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

Bid Wars: The Bids within the Bid

Photo credit to Construction International:


As the complexity of the Olympics and Paralympics has increased, the IOC bid process to host the Games has also intensified. Since 1999, cities bidding for the Olympics and Paralympics have been required to go through two bid phases. These candidature applications demand that cities seeking to host the Games describe thorough and feasible plans for the Olympics.

Keeping in stride with the dynamic nature of the Games as well as the intricate bid process, another variety of bid has come to be: corporate bids for Olympics-related projects. A city’s decision to bid for the Games is intrinsically related to the private sector’s desire to tap into “big business” opportunities. Companies are involved from the onset in many capacities and as early as pre-bid phases. Companies interested in securing contracts related to the Games—contracts that focus on anything ranging from infrastructure construction to marketing and branding to hospitality services—must also develop a strategy to win “their piece of the pie.”

Corporate entities may “bid” to become directly involved in the Games even before host city decisions or Organizing Committees of the Olympics Games (OCOG’s) have been made. For instance, Helios Partners is an Atlanta-based sports marketing consultancy created and managed by former leaders of the 1996 Olympics committee. This company seeks to “clinch” contracts with cities bidding to host the Olympics and Paralympics. For London, Helios was selected to develop promotional messages for Lloyd’s TSB, the first London-specific Olympic sponsor, and Deloitte, the American professional services firm, long before the 2012 Games took place. And the official sponsor company selection process is another huge episode in itself!

Once the IOC announces a host city winner—seven years in advance of the Games—the OCOG’s are created. Generally, these committees work with the host government to hire corporate contractors for large-scale Olympics projects. Much of this “legwork” is related to urban development, engineering, and transportation-related construction.

According to a quote by David Higgins (Chief Executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority) in  CH2M HILL’s 2006 report regarding the firm’s London 2012 construction contract:

“This is a first class shortlist from a very strong field. We will continue the rigorous scrutiny of applications as we now move to the next stage. I am confident that the competitive dialogue procurement process will help ensure we make the right appointment for this critical role.”

The Olympic Delivery Authority from the London Games adheres to new European procurement laws that require “competitive dialogue” with first and a “short” listing stages of corporate contractors. Sound familiar? The IOC short-lists cities bidding for the Games too!

As the world’s premier and most wide-scale mega-event, the Olympics has rising implications for every sector and stakeholder of a city and region. While the companies winning the “bid” contract may experience benefits, it is unclear and debated as to whether all stakeholders benefit—particularly the residents.

Depending on their degree of success, though, these private firm contractors can ideally support a strong Games and contribute to a positive legacy. In theory, the benefits reaped by these corporations can also help trigger economic growth in the host region.

For an interactive grid in The Financial Times, please visit:

FT Olympics Article



Will Istanbul’s transport investments set it apart?


Haliç metro bridge under construction.


It has been about two weeks since Tokyo, Madrid, and Istanbul participated in the IOC’s official London 2012 Games debriefing in Rio de Janeiro. As these candidate cities return home to place the finishing touches on their bid books for the 2020 Games, the question is will they be able to match London’s successes and what will set them apart as the most promising candidate city to the IOC Evaluation Commission?

It should be no surprise to our readers that BID expects Istanbul’s significant transportation investments made over the course of its multiple Olympic bids, as well as the political will and resources these repeat bids have coalesced, to make it a standout candidate city in the eyes of the IOC. Hasan Arat, Istanbul’s bid champion and former vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Turkey, has indicated that it is these strengths which will allow Istanbul 2020 to match the success and technical capability of the 2012 Games:

Istanbul is a bustling metropolis spanning two continents—but in 2020 we will still be able to offer athletes average travel times of 20 minutes or less […] These ambitious infrastructure developments show our country’s determination to deliver on all our promises to the Olympic family and match London’s organization excellence. The strength of Turkey’s economy and the committed support from all levels of government mean we are better placed than ever to realize our vision. (Hasan Arat)

If it turns out fifth time’s the charm for Istanbul, it will be exciting to see the trend of a truly global Games continue where emerging economies are actively pursing and playing host to the Olympics.  It will also be instructive to understand how decades of bidding will ultimately shape their Olympic Games.

BID expects Istanbul’s impressive mega-event resume and smart infrastructure investments to pay dividends in terms of their ability to buck the trend of net economic losses from hosting the Games.  Goldman Sachs economist Jose Ursua’s August report on “The Economy of the Olympics” seems to support this point of view. Ursua explains that while “the potential for economic benefits from hosting the Olympics is obviously country-specific […] a country with a better physical infrastructure […] will likely be in a better position to minimize the costs and maximize the benefits associated with the Games.”

During the past seven years alone, Istanbul has invested on average of $1.2 billion each year upgrading its transportation infrastructure. Here is a short list of the major transport investments we can expect to see just in the next three years:

  • 2013: Haliç metro will open across the Golden Horn with a capacity of one million passengers daily.
  • 2014: Istanbul’s third airport will open with a capacity to move 150 million passengers annually.
  • 2015: Work will begin on a third bridge to ease downtown traffic.

These three mega-projects, combined with almost two decades of foundational and aspirational transportation development are game-changers regardless of the outcome of the 2020 bid.  The IOC will announce their choice for the 2020 Olympics on September 7, 2013, and then the world will see if pricey infrastructure investments equate to Olympic Gold.