BBC News interview about the legacy of the 2012 Olympics

I was interviewed on Sunday evening on BBC News, about the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  You can watch the interview below.  I talk about the impact of the Games on London’s tourism and also the fact that it is unrealistic to expect the Games to have much of a long-term impact outside of East London.

Abandon Normal Devices 29th August – 2nd September

I’ll be speaking at a salon event at this festival of new cinema, digital culture and art on Saturday 1st September.  Also speaking will be Jennifer M Jones, the coordinator for #media2012, a national-wide citizen media network for London 2012.  We’re contributing to Salon #3 ‘Too big to fail?’, a debate on the costs of hosting a successful Olympics .

You can read much more about AND from their excellent website, from which you can also download the programme for the whole festival.  In the text below, the organisers explain what they are all about:

Abandon Normal Devices (AND) is an energetic regional festival of new cinema, digital culture and art. The festival takes place annually in Liverpool and Manchester on alternate years, with an extended regional programme.

Our mission is to push the boundaries of audience experience through a programme that spills out of galleries and screens into the streets of the Northwest.

With a curatorial attitude of participation and innovation, AND has enabled collaborations across the UK’s pioneering digital, science, design and media sectors.

The Sinha Games

Last night I was on BBC Radio 4‘s ‘The Sinha Games’, presented by comedian Paul Sinha.  This half hour show took an amusing, and broadly positive, look at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and you can listen to it via the BBC iPlayer by clicking the image below:

Click on the image to listen to the show on BBC iPlayer

BBC News Olympic legacy debate with Ian Sinclair

Last night I was invited to take part in a debate on the BBC News Channel about the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.  You can watch the video below:


London 2012: Good value for money

I’m going to be on the BBC News tonight, at some point around 9pm, debating the legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with Ian Sinclair, who has had a great deal to say about the negative impacts of the Olympics in East London.  I take the view that 2012 is making a hugely significant contribution to the development of the city and that its impacts are, broadly speaking, positive, even if it may be many years before they are fully felt.  I wrote about this in my blog for the Metro newspaper recently and I’ve copied the article below…

At a time when the Government is regularly criticized for cutting spending and not investing in big projects to get the economy moving, why are people so angry about the billions being spent on the Olympics?

Ever since the Government first announced its intentions to cut public spending on a scale scarcely anyone had thought possible, the cry from the opposition and campaigners has been for the government to spend.

These cries make good sense; invest now in big infrastructure projects, create jobs in construction and manufacturing, prop up areas suffering worst from the effects of the economic crisis.

The F10 bridge with construction workers from the Aquatics Centre forming a giant number 2 to signify two years until the start of London 2012 Olympic Games (Getty)

Another set of demands; invest in sustainable development, in young people, in culture and sport, and invest in long-term projects that leave a lasting legacy.

The money that has been spent on the development of the Olympic Park in Stratford meets these criteria and should be seen as the one shining example of where this otherwise spendthrift government is doing exactly what its critics says it should: spending big.

Celebrate the fact that the government is actually spending some money where it is needed

The total cost to the taxpayer of staging the Olympics will probably end up somewhere between 12-15billion. That money has been spent over seven years and hasn’t really been affected by the public spending cuts.

That money has directly created thousands of jobs and, indirectly, tens of thousands more. The excuse of a few weeks of sport has allowed successive governments to transform the fortunes of a part of east London that has suffered from multiple deprivations for a generation.

Infrastructure developments on this scale always leave victims. If it were possible to create projects that didn’t involve forced evictions, that didn’t create opportunities for a sometimes greedy private sector and that didn’t cause political controversy, then someone would have worked that out by now.  But whether it’s a bridge, an airport, a bypass, a conference centre or a mega-event, investments of global significance can never be politically neutral.

It is the job of governments to make the case for their spending and to satisfy the public that they really will benefit from it. Successive governments haven’t won that argument.

But we pay taxes every day for services and projects that some of us will never use like schools, pensions, social services and defense. Add the Olympics to that list, think about the benefits that it can deliver, and celebrate the fact that the government is actually spending some money where it is needed.

Blogging for the Metro Newspaper on the 2012 Olympics

Over the next few months, I’m going to be blogging for the Metro Newspaper about the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.  I’m going to concentrate on the non-sporting aspects of the Olympics, as I’m no sporting expert, and I’ll have a focus on issues surrounding the impacts of the Games, economically, socially and culturally.  You can click on the image below to see my most recent posts.

A Sporting Chance: the legacies of mega-events for post-industrial British cities

I’ll be contributing to this event at the end of May….

The City Of Manchester stadium, a legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Now renamed as the Etihad Stadium and home to Manchester City football club.


A Sporting Chance: the legacies of mega-events for post-industrial British cities

 23rd and 24th May 2012

Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), University of Manchester

Comparing the city of Manchester, ten years after it hosted the Commonwealth Games, with London – host to the Olympic Games in 2012, this two day workshop invites critical inter-disciplinary discussion and evaluation of the legacies of sporting mega-events for post-industrial British cities.

The workshop is funded by the new Urban Experiments research theme at CRESC  and brings together twelve academics whose research is concerned, in various ways, with exploring the socio-economic, political and material transformations brought about by post-industrialisation and/or sporting mega events billed as catalysts for urban regeneration.

Speakers include:

Mike Raco, Professor of Urban and Regional Governance, The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL, London.

Dr Adam Brown, Director and founder member of Substance research cooperative, Manchester

Professor John Gold, Department of History, Philosophy and Religion – Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University.

Professor John Horne, Professor of Sport and Sociology, University of Central Lancashire

Dr Larissa Davies, Senior Research Fellow Sport Industry Research Centre Sheffield Hallam University

Dr. Andrew Smith, School of Architecture and the Built Environment, University of Westminster

James Kennell, Director Economic Development Resource Centre, University of Greenwich Business School.

Camilla Lewis, PhD candidate, Social Anthropology, University of Manchester

Beth Carley, PhD candidate, Cathy Marsh Centre for Survey and Social Research, University of Manchester

Gillian Evans, RCUK Research Fellow, CRESC, University of Manchester

Allan Cochrane, Professor of Urban Studies, Social Sciences, Open University

For more information and to reserve a place contact

The Future of UK Tourism: Developing the Visitor Economy

I’ll be speaking at this Inside Government event on 7th December in London.  My talk will examine the links between economic development and tourism in the UK, in the context of the economic crisis.  Click on the image below to go straight to the event booking page which has a list of all the invited speakers.  I’ve copied some of the information about what looks to be an excellent day underneath.

Tourism is essential to Britain’s economy. Government statistics show that tourism generates £97 billion each year, employs over 3 million people and supports thousands of businesses. The government aims to help tourism achieve its potential as a central part of Britain’s growth strategy.

Britain’s landmarks, monuments, countryside and culture attract visitors from all over the world. Major international events such as the Royal Wedding, Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games provide a great opportunity to boost tourism, showcasing what Britain has to offer, and created a sustained tourism legacy.

Developing the visitor economy is a priority for the coalition government. The Government Tourism Policy, published in March 2011, aims to harness the potential this area holds to grow Britain’s economy. Objectives include growing the overseas market across the country using London 2012 and other sporting and cultural events, strengthening the domestic tourism market, increasing private sector investment and increasing flexibility for local tourist organisations. There is also a focus on improving Britain’s international gateways and national transport infrastructure.

The tourism strategy is driven by a local agenda. Destination Management Organisations will work with Visit England, local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, and local businesses to regenerate and market their area in the most effective way.

A £100 million partnership marketing fund, co-funded by the government and the private sector, will aim to draw 4 million extra visitors to Britain over the next 4 years, which equates to a £2 billion spend for Britain’s economy, and 50,000 new jobs. The government has also announced the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), worth £1.4 billion, which supports projects that use private sector investment to create regional economic growth and employment.


This forum comes at a time of exciting growth for the sector, and will offer delegates the opportunity to understand the implications of the new government tourism strategy in boosting the tourist industry. Key issues to be discussed include strategies for promoting the growth of the visitor economy, and best practice for delivering services, partnership working and localism.

Speakers include representatives of:

Department for Culture Media and Sport

Visit Britain


Olympic Park Legacy Company

People 1st

National Trust

Broads Authority

British Library

Marketing Birmingham


*photo courtesy of Chris Campbell:

Event: The tourism legacy of the 2012 Olympic Park – 8th December 2011

I’ll be giving a talk at the University of Greenwich on 8th December 2011, on the tourism legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.  The talk will be part of an Olympic Park Legacy Company event that we’re hosting at Greenwich and also speaking will be Clive Little, the new Director of Events and Programming from the OPLC, Kevin Millington , Director of Acorn Tourism Consulting and Tracy Halliwell, Director of Business Tourism and Major Events at London and Partners, the body who have replaced Visit London.
The Olympic Park in Legacy mode

The presentation I gave at this event is below:

Some advice for the government on their new tourism policy Pt. 3 – it’s time to get over the Olympics and kick-start innovation

When I started at the University of Greenwich in late 2005, I was asked a question in my interview about the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games: “How do you think we should engage with 2012?”  Now, just 18 months before the opening ceremony, I’m asked the same question at meetings and events by university management, other academics, the private sector and local authority officers.  I’ve slowly refined and simplified my answer to the point where I now tend to say something like “You can’t, it’s too late.”  If you’re not already on the inside track in terms of consultancy, procurement or training, then the opportunity to get involved has probably passed you by.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in other ways.  The excellent #media2012 project, for example, is developing new forms of social and citizen interaction with the Games and the Business Network portal still offers opportunities for the private sector to get into the 2012 procurement game.  But, if you haven’t yet worked out how to lever the immediate impacts of 2012 for your university, business or research then you’re probably not going to.

The reason for this is that the Games, like all mega-events, has a life-span that far exceeds the event  itself.  The pre-games period, of bidding, winning and preparing for the Games is hurtling to a close.  This is the period in which to build capacity, market incessantly and to plan.  The event period itself will be over in a flash.  In 2007, the manager of a branch of a major hotel chain told me how two floors of his hotel in East London had already been booked up by an American news network for their staff to use during 2012.    Many of the immediate opportunities presented by the presence of the event itself have already been monopolised by large companies who had access to the capital needed to invest in anticipation of the Games, and let’s not forget the licensing arrangements of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG), which means that opportunities to profit directly through providing services, merchandising or human resources are tightly policed.  Admittedly, I’m taking quite a narrow focus here.  It is possible that the cities and regions with their own Olympics strategies will benefit from increased tourism during the Games.   Outside of the South-East of England however, how many areas have a coherent and well-resourced policy for leveraging the benefits of this mega-event outside of the capital?  How many tourists will really want to extend their stay beyond the Games period outside of London and will any want to base themselves outside of the boundaries of high-speed rail and commute to the celebrations?

The period in which meaningful policy development can still have an impact and businesses, government and universities can still engage is in the post-games period and into the legacy phase.  The defining feature of London’s winning bid to host the 2012 Games was its concentration on the long-term benefits of hosting the event on infrastructure, social regeneration, education and sports participation.    I make no claims to an understanding of the relationship between elite sports, event hosting and increasing sports participation in the general public other than to say that the evidence for any linkages seems mixed, at best.  For the most authoritative views on this subject, check out Professor Mike Weed’s blog

 Disaster recovery

In many ways, the immediate post games period is going to feel like the aftermath of a disaster in London.  There will be a dramatic drop in visitor numbers to the city and the Olympic park and its surroundings will become inhabited once again by security guards and construction workers.  The parks and streets will feel less like “the world’s greatest party” and more like the opening scene from 28 days later:

Click on this image to watch the opening sequence from the film

Navigating successfully out of this disaster without creating a legacy of disappointment as the adrenaline of the games goes sour in East London’s system will depend on a number of factors; I’m going to concentrate on two here: creating meaningful opportunities for volunteers, and innovations in the local tourism industry. 

For many of the army of volunteers being recruited to help deliver the Games, this will be an opportunity to gain work experience, network, and to work towards qualifications.  Can we create meaningful opportunities for these volunteers to continue to develop their skills and to meet their raised aspirations?  Creating a reserve army of labour for the big society won’t support meaningful economic development in the deprived areas of East London that the Games are supposed to help, and may produce a downward pressure on local wages, encouraging out-migration and worklessness.    During the pre-event period of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, unemployment in the city halved, mainly thanks to the creation of 59,382 jobs directly connected to the games.  Immediately after the games, unemployment rose again by 21,000, before falling again in 1995 (Brunet 2009).   The employer concords that have already been put in place for the construction work connected to 2012 should be extended to align volunteering opportunities during the games with meaningful post-games opportunities, for those who want them, to take part in mentoring programmes, internships and education and training.  This is an opportunity to upskill the entry levels of the tourism, events and leisure sectors in East London and to make sure that continuous improvements in tourism product quality can take place in the post-games period, helping to re-position East London as an innovative tourism brand.

Innovative tourism developments are going to be fundamental to avoid the serious over-capacity issues that have plagued Beijing and Athens in the post-games period.  Between 2005 and 2008, Beijing’s hotel sector grew by 227% and the number of available rooms rose from 6,452 to 37,360.  This over-supply has led to downward pressures on room rates and drops in confidence in the accommodation sector, accompanied by staff reductions and hotel closures.   In the same way that Barcelona is always used as an example of a ‘successful’ Games, Athens has become a by-word for redundant stadia and rotting facilities. 

Athen's Olympic Stadium: Hopefully West Ham FC will do a better job....

But innovation in tourism does not happen over-night. The Government’s new tourism policy should be seeking to support an innovation infrastructure for tourism right now.  This will mean encouraging partnerships between higher education, the private sector and social enterprise, with the public sector holding the ring.  Small pots of money to support entrepreneurial activity, knowledge transfer and product development should replace top-down destination management schemes and local authority controlled tourism networks.  Government can do this through designating tourism enterprise zones, with tax breaks and incentives to attract new businesses and to stimulate existing business to take on new staff and develop new products.  Moving Shoreditch’s Silicon roundabout to the Olympic Park won’t produce new forms of tourism that create opportunities for Olympic volunteers, or make full use of the excellent transport infrastructure that will connect East London to the tourism hotspots of the city.

 It is time to move tourism policy beyond a blind faith in the positive impacts of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games and to start concentrating on what come next.  Supporting innovation now will mean that the investment in trained and motivated volunteers won’t result in a de-motivated bulge in the local labour market post-2012.  Creating exciting new tourism experiences for a post-2012 tourism market can’t be done by decree, but a supportive innovation infrastructure could create an environment in which creative tourism entrepreneurs can flourish, creating the products that make use of the accommodation, transport and services that are being put in place for 2012.