quoted along with [former Mayor of London] Ken Livingstone and longtime member of parliament Tony Benn,” he explained. “This is an incredible honor, especially for an American!”

Since last year’s release of his book, From Agit Prop to Free Space: the Architecture of Cedric Price, Mathews has become an authority on London architecture. His famous chronicle and analysis of Price’s life and works was shortlisted by the Royal Institute of British Architects as one of the best architectural books of 2008.

In his recent interview, Mathews explained how Price and Joan Littlewood planned a progressive structure called the “Fun Palace” on the 2012 Olympic site in London. Despite the fact that the “Fun Palace” was never built, “…the Olympics is an opportunity for massive infrastructural improvement,” he explained in the article.

“…the real measure of success will be how those improvements benefit the people of the East End afterwards,” he said. “To me, success would serve as a small vindication of Price and Littlewood’s visionary plans.”

From Agit Prop to Free Space: the Architecture of Cedric Price can be purchased in the College Store or online.

The full article appears below.


Time Out: London

What would success or failure in the 2012 Olympics mean for London?

By Time Out editors

Posted: Tue Aug 12 2008

With four years to go, the race is on to make 2012 a world-beating event that does our city proud. The Time Out team asks an array of experts what failure or success in staging the Olympics would mean.

Failure

Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney
‘If 2012 all went wrong, the Olympic zone would become just another development site. The Olympics going to plan is key for Hackney; the borough needs a change of reputation.’

Siôn Whellens, client services director, Calverts design and printing co-operative
‘Financial failure could see the land and property sold to the highest bidders. If development is done on the cheap, it could deteriorate quickly. Any economic benefits would be short-lived, then there would be a surge in poverty.’

Tony Benn, former Labour MP and left-wing activist
‘If we are still at war in Iraq, there will be security problems. Look at what happened at the Munich Olympics [in 1972, when 11 members of the Israeli team were murdered by Palestinian terrorists]. Still, in 1948 we were a bankrupt country: we did our best and had a successful Games. We can do it again.’

Max Clifford, publicist
‘It’s a showcase for the country; we should get behind it. It’s up to the PR people to get the message out to answer those who will say, “This is how much it’s costing and we need a new hospital!” ‘

Cllr Chris Roberts, Council Leader for Greenwich (Labour)
‘It doesn’t worry me; we’re taking responsibility for the legacy as a borough. Councils must remember, after 2012 there won’t be an Olympic Delivery Authority or a London Organising Committee, so it’s up to them and the residents.’

Will Alsop, Alsop Architects
‘The Victorians just did stuff: make a fucking big memorial to Albert and paint it gold, or build the Tube. Now, we do things half-heartedly: we won’t spend enough. The stadium should be an icon, but ours is about how much can be removed afterwards. It was the same with Wembley, which looks like a hoop on top of a business park.’

Mark Borkowski, publicist and author of ‘The Fame Formula’
‘Hopefully, Beijing won’t be very good. Many are uncomfortable with handing the Olympic torch to the Chinese, but that’s to London’s advantage. The big failure would be not leaving a meaningful legacy. This Mayor talks about dismantling half the facilities without considering what else to do with them.’

Stephen Armstrong, author of ‘War Plc’
‘At the British Association of Private Security Companies’ last annual conference, Tarique Ghaffur [the Met assistant commissioner, in charge of Olympic security] warned that the Met was way overstretched, what with the Diamond Jubilee, Wimbledon, football matches and Notting Hill Carnival. He suggested part-privatising policing and asked the BASPC for help. Now, I’d love the Olympics to work, but I think giving private security companies the right to police our city would be a very scary mistake.’

Vince Cable MP, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader
‘We should not try to compete with China in laying on a vast orchestrated spectacle. I want to see maximum use of existing venues, unobtrusive security and easy public access rather than special treatment for IOC “fat cats”. Better a mediocre Games than an extravaganza leaving a legacy of debt.’

Sir John Tusa, former MD of Barbican Arts Centre
‘It would be a disaster – the Dome disaster quadrupled – if it all went badly, and very bad for national self-respect. We’d think we couldn’t do anything. It mustn’t fail.’

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham
‘As far as Newham is concerned, we’ve got the country’s biggest volunteer programme out of this, so what’s the worst that can happen for us? It might not change as many lives as we want. But we’re going to try.’

Simon Inglis author of ‘Sightlines: A Stadium Odyssey’
‘If it goes wrong, it will be because the country is in such a poor economic state. But I do fear that the pollution, censorship and drugs in Beijing could taint the Olympic name. To me, it’s not about infrastructure, it’s about whether the Games will be a welcome event by 2012.’

Elliott Frisby, Visit Britain
‘Britain’s position as the world’s sixth most visited destination is being challenged by exotic, “undiscovered” destinations, particularly China: last year, for the first time since 2001, international visits to Britain fell year-on-year. Without the help of the 2012 Games, we could find it becoming increasingly difficult – in a glum economic climate – to win more visits for British destinations.’

Mark Borkowski, publicist and author of ‘The Fame Formula’
‘Even if it were to go wrong, London always regenerates itself, no matter what is thrown at it, from the Blitz to the recent terrorist attacks. I don’t think London needs the Olympics to remain relevant.’

Jerry White, historian and author of ‘London in the Nineteenth Century’
‘I’m fearful about whether people will be able to get to the events on public transport easily enough. But my main worry is that the detractors will have a field day with any embarrassing difficulty and exploit it to rubbish the Games and those who’ve worked hard to make a success of them.’

Spokesperson for the GB Rowing team
‘We don’t necessarily need to worry about a negative scenario, as the venue for our sport, Dorney Lake in Eton, is already constructed and was successfully used to stage the 2006 World Championships.’

Cassie Smith, Women’s Sport & Fitness Foundation
‘There is already some evidence that the Games are not being received as well by women as by men. A survey in 2005 found that only a third of women would consider attending, compared to 58 per cent of men. Recent research also showed that only 33 per cent of Londoners thought their borough would benefit noticeably from the Olympics, with women again being more sceptical.’

Success

Munira Mirza, director of arts, culture and the creative industries policy for the Mayor
‘My first Olympics memory is of drawing pictures of Linford Christie, Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis in class after their 100-metres race in Seoul, 1988. We were giddy with excitement: I hope 2012 gives schoolkids that feeling. It’s a chance to celebrate sports competition and inspire young people to take up sport.’

Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London
‘Every Olympics goes well, despite what the media write. There’s always good publicity when you win the bid and during the Games, but the rest of the coverage is crap. London will be a success: we’ve been the first to have sponsors signed up, the site has been started early. It won’t go over budget. The Beijing venues are fantastic because China is the world’s second largest economy. We can’t afford that, but an event of this kind has to showcase breathtaking design and Zaha Hadid’s Aquatic Centre will look amazing.’

Tony Benn, former Labour MP and left-wing activist
‘I’d rather money was spent on the Olympics than the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, on buying a new generation of Trident missiles (as the Government has just done), or on ID cards.’

Stanley Mathews, author of ‘From Agit Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price’
‘In 1962, Cedric Price and Joan Littlewood proposed building a Fun Palace on what is now the Olympic site, with facilities for dancing, music, drama and fireworks in a flexible building designed to be assembled by the citizens who would use it. That never happened but the Olympics is an opportunity for massive infrastructural improvement; the real measure of success will be how those improvements benefit the people of the East End afterwards. To me, success would serve as a small vindication of Price and Littlewood’s visionary plans.’

Cllr Lutfur Rahman, Leader of the Labour Group on Tower Hamlets Council
‘We’ll do everything we can to ensure it goes well, including giving local people the skills to take up job opportunities. Afterwards, we must continue the economic and social regeneration of the park.’

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham
‘Put us and Hackney together, and you have one of the biggest areas of non-employment in Europe. So it’s vital to spend what’s necessary to remedy the deprivation, because that will save money in the long run. There’s a tension between “elite” venues, which the country needs, and community facilities serving Newham’s population. But look at what the Dome’s been transformed into; we want to do the same. Look at Tate Modern: crap art, but a fantastic building – why can’t we have one of those out east?’

Paul Goodwin, general manager, British Handball Association
‘Simply winning the bid has enabled us to work with the best people in British sport and provided funding to develop people, systems and structures. It’s also created interest: thousands of schoolchildren who had never even heard of handball before are now playing.’

Simon Inglis, author of ‘Sightlines: A Stadium Odyssey’
‘Without wishing to be corny, the Olympics is about bringing the world together. In 1948, athletes stayed in people’s houses; that, to me, is the essence of the Games, although I know it will never happen again. But I’d love it if London tried to capture that spirit by not being too corporate.’

Elliott Frisby, Visit Britain
‘It’s an opportunity to gain a potential £2 billion windfall for the visitor economy, draw global attention to our attractions and win new cultural, sporting and business events.’

Cassie Smith, Women’s Sport & Fitness Foundation
‘We want the same number of medals for women as men (in Beijing there are 165 gold medals for men compared to 127 for women), all sports contested by both sexes and a dramatic increase in the number of female coaches. The halo effect of a successful Games will doubtless cause an immediate increase in female participation. However, we must learn from past experience: many parts of Sydney’s and Athens’s Olympic parks are underused, and there is little evidence of sustained increased participation in those countries.’

Siôn Whellens, Calverts design and printing co-operative
‘Some of the huge tracts of improved ground should be transferred into a Community Land Trust in 2012, to create space for sustainable housing, high-quality sports facilities and a green amenity. It should include a scheme for a mix of co-operatives and other social enterprises and light industry. The Olympics will have worked well if the legacy is a shift in the balance of health, wealth and power towards the working class in east London.’

Russell Jervis, managing director, Haart estate agency
‘Thanks to Olympic investment, we are seeing a new east London emerging, which will have advantages for the entire capital. Stratford’s international rail terminal, due for completion next year, the Stratford City development of 5,000 new homes and, of course, the fact that the Olympic Village will be turned into affordable housing after the Games, will particularly benefit first-time buyers.’

Max Clifford, publicist
‘The Olympics is an opportunity to win something ourselves – something we seem to do less and less. And London becoming the centre of the world for a time gives you the opportunity to promote whatever it is you want to promote, because the whole world’s media will be here, all looking for something to write about. There will be loads of opportunities for my clients: maybe Simon Cowell’s going to come up with “Olympics Factor” where the winner gets to take part in the actual Olympics. I’m joking, but you see my point! Or maybe Kerry Katona will be asked to sing the Olympic anthem. Hardly likely but you never know.’

Sir John Tusa, former MD of Barbican Arts Centre
‘We can’t put on a crummy Games. One of the criteria on which it will be judged is the arts and cultural programme. That means to make it a success we must stop raiding the arts budget every time the Olympics budget goes into deficit. The arts have been raided enough.’