Speaker Series 2023 #8 | Beyond the Closing Ceremony: Leaving a resilient legacy in the wake of major sports events

Sep 2023

About the Session

The Speakers

Hosting a major sports event often requires significant investment in infrastructure, such as transportation, accommodation, and sporting facilities. It is also essential to prioritize inclusivity and limit disruption to residents by embedding resilience in the planning process. It is critical to leverage these investments to address urban challenges such as providing affordable housing and sustainable infrastructure that will benefit the city long after the event is over. Cities can ensure that these major events leave a legacy of equitability and sustainability.

The eighth session of Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series, 2023, with the support of and co-hosted with GHD focused on ‘Beyond the Closing Ceremony – Leaving a resilient legacy in the wake of major sports events.’ To kick start the session, Michelle Cramer, Future Communities Lead, APAC, GHD opened the session and spoke about the nexus between shaping resilient cities and delivering major sporting events; how carefully considered infrastructure planning and delivery can build resilience both during and following major events, creating lasting community benefits.

“I know people who are now long-term residents of the award-winning and leafy neighbourhood of Newington, formerly Sydney’s Athletes Village. And who cannot imagine living anywhere else because of the amenities it provides in housing choice schools, health care, retail, and parklands, not to mention the sporting facilities, and those sporting facilities my family uses many times a week because my two sons are now also in junior athlete programs. Imagine if I had fully appreciated that when I was involved in the design of the precinct”

Michelle Cramer, Future Communities Lead, APAC, GHD

We were joined by Natalie Cook OAM OLY, 5x Olympian and Rowland Sport Associate, Australia, Harold Mayne-Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer, Santiago de Chile, Enrique Szendro, Director of Public Space and Non-Motorized Mobility of the Under-secretariat of Territorial Planning and Public Space of the Secretariat of Mobility and Urban Planning, Government of Nuevo Leon, Carolina Tendler, International Relations Manager, Rio De Janeiro, all of who are deeply invested in getting these major events right, not just for the show itself but for the long term community benefit. The focus of the panel was on how these significant events can be repositioned, challenging the notion that events need to be disruptive to the community at the time. The panel was moderated by Ron Harris, Lead, Knowledge Transformation, Resilient Cities Network, and Michelle Cramer, Future Communities Lead, APAC, GHD.

Key insightful takeaways from the panel were:

  • It is possible for cities to host major events without burdening local governments. Hosting these events can help cities build better infrastructure, improve urban mobility, provide quality housing and sports facilities, and build greener cities for people.
  • Major sports events can bring in harsh criticism from communities, so it is crucial to set intentions early on, and Governments can demonstrate that this substantial financial investment will not take precedence over public purpose. Investments need to be planned and delivered in a way that they can continue to serve the cities after these sports events.
  • Bringing games into the city can help turn their long-standing challenges into opportunities by fostering places and people in the city who are generally left behind and helping vulnerable communities with access to better services.
  • Engagement with communities in the planning process can help cities create inclusive opportunities that can help people leverage these investments for a better quality of life.
  • Storytelling and narrative are crucial for communicating with people in understanding what the people want, what the games can deliver, and all the good that can come out of these games. This can also help cities mitigate concerns about public opposition.
  • Funding by the private sector is important; cities can leverage non-developed areas for buy-in and interest from the private sector for their businesses after the event.
  • Leaving a resilient legacy can help cities continue to live the Olympic spirit long after the closing ceremonies of these sports events.

Carolina Tendler, International Relations Manager, Rio De Janeiro.

These events are an opportunity to make a change that lasts much longer than 28 days. Rio hosted the games with the awareness that they should serve the city and not the other way around. Hosting the games is a perfect excuse to tackle our biggest challenges like improving urban mobility, recovering degraded areas, better preparing the city to deal with floods, and expanding sanitation.

Natalie Cook OAM OLY, Rowland Sport Associate, 5x Olympian

My first Olympic games, I went to Atlanta as a 21-year-old beach volleyball athlete. I revisited this year after 27 years to see Centennial Park in Atlanta, flourishing with thousands of people, taking photos of the Olympic rings and the statues, following the Olympic trails, and still living the Olympic city spirit. And that is what is possible in cities. Whether that’s in a faster train network, a bus network, a better hospital system, or better accessibility and inclusivity for people who want to get around the city better. All of that is possible through an Olympic city and a major sport event.

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer, Santiago 2023, Santiago de Chile

We want to show everyone coming here that we are prepared. With the subway, for the first time in these kinds of games, we will not use buses but the subway to move people to the stadium for the opening ceremony. This is a big achievement for the city of Santiago and the organization committee. This is the first time ever that we have such a big scale of event here in Chile. So, we hope that the legacy will not only be for sports but also for our communities. That’s our big goal and we hope to achieve that goal.

Enrique Szendro, Director of Public Space and Non-Motorized Mobility of the Undersecretariat of Territorial Planning and Public Space of the Secretariat of Mobility and Urban Planning, Government of Nuevo Leon

It is important to align the big investments with issues that we already see in the city. This is what we are trying to address. The proposed mobility network is going to change how people move in the city, improve access to public transport, and reduce the use of cars, which are the highest greenhouse gas emitters in the city. This is going to be the biggest change for our city for now and for the future.

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