10 Years Later: Athens Development Gains?

Ten years after the close of the Athens Olympics in 2004, their Olympic legacy comes under scrutiny. The Greek Olympic Committee Chair made a powerful statement for the infrastructure changes that the Olympics can bring about:

It saddens me that public opinion has come to believe the Athens Olympic Games were not successful. They were very much so, both from the sports aspect and through projects that gave life to Athens — tourism has increased, there is a modern airport, roads, the metro, phones work properly and when it’s very hot, the power system doesn’t collapse.

~Spyros Capralos, Greek Olympic Committee Chair

These infrastructure changes would have been made eventually, but the question is whether hosting the Olympics helped Athens accelerate that development. The Chair points to core urban planning results as the core of their legacy, arguably the most concrete definition of success possible. Could Athens have made that progress without bearing the cost of white elephants like the volleyball stadium below?


An auxiliary pitch at an abandoned stadium, which hosted the beach volleyball competition during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, is seen at the Faliro complex south of Athens.(REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis)

Sports Spotlight: Mega-Event Press Reel!

Photo credit: Pat Collins

Photo credit: Pat Collins

With every passing day, global attention to mega-events like the World Cup and Olympics & Paralympics seems to escalate. The upward trend of interest in these increasingly significant international competitions are certainly linked to urban development.

Predictions, outcomes, and opinions on sporting events and their urban legacies are wildly different. The perspectives in the press–both negative and positive, pessimistic and optimistic–present a diverse spectrum of important topics for us to consider. As of late, we’ve seen most of the media traffic around the following: Brazil 2016, the 2024 Games, and games from the past two decades.

As this track record of rising interest parallels the volume and intensity of media pieces on the topic, we wanted to highlight those articles that pertain most to our book topic: Bidding for Development: How the Olympic Bid Process Can Accelerate Transportation Development .

Please check out our press collection and let us know what you think!

Brazil for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics

Chicago Tribune on Brazil – Woes and realities for 2016

UK Reuters on Brazil Realities and challenges to address, but cautious optimism for 2016

Bloomberg on Brazil 2016 Failure to meet bid book promises

Cities in the Running for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics

CBS on L.A. for 2024 1984 L.A. as it applies to current 2024 running

Biz Journals on Boston Boston 2024 as a catalyst for development on pre-existent/pre-planned projects in the city

WAMU NPR DC Radio on D.C. 2024 Washington 2024 bid pros and cons

Inside the Games on Istanbul  Is it an urban legend or will Istanbul bid for a 6th time for 2024?

New York Times on 2024 Bidders Comprehensive recap!

Past Games

CBS on Montreal 1976 Olympics “boondoggle” stadium, where cigarette taxes finally covered debt after 30 years

Houston Culture Map on Munich Munich 1972 urban development successes

Global Atlanta on Atlanta 1996 and Istanbul Dr. Tamer Cavusgil–one of our very own book resource experts–on mega-events!

Sports Illustrated on a range of past stadia “What Happens…After the Games?”

Other News on Global Games

Fox Sports on 2022 Winter Games bidders…finalists are down to three…

India Times on Tokyo 2020 Critiques on urban preparation

Sport Better Cities Excellent platform and convener on “all things mega-event”

International Olympic Committee IOC has recently reformed the bid book-with revamped guidelines related to urban development!

Making way for the Olympics: Is the displacement of people ever justified?


Photo courtesy of the AP

Every Olympics is unique–part of the fun is seeing how each host city makes it its own from the opening ceremonies to the type of legacy it hopes to leave behind. Still, there are quite a few common links. From budget overruns to behind schedule projects, in the lead up to every Olympic Games it becomes clear that no matter the steps they take to avoid them, host cities seem to get caught up in the same headlines, making the same choices, and in many cases the same mistakes of hosts before them. One such headline are the billions of dollars spent in development projects that rarely equate to benefits for local citizens.

Why is this the case? Failure to consult local citizens for one and planning that caters more to the needs of Olympic visitors rather than to those of the locals who will be left with this infrastructure for years to come. The most troubling explanation however is the fact that thousands of the local population simply won’t be there to enjoy it. The displacement of locals to make way for Olympic projects has been an ugly reality of far too many Olympic Games. The Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) has identified the 1988 Games in Seoul and the 2008 Games in Beijing as having been noteworthy in this regard displacing  720,000 and 1.25 million people respectively. COHRE estimates that among mega-events the Olympic Games alone have displaced over 2 million people over the past 20 years. Most recently, an estimated 2,000 people were displaced to make way for the infrastructure of the Sochi Olympics, and already 3,000 have been displaced in Rio de Janeiro in preparation for the 2016 Games.

The ironic or perhaps convenient truth about displacing families to make way for Olympic development is that it is often times done with the best interest of those families in mind. Case in point, authorities in Brazil claim that families removed from their homes and placed in government housing are living in conditions superior to the favelas. CEO of Rio’s Olympic Organizing Committee, Leonardo Gryner, justifies forced evictions as part of the greater good and that new roads and bus lines which have resulted will allow everyone better access to transportation and services. He says that “one of the main reasons that people live in favelas in Rio is because of transportation” and that “when you offer them a new means of transportation, that will help…people to move to new areas farther from the city, living in better conditions…” Those evicted families take issue with this perspective. They no longer own their homes and government complexes are miles from the doctors, schools, and jobs that they had access to in their old neighborhoods. They also complain that the transportation infrastructure is inadequate and far from what would make living in a suburb of Rio realistic.

With decades of case studies at their disposal and an entire portion of the IOC dedicated to knowledge management, we must question how host cities find themselves facing the exact same problems as hosts in prior Olympic Games. In Bidding for Development, we trace this occurrence back to the very inception of a city’s Olympic bid where bid champions and bid committees can choose to take a series of steps that will help position them to reap benefits from the Games no matter the outcome. Chief among these is the decision to engage local citizens in the planning process to ensure that development for the Games will be responsive to local needs.

Unfortunately, the guidepost for Olympic planning is not the fact that after two weeks time the grand stadiums, arenas, and transportation infrastructure of the Games will be left in the hands of local residents. It will either be useful for them and improve their everyday lives or it won’t–more often than not the latter holds true. The Olympic City Project has spent the past few years documenting what remains of Olympic infrastructure in host cities and how it has impacted the lives of the people whose neighborhoods have been transformed by Olympic development. It’s a bleak picture which often reveals misguided planning and communities that are more burdened than blessed by the changes their community saw.

The nature of the Olympics and scale of development required to handle the influx of people who will participate in the Games means that the relocation of people will likely always be a harsh reality for host cities. There is no better scenario than allowing people to stay in their homes and close to the network of family and institutions they count on to survive, but there has to be a middle ground before forcibly relocating people to suburban government housing that puts low income residents already living on the fringe at high risk. So, how do we find this?

A start would to be engaging citizens in a conversation about their future–a step that seems to have been avoided altogether in Rio. And yes, as alluded to above, this step is one which should be taken from from the inception of a bid. Its possible that knowing the risks involved in hosting the Olympics, specifically the need for relocating communities, organizing committees may not be able to gain the buy-in of local communities. But if this is the case, it should be a clear sign to bid champions that something is very wrong with their vision and plans for the Games, and as we recommend in our book, bid leadership should be ready to drop out of the bid process. The bottom line is that legacy matters when you are sending a signal as big as the Olympics to the world and although the short duration of the Games itself plays a large part in shaping that legacy, so too does the usefulness of Olympic infrastructure long after the Games are over. The real opportunity here is the fact that despite the differing interests of the IOC, Policymakers, and citizens, concerns about transportation development  can unite all of these groups. To have that development be meaningful, bidding cities must realize from the outset that public input is vital.

Mega Events Equal Mega Problems?

The 2014 Sochi Winter Games dominate the dialogue surrounding mega sporting events right now. As runner up, Brazil’s 2014 World Cup Games and 2016 Summer Olympics & Paralympics. In what appears to be in third place for garnering attention is the 2022 World Cup, currently set to take place in Qatar.

But, it is only a matter of time when the spotlight will rotate to highlight the intriguing background of Doha’s bid and preparation for the 2022 games in Qatar. Since its selection in 2010, most media focused on Qatar as the host nation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™  has cast a very negative light.

FIFA disclosed that Qatar was primarily selected because European nations have huge interests—political and economic—in the tiny, oil-rich world power. Despite these investments and interests in positive relations with Qatar, holding the World Cup in the country presents a host of problems from start to finish. In addition to the prior alleged acts of bribery during the bid process—also considered by us as the most important phase of a sporting mega-event—critiques have been made about human rights violations taking place during the construction phases.

Other troubles range from soccer games in the extreme heat of the desert-locked country to the major lack of pre-existent infrastructure necessary for a successful mega-event. However, none are as alarming as the Guardian investigation that revealed the abuse of migrant workers hired for the 2022 games. The United Nations and Amnesty International followed suit to condemn Qatar for the mistreatment of these laborers from other countries.

Since these accusations, the organizing committee has pledged to provide standard wages and to conduct inspections aimed at improving the welfare of workers. However, this accountability will only apply to stadiums, without including the wider infrastructure projects. Keeping in line with our work and recently released publication, most mega sporting events call for a great deal of costly road and building projects.

Since we place emphasis on the importance of the bid process and infrastructure development, these problems reveal a flawed approach to the bid. And in the wake of this news, the recent call for reform to the FIFA bid process seems very justified. Interestingly, when FIFA addressed Qatar’s human rights record at a European Parliament session, the insiders in the bid process appeared taken by surprise on the news.  Whether they knew or not…a slate of questions come to mind…

  • Did Doha fail to outline strategies for infrastructure development—transportation and sporting—during the bid process?
  • How comprehensive was the committee’s strategy on construction, labor, and resources in the bid?
  • What do you think about all of the controversy surrounding Qatar 2022?
  • Should FIFA find a new location for the 2022 World Cup?
  • Should FIFA reform its bid process?

Regardless of the answers, sporting mega-events sometimes seem to cause more mega problems than benefits.

Photo compliments of Reuters.

Photo compliments of Reuters.

Photo compliments of FIFA

Photo compliments of FIFA

The #RoadtoSochi Reveals the Relevance of Improved Planning for the Games


The 2014 Winter Games in Russia are approaching as fast as an icy bobsled! We would like to take this lead up to Sochi as an opportunity to reinvigorate our dialogue on the Olympics and Paralympics. Most importantly, the current attention on Sochi aligns well with the release of our book regarding the Olympic bid process’s impact on urban development.

Bidding for Development is hot off the Springer Publishing press and teeming with insights on how the Olympic bid process can accelerate transportation development, including recommendations geared toward stakeholders of every rank and level of investment.

Headlines on the exorbitant cost of Putin’s Games seem to dominate the recent chatter around the 2014 sporting mega-event. This final projection for what Russia spent on the Olympics—much of which went to the development of roads, tunnels, and arenas–has more than quadrupled since 2007 when they bid. At over $50 billion, the Sochi Games will be the most expensive Games in history. Some critics say that the bid process was riddled with corruption and that Sochi—a small beach resort—was an unwise site selection for showcasing the world’s top winter athletes.

That leads us to our favorite subject, not on the Olympic Games themselves, but the bid process and the full field of players involved in it! In 2006, Sochi competed with two other finalists for IOC selection. What are those cities up to now? Salzburg, Austria seems to be doing well, economically stable, and yet under the radar. Pyeongchang, South Korea was given more time to prepare as it was chosen to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Can these two “bid losers” come out ahead by, even momentarily, going through the process without the production?  Would another city have been better prepared than Sochi? We would like to think that they would have after reading Bidding for Development!

The book takes an objective approach to bidding in this controversial climate. The book and its findings focus on how any city can use the bid process strategically to create a positive legacy, regardless of bid outcome.

Please spread the word about the book to anyone that may be interested in urban development, mega sporting events, and transportation policy…the Bid Framework in the book provides a roadmap for anyone interested in tactical planning for the Olympics.  Happy reading and keep the Sochi conversation going!


Photo credit to NBC Photoblog 

Bidding on the Brain: A Range of Bids Related to the Olympics


While an Olympic bid denotes a city’s international endeavor to host the Summer or Winter Games, references to bids can also signify a variety of components associated with the Olympics. Recent headliners and news pieces on Olympic and Paralympic bids have been in regards to any of the below bid types:

Wrestling with Reality – Sports Must Bid for Inclusion in Games

The IOC’s executive board made a recent decision to drop wrestling as one of the core sports of the Olympic 2020 Games. This announcement stunned wrestling officials and athletes around the world. Comparable to how cities must participate in a bid process to host the Games, different international sports federations must vie for inclusion as one of the 25 sports in the Games. As of right now, wrestling has joined the ranks of those “short listed” sports bidding for 2020: baseball-softball, Wushu (a form of martial arts), squash, wakeboarding, roller sports, rock climbing, and karate. In an IOC meeting this May, the executive board will identify only one of these sports for acceptance in the Games.

Reactions of frustration and disbelief to this news have ranged from hunger strikes to returned medals to the unlikely accord between Iranian and American wrestlers. In a backlash to the decision, the President of the wrestling federation even stepped down while athletes came together with a campaign to save the historic Olympic sport.

To tie this occurrence even closer to the Olympic bids for cities, those currently in the running to host the 2020 Games were directly impacted by the wrestling decision. Olympic committee representatives and athletes from both Tokyo and Istanbul expressed concern that a loss of wrestling weakens their bids due to national ties to the sport

The First Frontier-Domestic Bids for a City to Host the 2024 Games

Before a city submits a proposal to the IOC declaring an intent to bid for the Olympics, each participating country must identify one city to represent the nation. While smaller countries have less trouble pinpointing one city, the U.S. must choose among many potential bid cities before putting forth one to the IOC. Just this month, the USOC sent out letters to 35 cities gauging their level of interest. Boston, Dallas, L.A., and a few others responded with a solid plan to explore the idea of bidding for the Games.

IOC Youth Olympics-Cities Bidding to host the 2018 Youth Olympics

As if the global anticipation related to the bid process for the 2020 Summer Games is not enough, three other cities are in pursuit of hosting the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Parallel to the bid process for the traditional Olympics and Paralympics, these cities have submitted candidature applications to prove their ability to host a successful Youth Games. Emphasis is placed on a positive legacy throughout the bid process. These three finalists for the Youth Games include Buenos Aires, Argentina; Glasgow, United Kingdom; and Medellin, Colombia.

IOC Sessions-Bids for Cities to Host the IOC Meeting Sites 

Even the sites for the IOC Sessions during which decisions for the Games are announced must undergo a bid process! When an IOC Session takes place, the group weighs the current bids for future meeting locations and decides from these bids where the next session will take place. The IOC received two bids from cities to host the 125th Session this September: Buenos Aires, Argentina and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Argentina it is…the site of the IOC’s declaration of a 2020 host city!

Why are there so many extensive bid processes related to the Olympics? They may primarily be in place as efforts to manage risk, address political pressures, and make strategic decisions. Other factors—global relations, city agendas, and even personal motivations—contribute to the bid processes.

Here at BID, a focus is placed on the role that any IOC-related bid has in urban development. As one can see, though, different types of bids play into different pieces of the Olympic Movement.

Photo compliments of The Sport Digest.

Cities Can’t Wing Air Travel Preparation

Photo Compliments of Daily Star Lebanon

What do most visitors see first and last in a city? The airport. The need for efficient and accessible air travel is of even greater importance when a city plans for the Olympics and Paralympics. After last summer’s London Olympic Games, over 116,000 passengers flew out of Heathrow airport and 70,000 out of Gatwick in a one-day exodus. This surge of arrivals and departures surrounding the Games calls for an extensive amount of legwork by Olympic planners. Recognizing this need, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires for applicants to submit detailed plans around airport capacity and transportation networks during the bid process.

While the first phase of the IOC candidature application for the Olympics devotes a section to air travel, the second phase goes into greater depth. The file  for candidate cities requires charts of information on airfare. The questions focus on everything from an airport’s existing capacity and number of terminals and gates to the specific distances between the airport(s) and Olympic Villages. Cities must define projections for improvements, construction timelines, flight networks—international and domestic—as well as means of financing the projects.

Looking back to recent Games, a few examples of host cities that followed through on their bid commitments to enhance airport travel are featured below:

  • Beijing 2008- Since the Beijing airport’s level of passengers increased by 24 million during the Games, the city’s international terminal was opened to manage the traffic. Stand-by airports were renovated and new airport express roads were constructed. The Games prompted Beijing’s NOC to add disability parking spots and other accessibility features that are still used today.
  • Vancouver 2010-Among what are considered the many Vancouver Olympic legacy projects, transport developments servicing the international airport rise to the top for their lasting importance. The new Canada Line—catalyzed by Olympic planning—continues to rush travelers between the airport and downtown areas. Additionally, innovative custom baggage carts created for the Vancouver airport that managed the influx of large ski equipment for the Winter Games have made the overall baggage process more efficient. The same model will be used for the Sochi 2014 Games.

Istanbul has accelerated ambitious infrastructure plans, an increasing priority outlined in  BID’s report. A critical part of these developments are related to air travel. Turkish Airlines’ and Pegasus Airlines’ recently revealed global expansion strategies for Istanbul that tie closely into the bid committee’s latest plans for a new international airport. According to Airbus’s Executive Vice President in a Beyond the Rings article, “ ‘Turkey is rapidly developing into Europe’s most dynamic commercial aviation market’, and the national government has recently concluded the tender process for a huge third airport in Istanbul to support the growth. It will feature six runways and accommodate an estimated annual capacity of up to 150 million passengers by 2020, making it the largest in the world.”

In this sense, the bid provides an opportunity for any city interested in hosting the Games—regardless of outcome—to focus on their region’s airfare. A well-organized, accessible, and efficient international airport is crucial in making a city as a global destination.

Photo Compliments of Daily Star Lebanon