Commercial Property Blog
All posts tagged: 2012 olympics
A week ago, sodden and shivering after returning back to my apartment somewhere off Christian Dior Street, I questioned why I had recontrar-ed to Mipim. I figured some of the boats may had departed since my last visit in 2009. I knew I probably wouldn’t see anyone from the SFO downing canapés on the Tchenguiz yacht, but I never thought the weather would be as angry as that recent mid-market tabloid splash hideously implying that Mipim was all about public officials embarking on seedy pursuits.
While JLL’s Monday night bash with London First and the deputy mayor was a who’s who of industry folk, the vibe around Cannes was admittedly akin to an Italian cruise liner: cold, wet and sinking fast.
Switch forward to Friday, and Tom Bloxham ushering property A-listers into his mountain-top pool with the promise of one final glass of bubbly was a sight to behold. It was a wonderful afternoon spent in the company of Mancunia and luckily for all concerned, those dipping in were urban splashers rather flashers.
Other parts of Mipim were a bit more bare, however. Anyone who snuck down in the basement of ‘the bunker’ – the not-so-affectionate term given to Mipim’s conference centre – couldn’t have helped noticing the sparseness of quality developers. Various Russian stands extolled the virtues of faraway lands while Formula One-style female flag wavers swooned from great heights, hanging out free kittens to anyone who’d take a brochure. As the girls shimmied around, stilt-like, with thighs at most people’s shoulder height, there was the overriding feeling that we perhaps needed two Mipims.
One would be for all the real stuff that might one day be built and the other could house all the Playmobil stuff in made-up places.
But many people thought Qatar was a made-up place until a few years back. And one pointed remark made by one senior observer was how much closer the Qatar stand was getting to the London Stand. Next year it will have totally swallowed it up.
The prominence of London certainly irked many of Mipim’s regional UK representatives. But as investment continues to pile in to the capital, the two-tier recovery shows little signs of levelling out. And even those investment firms based in the North admitted much of their business was focused down South.
And what of criticism around the attendance of public bodies, such as councils and the Crown Estate and by war-hero Olympics minister Hugh Robertson? Well, like much of the gutter press currently in the dock, most will have the good sense to ignore it. They very thought that – in a time of mass austerity – public developments shouldn’t be actively seeking foreign investment on the only real world stage available to them if frankly ludicrous. But one week ahead of the Budget, there’s little value in too many seeking a big debate on the subject.
As the weather perked up from Tuesday, so did the fizz in the air. Parties were toned down and some resembled Travel Lodge weddings, but the atmosphere was one of positivity
Despite Mipim legend and former Hogan Lovells boss Bob Kidby retiring a couple of years back, the legal elite still managed to rock their way through Cannes led by Kidby’s protégée, HL partner Matthew Ditchburn, the industry’s best known insolvency lawyer. It’s fair to say he’s a bit more fresh-faced than some of the other legal elite who were in attendance and renditions of The Killers and Kings of Leon’s hits certainly offered a new backdrop for people to grab a ‘Partner’ by the hand to.
And as some of the UK’s signature regeneration projects around Stratford, Kings Cross and Salford begin to breath new life into our economy, we should be looking to project ourselves abroad. Just as ministers are beginning to realise we’re competing on a global stage with aviation, so we are with property. And if attendance at the Tom’s Friday Urban Splash-athon is indicative of a healthy market, maybe we’ll see a few more developers – rather than developments – under water this time next year.
I know an awful lot of MAMILs. That was my conclusion when given the opportunity to take a small group around the Velo in the Olympic Park, and I started to speculate on who to invite.
Cycling fanatic men, especially middle age men, in lycra – AKA MAMILs – are in abundant supply in my life so it was easy to fill up my dance card and get a waiting list.
The invitation came from Mike Taylor, Senior Partner of Hopkins, Velo’s designers. And since on each of my recent visits it was the Velo that appealed the most, it was great to get up close and personal.
It’s a classic Hopkins’ building, understated but detailed perfection, and its timber clad curvaceous exterior was framed brilliantly by a snowy backdrop and blue sky.
The tour started well with a chance for the boys to sit on Chris Hoy’s track bike left in the site office after inaugurating the building.
Igloo’s Chris Brown, a principal MAMIL and regener-ista, has captured his thoughts on his blog, so I’ll avoid repetition.
Mike explained the philosophy of the design, including taking inspiration from the ‘spareness’ of a cyclist and competition bikes – everything about the structure is pared down and snug fit.
The site is close to practical completion, and the track was under wraps, but that didn’t stop us lining up to peek and take photos of the finishing line, ready for corny jokes in 2012.
The trip reinforced the sense of excitement about the Olympic Park I’d felt on previous visits. It’s great seeing this former waste land teeming with workers, building infrastructure and sporting pavilions.
It is just months away from being handed over to LOCOG, a whole year ahead of the Games, for testing and preparation. Not for London that mad scramble for completion.
I wish everybody could get round the site to see the scale of the work, and hear just some of the stories about the design, planning and preparation.
Not to mention the team work that has made this a fatality free site.
It’s a testament to the UK’s ability to manage large projects, even though we like to pretend we can’t.
Not all the venues are as sexy as Velo, but majority hold their own, especially its immediate neighbour, Wilkinson Eyre’s Basketball Arena, with a white skin that will glow with changing colours at night.
But it was hearing first hand from Mike on the philosophy, aspirations, technical challenges and solutions, coupled with the sheer beauty of the Velo that filled us all with a rush of pride for the UK’s design and construction talent.
A thank you text from one of the group – a self confessed Olympic-sceptic – said it all. ‘…Amazing visit. I have changed my mind about the 2012 Olympics’. That’s a result.
Now, let’s hope 2011 brings lots of exciting commercial work to keep that talent employed