This review considers the evidence for legacy from major sporting events. It looks across the four themes of the Commonwealth Games Evaluation Project (flourishing, sustainable, active and connected).

5. Sustainable

5.1 This section looks at evidence in relation to improvement of the physical and social environment, impact on communities, as well as the use of multi-sport events to demonstrate and showcase sustainable design and practices.

Improving the physical and social environment

5.2 The impact on the physical and social environment varies from event to event. One crucial factor for successful event-related regeneration is for plans to be well integrated into existing long-term objectives (Smith, 2012). Multi-sport events therefore often extend and accelerate existing plans, rather than generating new regeneration strategies.

5.3 The Barcelona 1992 Olympics is often used as an example to demonstrate how a city can successfully use a major event to widen urban regeneration. As discussed in the flourishing section, the city used the Games to help develop the infrastructure which boosted economic growth in the city (Brunet, 2005). One of the key factors in Barcelona's success was that Games development plans were incorporated into long-term existing regeneration strategies. It has been argued however, that the success of Barcelona must be seen through its unique context, which included EU funding and a resurgence of Catalan identity (Smith, 2012). There are also some reports of problems associated with Barcelona's regeneration. For example, it is suggested that many small businesses were evicted from the Olympic site, and this had impacts on the local community (Raco, 2004).

5.4 There is also evidence from Manchester 2002 that the Commonwealth Games helped to support sustainable development opportunities in the city (Cambridge Policy Consultants, 2002). These included commercial developments in East Manchester including a regional retail centre, a four star hotel, offices and new housing developments supporting up to 3,800 jobs. There was also the development of the North Manchester Business Park which was estimated to add a further 6,000 or more jobs in the city (Cambridge Policy Consultants, 2002).

5.5 Moreover the London 2012 Olympics are beginning to be cited as an example of successful regeneration, contributing to accelerated and expanded regeneration in East London (Centre for Sport Physical Education and Activity Research, 2013; DCMS, 2013). The improvements include remediation and the cleaning-up of a substantial amount of land, and the demolition of disused buildings. These improvements have made space for six permanent sport-venues, as well as new housing, 100 hectares of green space, business space, and a new shopping-centre development. Many of these changes would have occurred in absence of the Games but the process was accelerated and more integrated as a result of the Games (DCMS, 2013).

5.6 It appears the Sydney 2000 Olympics provide a contrasting example. Commentators have argued that many developments around these Games failed to meet the needs of the local community. The transport network developed for the Games was reportedly not in consistent use after the event, the very large commercial buildings were initially difficult to fill, and there was a distinct lack of social housing (Smith, 2012). With the development of a distinct legacy plan in the years following the event however, the situation improved.

5.7 A similar problem with transport designed for short-term use has been noted in relation to the Athens 2004 Olympics (Krohe, 2010). In the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, the promise of social housing which played an important part in the bid does not appear to have come to fruition (Smith, 2012). Kassens-Noor (2012) analyses the role of the IOC in influencing cities' long-term urban regeneration and transport plans. He concludes that priority sometimes appears to be given to short-term demands that do not always benefit the local population and sometimes original regeneration plans have been abandoned.

5.8 There is also some evidence in the literature that major sporting events can have the unintended consequence of displacing the local population. Porter (2009) conducted in-depth interviews with a small number of people affected by major sporting events, highlighting the difficulties experienced. The issue of displacement has also been highlighted in relation to the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Commentators argue that staging the event has involved mass relocation and displacement of poor residents. This in turn has contributed to increased social inequality, economic hardship, and breaking community networks (Broudehoux, 2007; Shin, 2009). Notably, some recent events have made use of vacant and derelict land and have involved the remediation of contaminated land. Rather than forcing existing communities to relocate, using land that is in disuse has been a way of helping to re-build on the local physical environment.

5.9 Nonetheless, it has been argued that more social housing should have been created, raising the question of who benefits (Ijeh, 2013). Interviews with people living locally in the East End of London also suggest an increasing divide between the redeveloped area and non-developed areas (Benton, 2013). Rising house prices are likely to contribute to this process (Kavetsos, 2012; Kontokosta, 2012). The effects of these changes will take years to be fully understood and longitudinal research is therefore needed in order to fully appreciate these developments.

Demonstrating sustainable design and environmental responsibility

5.10 After concerns were raised in relation to the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics in France, the first Games to try to comprehensively address environmental issues was Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994. The same year the importance of the environment and sustainable development was added to the Olympic Charter. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) now regards the environment as the third dimension of Olympism, alongside sport and culture.

5.11 Since then, major sporting events, in particular the Olympic Games, have been used to showcase innovative design and high standards in sustainable practice. The Sydney 2000 Olympics was the first large sporting event to put sustainability and high environmental standards at its core and to make them an important point in the bidding process. However, it has since been suggested that many contractors found it difficult to adhere to these practices and the standards had to be lowered in order not to lose private sector buy-in (Smith, 2011). This has led to some questioning of the green credentials of the event (Chen, 2013).

5.12 A decade later, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics aimed for an unprecedented level of commitment to sustainability. The Olympic Village was labelled the most energy efficient neighbourhood in the world and the event was used to showcase cutting-edge technologies (Smith, 2012). The long-term learning from this however, does not appear to be captured in the literature thus far.

5.13 The London 2012 Olympics demonstrated a range of sustainable policies and practices, in seeking to become the 'most sustainable Games ever' (DCMS, 2013: 20). These initiatives included at least 90% of demolition waste being reused or recycled, venues being designed to reduce water consumption by 40%, nearly 80,000 tonnes of carbon emissions avoided by producing concrete on site using recycled content, and the Olympic Village achieving 25% more energy efficiency than current building regulations. Other large-scale UK projects, such as Cross-rail and High Speed 2, are now also using key features of this sustainability approach (DCMS, 2013). London also inspired the creation of ISO 20121, a new environmental standard management system which is now also used in Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and Rio 2016 Olympics.

5.14 McCarthy (2013) suggests that there are signs of a marked change in sustainability ambitions as a result of the Games. Nonetheless, concerns have been raised about whether these standards are being adopted within small and medium size public sector projects and whether there is enough impetus behind their promotion within business, sport, culture and event sectors (Commission for Sustainable London, 2013).

Strengthening and empowering communities

5.15 The literature in relation to this outcome is much less developed than on improvements to the physical environment, but some evidence has emerged.

5.16 Large multi-sport events provide an opportunity to engage communities but it has been suggested that for this to succeed, people need to feel that they are part of the planning process from the very beginning (Smith, 2012). Barcelona has been highlighted as a successful example. Rather than only focusing on large prestige projects, regeneration also included many small scale neighbourhood interventions, such as the provision of public facilities to marginalised communities. Nonetheless, there has been some criticism that the process should have involved more participation from local neighbourhoods (Calavita and Ferrier, 2000).

5.17 Most Games have not explicitly planned for community engagement however. Based on her primary and secondary research into previous Olympics, Minnaert (2012) concludes that Athens 2004, Torino 2006, and Beijing 2008 all relied on 'trickle down' effects. This made it more difficult for benefits to reach the communities and few benefits were identified after these Games. On the other hand, Sydney 2000 appears to have left a lasting legacy for socially excluded groups in terms treatment of homeless people (Minnaert, 2012).

5.18 There is some early evidence from the London 2012 Olympics of positive community engagement. A survey of 1000 young people who had engaged in Games-related activities found that a large proportion felt more engaged with their community as a result and wanted to participate in further projects (Legacy Trust UK, 2013). Similarly, the evaluation of the Inspire programme reports that more than half of the participants surveyed see themselves as becoming more engaged with their local community as a result of being part of the programme (Hills, 2013). Nonetheless, questions remain as to whether these intentions will translate into actual behaviour change.


5.19 It is clear that event-related regeneration can leave a positive long-term legacy. In particular, evidence from past major events suggests that they can speed up and extend regeneration plans and thereby act as catalysts for accelerated socio-economic development. Nonetheless this will not happen automatically, and plans need to be well integrated into the existing policy landscape and must be formed early in the process (Pitts, 2009; PwC, 2011; Raco, 2004; Smith, 2012). The evidence shows that community engagement is also important.

5.20 Overall, the literature suggests two major problems which can limit the benefits of this regeneration effort. First, the infrastructure can be too focused on the Games-time period. This can mean that improvements may be of little use to the local population after the event and can be under-utilised. Second, there is evidence that unless careful planning is in place, the local community may not feel the benefits, and may even be displaced by the activities.

5.21 Major sporting events are now also commonly used to showcase sustainable innovative design and practices. The London 2012 Olympics is a recent successful example. Nonetheless, more evidence is needed on how these demonstrations of environmental practices translate into long term behavioural changes.


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