EAST LANSING, Mich. — Hosting the Olympics can allow cities to realize many long-term dreams or spark economic nightmares, according to a new book written by a Michigan State University professor.
"Planning Olympic Legacies," written by Eva Kassens-Noor, assistant professor of urban and transport planning, features six cities that have hosted or that will soon host the Olympic Games. The book focuses on the legacy projects, urban-planning initiatives unveiled especially for the games yet provide the city benefits well after the Olympians have left.
While researching the book, Kassens-Noor traveled to London, Sydney, Barcelona, Athens and Atlanta. Through her travels, she saw how cities like London are living the Olympic dream.
"London followed the bid process related to legacy projects quite closely and made sure its bid was tailored specifically for the Olympic Committee's legacy requirements," Kassens-Noor said. "And Brazil took a smart approach by hosting the Pan American games first, the FIFA World Cup next, and then they successfully bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Through the triple mega event, the country has established itself as the sport nation of South America."
In terms of urban planning, Rio de Janeiro improved its global reputation by ramping up its urban areas to suit mega-event needs by hosting consecutively larger events. London rejuvenated East London as a result of hosting this summer's games. Sydney was able to transform a polluted brownfield into a thriving new suburb with commercial and housing developments.
Not every host city, however, wins a gold medal.
When Athens hosted the 2004 games, cracks in the Mediterranean nation's economy began to show. Although Athens had many successes, it suffered some major setbacks from hosting the XXVII Olympiad. Athens came out with a strong bid, but took a three-year hiatus once it was awarded the games. With the deadline approaching, officials rushed transportation projects such as the coastal tramline and the suburban rail connecting the airport to downtown, but gave up on other efforts that would've connected suburbs to downtown, she said.
Athens' preparations also required significant investment into Olympic-specific activities rather than long-lasting legacy projects, Kassens-Noor said.
"There's no wiggle room in getting the projects completed; they must be done when the Olympics come to town," she said. "Many Athenians still believe that the current economic crisis is partly to blame on the extravagant expenditures that came as part of hosting the games."
Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.
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