Keeping industry's Olympic dream alive

Reporting back from Beijing last June in Horticulture Week, Boningale Nurseries' Tim Edwards described how landscape design and its potential to do environmental good had been brought to the fore in China's plans for this August's Olympic Games. "Everything connected with the profession of landscaping is being raised to a new level," he said. "In China this happens because the government believes it should. But in the UK it will only happen if the industry makes it happen."

No one can argue that the UK horticulture sector has done anything but its level best to ensure that officials within the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and their political masters have understood the importance of issues such as the early procurement of trees, the right proportion of planting and the need to ring-fence the landscaping budget to ensure the London 2012 Olympics take place within the confines of a world-class landscape.

Although there is no question that the industry has made its presence felt strongly throughout this process, deadlines have slipped - and promises of early procurement have faded. The latest production start date given to the ODA for a typical, mature tree to be planted in winter 2011/2012 - Plantanus hispanica, for example - has already passed.

But, as the HTA's Tim Briercliffe argues, all is not lost (see news, p3). While acknowledging that it would have been good to have had more orders in place by now for plants "it can still be a vast horticultural showcase", he says. And he is right.

The UK's athletes getting ready to compete in the Beijing Olympics will soon be feeling the additional heat of knowing that they are bringing the Olympics home in four years' time. The very same pressure will be facing those responsible for staging the Games in the coming months. Judging by the vision outlined by Beijing's Olympic Forest Park designer Professor Hu Jie at a HTA-organised briefing, chaired by Edwards last week, that pressure will be very considerable indeed. Now more than ever we must continue to hammer home the message to those responsible for staging the Olympics of the critical importance of engaging with the industry if they want to actually deliver on their legacy promises.

Kate Lowe, editor. Email:

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