Hamburg and Berlin have released their proposals for the 2024 Olympics – and they're thinking small

The towers at Berlin’s 1936 Olympic stadium. Image: Getty.

The Olympics have long been a chance for cities to show off. Traditionally, they've done so by installing brand-new stadiums, purpose-built Olympics villages and even new transport networks. In the run up to Sochi 2012, the Russian government built 11 new venues, revamped the city's airport and spent a total of $50bn.

It's a little surprising, then, that Hamburg and Berlin, the two cities competing to be Germany’s candidate to host the 2024 Olympics, are proposing Games that would cost only $2.4bn apiece at current prices.

And the way they think they can achieve this low, low price is to make heavy use of existing inner-city venues. In questionnaires submitted to the German Olympic Association on 1 September, Hamburg revealed plans to host the Olympic village, stadium and swimming pool on Kleiner Grasbrook, an island in the Elbe river. Berlin would reuse the stadium from its 1936 Games and 15 other existing sports venues;  everything else would be built on the site of the soon-to-close Tegel airport.  

It all sounds suspiciously small scale. Surely the Olympics just wouldn't be the Olympics without massive overspending, soon-to-be-abandoned stadiums and facilities built so far away they'll never be useful once the games are done?

In fact, these cut-price proposals are an attempt to appease naysayers, who argue that the money could be better spent on new schools or other public services. Huge amounts of spending and construction wouldn’t go down too well in either city. This week, the tripling of the cost of the new Berlin Brandenberg International airport was a major factor in forcing the city’s mayor Klaus Wowereit to announce plans to step down in December. In Hamburg, meanwhile, the Elbephilharmonie concert hall has been under construction since 2007, during which time its expected costs and completion date have morphed from “€241m by 2010” to “€789m by October 2016”.

The final decision between the two cities will be made at a German Olympic Sports Federation meeting on 6 December in Dresden. Here’s a comparison of their size, economies and access to sports venues:

Data sources: Eurostat; The Local.

So, to sum up, Berlin is larger, and has better sports facilities, but Hamburg has the edge financially.  May the best city win.

The successful German bid is likely to be up against a US city (either San Francisco, Washington D.C. Boston or Los Angeles), as well Melbourne, Doha, Nairobi, Durban, Saint Petersburg, Budapest and Kiev, all of whom have announced plans to bid.

Frank Jensen, the mayor of Copenhagen, has also suggested that his city could bid with Hamburg to co-host the Games in 2028. This would require a change to the Olympic charter, to allow the games to span two countries; but considering the costs and infrastructure required to host the event it may well be that two cities are better than one.

That said, Copenhagen is around 280km from Hamburg: that’s one hell of an Olympic shuttle network they’d need to factor in.


Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.

At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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