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Shopping Comes to the Olympics

The gateway to the London Olympic complex isn't marked by an iconic work of art or public plaza, but rather by a store - Fat Face - which is part of a gigantic new mall. Some aren't too happy with the blatant mix of commerce and competition.
July 30, 2012, 8am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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With retail uses the centerpiece of so many contemporary urban redevelopment efforts, perhaps it's no surprise that the world's great biennial urban gathering has been conquered by the forces of retail commerce. Nevertheless, as David Segal reports, with the 1.9 million square foot Westfield Stratford City mall sitting at the entrance of the Olympic park, "This proximity of so much retail commerce to world-class athletic competition has some worried that the Olympics here will be remembered as a strange new hybrid of sports appreciation and consumerism gone wild. Or worse, the Mall Olympics."

Although Westfield was first to the site where the Olympic park was eventually built, where it once planned to build Europe's largest urban mall as well as 5,000 apartments, "the proximity of a mall to the Olympics, which once embodied the paradigm of sport unsullied by commercialism, is jarring to some. The worry: London is about to have a gross national production," writes Segal.

"There is growing cynicism over the routing," said Simon Chadwick, a professor at the Coventry University Business School. "It clearly increases foot traffic in the mall, and it's intended to entice spectators to engage in various forms of expenditure."

"That detracts from the spirit of the Olympics, he said. It also makes the mall part of the narrative of the games in a way that the I.O.C. cannot control and that is not always flattering."


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Published on Saturday, July 28, 2012 in The New York Times
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