Transportation Nexus and the Olympic Games

© 2007-2012 The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games will begin this summer in London and I thought I would share a bit of my knowledge in this arena. Not about the Olympic Games themselves, but rather, on the massive planning efforts that are involved for the host city (and country) that the Games will be played in. This post will begin a series of examining infrastructure investments in Olympic host cities.

I conducted my masters thesis on transport investments in Olympic host cities after spending the summer of 2007 in London as part of the University of Illinois at Chicago Great Cities Institute program. For those of you who are interested, you can read my thesis in its entirety here. For the rest of you, a synopsis will do.

A little background first.

The modern Olympic Games have grown in size and scale since the austere beginnings of the Olympic Movement in Athens, 1896. The increased complexity, scope, and size of the Olympic Games has profound financial implications for Olympic Games host cities that extend well beyond the provision of sport facilities, logistics planning, and organization during the Games itself. Major investments in a host city’s infrastructure, such as large-scale urban redevelopment, guest and athlete accommodation, venue construction, public transport, security, and utility infrastructure have been necessary to ensure the effective operation of the Games.

Cities have long used mega events such as the Olympic Games for promoting economic development and urban regeneration. Transport infrastructure is a major component of any city, for it facilitates the movement of people and goods. This makes transport not only a social necessity, but also an economic necessity. The hosting of the Olympic Games and other large-scale events allow a city to implement and/or expedite long-term development plans of which transport is one component.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the body that governs the Olympic Games, requires its candidate cities to consider what the legacy and impacts of hosting an Olympic Games might be like on the candidate cities. In the IOC Candidate Questionnaire, candidate cities must describe how the Games fit into its long-term planning strategy. Transportation has historically been a major part of the Olympic legacy and cost. In terms of transportation, the IOC wants guarantees for which infrastructure projects are planned, the size of the airport, and fleet and rolling stock information on the public transport authorities in the candidate city. Essentially, the IOC forces its candidates to understand fully the costs of entering into a contract to host the Games.

When a city is chosen to host the Olympic Games, it is the responsibility of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (OCOG) to administer the Olympic Games for the host city. The OCOG is the principal agent responsible for the planning, implementation, and operation of the Olympic Games in its host city. The task of hosting the Games is immense and includes, among other things, choosing and/or creating the competition sites, lodging athletes and officials, organize medical services, and solving transportation issues. The London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, which is the local OCOG for the 2012 Summer Olympics, is a private sector company that works in tandem with the public sector Olympic Delivery Authority to fund the London Olympic Games.

In the next post, we’ll examine the Olympic Games as a catalyst for urban development.

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