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Thread: Olympics as means of urban regeneration

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    Olympics as means of urban regeneration



    The experience of Barcelona is often described, in urban design terminology, as being a 'model' for urban regeneration. I find this idea of it being a singular event somewhat difficult to understand and I would like to know why people consider it this way!
    I appreciate that the Olympics has worked wonders for the city, and its ability to justify such major spending, but the notion of it being a phenomena is probably a bit far fetched...is it really that different to what was happening in other cities - just less the involvement of the games?

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    Not all cities are succesfull in managing their Olympic heritage. Montreal is a famous example: they're still paying debts because of the 1976 Olympics. I also recently read the Athens isn't very happy with the investments done for the games. Many cities struggle with huge stadiums that are hardly used.

    Portugal has more examples of this. For Euro 2004, they built new soccer stadiums, but they're never filled.

    Interessting is also: John Rennie Short & Yeong-Hyun Kim (1999), Globalization and the City with the Olympics as an example of urban promotional events (including examples of Sydney and Seoul).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by eedbeed

    The experience of Barcelona is often described, in urban design terminology, as being a 'model' for urban regeneration. I find this idea of it being a singular event somewhat difficult to understand and I would like to know why people consider it this way!
    I appreciate that the Olympics has worked wonders for the city, and its ability to justify such major spending, but the notion of it being a phenomena is probably a bit far fetched...is it really that different to what was happening in other cities - just less the involvement of the games?
    I think the Olympics have recently been perceived by city leaders as a way to remake their urban environment, re-fashion their national and international image, as well as to leave a monumental bricks-and-mortar legacy for political leaders. Its no surprise that Paris, London, and New York were vying for the 2012 Summer Olympics; as you perceived, the Olympics often create political will and justification for the undertaking of catalytic megaprojects. And as the competition for host city status has stiffened post-Barcelona, one can reasonably call the Olympics a phenomenal model of redevelopment. Just look at downtown Atlanta or even Salt Lake City. From one global event, the visage of the city can be forever changed; we first learned this lesson at the World's Fairs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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    I agree with your comments on the way the olympic's have been perceived by cities, as a means of 'rebranding' themselves for obvious economis spin-offs, but I would probably suggest this has been involved with politics on a longer term.....take the propaganda involved with Berlin in the 1930's.

    The aspect that I find most disturbing is the tough competition between the world's major cities and how they are using this almost as a means to stay on top, in the global economy. Don't get me wrong, I was fortunate enough to have been witness to London's presentation and, with the thoroughness of their proposal, I immediately gave them my vote.

    However, with the clear understanding of the Olympic's potential to encourage regeneration, shouldn't the IOC be considering another aspect in the whole selection process - who shall really benefit the most from the hosting experience.

    When you browse over the 2012 submissions there are many fascinating aspects that the bidding cities had proposed but the one item that announced itself the most was the legacy that Moscow hoped to achieve.....a city-wide sewerage system.....i found this to be of greater value than any other of the bid's economic benefits!

    These games are supposed to be concerned with man - not money.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    I live between Centennial Olympic Park and the former Olympic Village in Atlanta. Crime here was TWENTY times higher before the Olympics. While cities are in general getting safer, a 95% drop in crime is just amazing.

    While the redevelopment of downtown didn't happen a quickly as many would have thought, it certainly got things started much much faster than it would have without the Olympic investments. I suspect it sped things up by at least ten years, perhaps fifteen.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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    Is the figure true or has it been a similar situation to that of Sydney, where they are simply displacing the many homeless or lower class communites from the Olympic areas and, essentially, the public eye.

    Sydney made a reasonably good attempt at removing the many thousands of homeless people from the global camera's but failed with the problem at first hand, displacement doesn't equal solving the problem - it just boosts the short-term economy!

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    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    The homeless are still around though I don't think they were a significant source of the pre-olympic crime. Techwood Homes, the first public housing development in the US, is what use to be here. As was common in these type of projects, crime was high. What was built in the place of the old Techwood Homes is Centennial Place, a mixed income development. Rents are set by income. Residents must be free of any criminal records and are fined if they let the area they are resposible for collect trash or other otherwise cause visual blight.

    As you might expect, there are not as many low income units in this development as there was in Techwood Homes. Some of the poor are now using Section 8 vouchers, while others moved to other cities.

    I don't think the Olympics can be expected to make long term social changes. They can make infrastructure changes that can be the basis for solutions to social problems but asking for more than that puts unrealistic responsibility on the Olympics.

    I imagine just about every Olympic city is guilty of pushing poor out of areas in favor of new developments. Even now people are being forced out of their homes in China so they can be torn down for stadiums and the like.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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    I think you have backed my statement that the '95% drop in crime' is slightly false ...its a corrupt figure that is more akin to the words of a politician....the problem is not solved simply by moving these residents of low income away....if anything, the problem is only amplified elsewhere when there is a further breakdown of community.

    I believe that when the Olympics has been used with short sighted visions, in places lacking a metropolitan strategy or similar plan, the full potential will never be realised.....I believe that this is where politicians use the event to provide success during their short term of power.

    Barcelona is the only example that I can think of that has realised the full potential of the host experience, and I believe this to be a direct result of implementing / justifying parts of their greater vision - which was invented prior to any bid. They were fortunate enough to have had wise figures at their head, who were not battling for short term win-falls to announce their achievements....they were able to predict & exploit for future generations.

    They had previously acknowledged the cities problems (use of public space & associated impacts, infrastructure etc) and used the games as catalyst for the change that their city required. Should crime rates or other social problems lie at the heart of this city then its possible thats what they would have directed the outcome towards improving.....maybe this is what Atlanta could have done also.

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    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
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    improvements off-limits for olympics

    I was living in Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics there, and was attending the University of Utah at the time (studying Urban Planning, of all things). SLC used the Olympics as a mechanism to build large amounts of new infrastructure, much of which was badly needed. The Olympic Athletes Village, which was built for athletes and their entourages, is now student housing for the U of U (which was badly needed). Rice-Eccles Stadium received a major overhaul, and although it wasn't large enough to accomodate the opening ceremonies very well, its seating capacity was increased quite a bit, and it is still a useful size for U of U football games.

    One of the greatest improvements to infrastructure in SLC for the Olympics was the construction of TRAX, the light rail system. Construction on the system pre-dated the Olympics, but a spur from the main N-S line to the East and the University was proposed as an improvement to help move people to and from some of the venues and the stadium where the opening ceremonies were held. Unfortunately, the Utah Transit Authority (or other unnamed powers) decided that it was too much of a security risk to allow the trains to approach the stadium, or even to approach the main venues downtown. As such, people who rode TRAX were forced to disembark from the train and ride busses or walk to the venues.

    As stupid as it might have been to allow private vehicles and pedestrians near the venues where the trains were prohibited due to security measures, the Olympics came and went, and now SLC has a fantastic light rail system that will only get better as additional miles of rail are added.

    On a less successful note, a large vacant parcel on Main St. in SLC that had been slated to be built out with a many-storied mixed-use development prior to the Olympics was put on hold because it wouldn't be ready in time for the Olympics. Instead, a one-story strip mall was constructed in the heart of downtown in order to provide an active streetscape during the Olympics. Years later, the strip mall remains, and the mixed-use development seems to have died without anyone noticing. At least there's a TRAX stop right outside it.

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    The olympics can help make a city more visitor friendly, but this is something that cities should be doing anyway.

    Anytime a city relys on "one" gimic to push itself into a new phase of development, I think they are asking for failure.

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    Quote Originally posted by permaplanjuneau
    I was living in Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics there, and was attending the University of Utah at the time (studying Urban Planning, of all things).
    Hey, I was at the U during the Olympics, too! (Sociology & Communications) I was also living in those dorms that came about on time because of the Olympics. I agree that Salt Lake City did benifit enormously from the Olympics. I don't know what I would have done without that TRAX spur.



    On a less successful note, a large vacant parcel on Main St. in SLC that had been slated to be built out with a many-storied mixed-use development prior to the Olympics was put on hold because it wouldn't be ready in time for the Olympics. Instead, a one-story strip mall was constructed in the heart of downtown in order to provide an active streetscape during the Olympics. Years later, the strip mall remains, and the mixed-use development seems to have died without anyone noticing. At least there's a TRAX stop right outside it.
    The last I heard, there is a building slated to be built there, but I had never heard that it was going to be mixed use. Instead, I've heard rumblings of a World Trade building instead.

    Incidently, I though, I was pleased with the "strip mall" downtown, because it provided much needed new, cheap facilities for locally-owned businessness (not counting the Cricket place.)

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    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    I think it can be successful if people understand what they really are...

    ...a massive amount of cash for the development of Olympic venues with the prospect of increased tourism down the road.

    Problems result when people simply expect economic rivitalization after the Olympics have left. I think a key strategy is to figure out how the new venues can be effectively integrated afterwards.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

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    Quote Originally posted by Urbanavenger
    The last I heard, there is a building slated to be built there, but I had never heard that it was going to be mixed use. Instead, I've heard rumblings of a World Trade building instead.
    I think the mixed use thing is kind of dying out, although I expect the Redevelopment Agency to provide some money to have 4-5 stories of residential built into the building. The office market in downtown SLC is on the rise, so it looks like this building is closer to becoming reality. The City has also talked about a world trade center being constructed somewhere downtown. It very well may be in this proposed structure. The timing of the structure being built was not the main think that has delayed this building, it had to do mainly with the economy and the fact that the American Stores Building (now the Wells Fargo Building) was virtually vacant and it had a major impact (lots of supply, not a lot of demand) on the leasable office space in downtown SLC.

    Back on topic, City's have to be willing to step up and budget for improvement projects, particularly if they want to have "keepsake" projects to memorialize the event. SLC did a piss poor job of this, and with the exception of a few monuments downtown, they did not construct a venue that could be recognized in downtown SLC, which was really the heart of the games. This was despite the fact that there was several million dollars available to do it, the City Council couldn't agree on a site, so the Olympic Committee decided to just divy up the money and the memorabilia to the surrounding areas.

    By far the biggest boon, at least in American cities, is the large amount of federal dollars for capitol improvement projects.

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    Looks like the building mentioned above is slated for construction. SLC office building

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yes

    Detroit 2016
    Gary Indiana 2020
    East St. Louis 2024
    Camden 2028
    Skilled Adoxographer

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    Detroit 2016
    Gary Indiana 2020
    East St. Louis 2024
    Camden 2028
    I think that is also the hopes with the Super Bowl and having it in Detroit this past year will be interesting. From what I have been told, the pre Super Bowl development has made the city appear more welcoming, and there is this feel and buzz of a city being regenerated, even though very little has been done to attract new businesses.

    Overall, I think it all goes back to changing the perception of a place to revitalize it. Unfortunately, it is not easy to change people minds when they think something is bad.

    As for the Olympics, it will have to be summer because we do not have a ski hill big enough in the mid west to accommodate the downhill course.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    At least for the summer games, the creation of a legacy is a big part of the selection process. The Olympics like to leave behind a positive mark on their cities. I don't know at what point this became part of the Olympic culture but when I worked on a consulting project with the IOC when they were selecting the site for the 2008 games, it was a huge issue. As an interesting aside, the Beijing bid originally had Tiananmen Square listed as the venue for beach volleyball. They were told that was quite an inappropriate site.

    I think they are also going to start to focus on the financial impact of the games. They are growing so large that few cities can afford to host them. Atlanta showed that a low level international city can only put on the games if they have strong financial support from the national government or corporate sponsorships. Since the US government only helps with the security aspects, the only way to have enough money was to plaster everything with corporate sponsorships. But at least for Atlanta, the city and state were not left with huge bills to pay off for decades like Greece has been. I don't think decades of debt are a legacy the IOC is comfortable with anymore. Athens was pretty much a special case given their status as the birthplace of the Olympics.

    If the ratings for the 2008 games are low in the US, I suspect that the 2016 games will be placed in North America to win back interest. Several cities in the US and Canada want to bid for the games but I suspect Chicago or Toronto would be the only real competitors. If the 2008 games have good ratings, I suspect the IOC will take a big chance with South Africa and try to pare things down some to make it doable.

    As far as the SLC games went, wasn't Gateway part of that? I don't think the winter games are expected to leave anywhere as large a legacy as the summer games. Also given Salt Lake's large size relative to most winter game host cities, it wouldn't surprise me to see that the legacy doesn't make a huge visual impact.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  18. #18

    Toronto bid

    Quote Originally posted by AubieTurtle
    If the ratings for the 2008 games are low in the US, I suspect that the 2016 games will be placed in North America to win back interest. Several cities in the US and Canada want to bid for the games but I suspect Chicago or Toronto would be the only real competitors. If the 2008 games have good ratings, I suspect the IOC will take a big chance with South Africa and try to pare things down some to make it doable.
    I don't think you'll see Toronto bid for the games. We have a Mayor (thankfully) that is against such bids, and he looks good for reelection in the fall, which would carry him through the time they would have to announce and prepare their bid.

    With the city in growing debt, the use of public funds for the bidding process, and eventual construction of new buildings would not be very responsible, IMO.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis
    I think that is also the hopes with the Super Bowl and having it in Detroit this past year will be interesting. From what I have been told, the pre Super Bowl development has made the city appear more welcoming, and there is this feel and buzz of a city being regenerated, even though very little has been done to attract new businesses.

    Overall, I think it all goes back to changing the perception of a place to revitalize it. Unfortunately, it is not easy to change people minds when they think something is bad.

    As for the Olympics, it will have to be summer because we do not have a ski hill big enough in the mid west to accommodate the downhill course.

    Like it or not, Detroit has the strongest downtown in Urban Michigan (S of the Bay City/Muskegon line). Granted that does not sa much about retail, but there are restraunts, casinos, coffee places, and ice cream joints everywhere down there these days (serving your lunch and entertainment needs). There are something like 20,000 people working the the general motors towers alone, and another 5,000 at Compuware. I would not want to see the Olympics here, we do not have those kind of facilities. With our luck, we woud get the winter games, complete with 60 degree rainy days!

    We have hills in the Detroit area that are built on garbage dumps. Maybe we can have the skiiers in da UP, at da worlds biggest ski jump?

    Detroit.. the sad sack of Michigan.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  20. #20
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner
    Like it or not, Detroit has the strongest downtown in Urban Michigan (S of the Bay City/Muskegon line). Granted that does not sa much about retail, but there are restraunts, casinos, coffee places, and ice cream joints everywhere down there these days (serving your lunch and entertainment needs). There are something like 20,000 people working the the general motors towers alone, and another 5,000 at Compuware. I would not want to see the Olympics here, we do not have those kind of facilities. With our luck, we woud get the winter games, complete with 60 degree rainy days!

    We have hills in the Detroit area that are built on garbage dumps. Maybe we can have the skiiers in da UP, at da worlds biggest ski jump?

    Detroit.. the sad sack of Michigan.
    Largest yes downtown yes, but I would question the aspect of strongest. I think that job losses have out weighed job growth.

    I would say that the City of Grand Rapids is growing phenomenally fast and there is talk about a multi billion dollar project going in along the river, the city is looking to adopt a city wide form based codes plan, incorporation of a downtown wide wireless internet, extremely low vacancy rate within itís downtown, discussion of a rapid transit line, and the MSA is the second fastest growing area in Michigan.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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