Precious few cities look at their sparkling best when viewed from a second class train carriage, particularly when dark grey clouds dominate the horizon and a menacing drizzle threatens to erupt into a heavier downpour.
In such unpromising circumstances, the journey from central London to Stratford could be best described as ‘Soviet-style bleak’.
That is until one happens upon a gleaming white Olympic stadium and a rash of slightly incongruously-positioned new buildings. Only the smell of fresh paint is absent.
According to a report by commercial property agents CBRE published earlier this week, this part of London is destined to be transformed following the summer’s Olympics.
Around £1.6 billion of private sector funding has already been pumped into the vicinity over the past two years, say CBRE. Significantly perhaps, the majority of east London’s largest assets have been funded, or acquired, by foreign capital.
APG, the Dutch pension fund, together with the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board jointly purchased a 50% stake in Stratford city for £870 million, while Qatari Diar joined forced with Delancey, a UK developer, to acquire the athletes’ village at a cost of £557 million.
Ubiquitous Swedish retailer IKEA plans to build 1,200 homes, 400,000 sq ft of commercial space and a 350-bed Marriott Hotel close by.
“The Olympics is just the beginning,” said Matthew Black of CBRE, “enabling the regeneration of an area that could never have occurred in the present economic climate.
"Unlike other host cities, London’s legacy was planned in advance of the Games, which is why the best is yet to come.”
While understandably enthusiastic, that statement is not entirely accurate.
Atlanta’s Games of 1996 were the first to be funded almost exclusively by sponsorship and they have been berated as a consequence, but much of what was undertaken in Georgia was done with one eye on the future.
The Olympic Stadium, sponsored by Coca Cola, was specifically designed to accommodate the Atlanta Braves baseball team after the Games ended. Georgia Tech University had taken charge of the Olympic aquatic centre even before the Games began; the university has since added an indoor running track and a host of basketball courts used by students, local clubs and schools.
The university also houses thousands of its students in the former Olympic Village.
Closer to home, the 1992 Barcelona Games transformed the city’s landscape, turning it into one of Europe’s most attractive tourist destinations.
Who can forget those iconic images of high board divers twisting and flipping against a background of a Gaudi-dominated Barcelona?
Many of the Olympic venues were build specifically on a hill above the city for this purpose, while a new port was constructed, together with two miles of new beach.
Many Spaniards maintain that perhaps the greatest Games legacy was the effect they had on the country’s sport. A steady flow of sporting success, from Raphael Nadal and Spain’s national football team (world and European champions), to Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador, both Tour de France winners, are said to have been inspired by events at Barcelona’s Olympics.
But for every success, there have been some spectacular failures.