The Olympics – going for gold and what else? : can London 2012 urban regeneration legacy be considered as sustainable development?

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Olympic legacy was previously seen as a potential burden on the host city, however an evolutionary shift has occurred whereby it can now be regarded as an instrument in wider urban policy planning. Sustainable development is a requirement set by some governments, and London 2012 aimed to use the Olympic legacy for sustainable development in the form of urban regeneration. This paper is a case study of the London 2012 Olympics, using mixed methods involving interview, documents and personal observations. The focus is on the potential for mega sporting events such as the Olympics to contribute to sustainable urban development, and the London case, is used as an example of how this potential can be realised, and what problems it can occur. Within this, I analyse the concept of legacy itself, before using that definition to understand the sustainability of the London Olympics via the three pillars of sustainable development (Environment, Social and Economic). Each pillar was critically analysed highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the London Olympics towards sustainable development. Environmentally the focus was directed towards construction and renewable energy. Emphasis regarding social aspects was concentrated on issues such as gentrification and sports participation and the effect of using temporary venues. Economic legacy is the most researched aspect and therefore this paper does not just regurgitate monetary values. Instead it analyses the employment legacy, which is vital when investigating local economic impacts. This paper takes steps towards understanding Olympic regeneration and concludes that the desired goal of sustainable development within this is still a utopian prospect, and that more analysis is needed before it can be considered as a utilitarian practice. It has however, underlined a variety of the different strengths and weaknesses of current approaches, which if adapted can enhance sustainable regeneration further.

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