The London Olympics: Urban Geopolitics – further reading

Some further reading for those interested in yesterday’s post, ‘The London Olympics: Urban Geopolitics‘…

Kirsteen Paton, Gerry Mooney and Kim McKee’s ‘Class, Citizenship, and Regeneration: Glasgow and the Commonwealth Games 2014’ from Antipode 44(4). Paton et al. explore some of the ways in which the 2014 Commonwealth Games are being used as a way of “deconstructing and reconstructing in more ‘acceptable’ ways working-class lives in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the city” of Glasgow (p1472): “The 2014 CWGs, and related policies, have as their core objective the ‘normalisation’ of the East End. ‘Normalisation’ here means ‘mainstream’ economic activity/participation against a culture of ‘welfarism’ and illicit forms of work; it also means legitimated forms of consumption – against the flawed consumption of a welfare-dependent population that is viewed as not only over-reliant on social housing, but on public services more generally” (p1485). But do regeneration efforts deliver? What will the ‘legacy’ of the Games be? Who will reap the benefits?

Bent Flyvbjerg’s ‘Machiavellian Megaprojects’ from Antipode 37(1). Discussing his work on ‘megaprojects’, Flyvbjerg offers an illuminating generalisation: “Which projects get built? We found it isn’t necessarily the best ones, but those projects for which proponents best succeed in conjuring a fantasy world of underestimated costs, overestimated revenues, undervalued environmental impacts and overvalued regional development effects. Our survey, the first and largest of its kind, looked at several hundred projects in more than 20 countries” (p18). His ‘Machiavellian formula for project approval’ is interesting, important, and decidedly depressing:

(underestimated costs)

+(overestimated revenues)

+(undervalued environmental impacts)

+(overvalued economic development effects)

=(project approval)

Erik Swyngedouw, Frank Moulaert and Arantxa Rodriguez’s ‘Neoliberal Urbanization in Europe: Large–Scale Urban Development Projects and the New Urban Policy’ from Antipode 34(3). Swyngedouw and colleagues present the results of a study of large-scale urban development projects in the EU (including the Athens Olympic Village), arguing that they “have increasingly been used as a vehicle to establish exceptionality measures in planning and policy procedures. This is part of a neoliberal ‘New Urban Policy’ approach and its selective ‘middle- and upper-class’ democracy” (p542).

Stefan Kipfer and Roger Keil’s ‘Toronto Inc? Planning the Competitive City in the New Toronto’ from Antipode 34(2). Looking at the city’s 2008 Olympic bid and its waterfront redevelopment project, Kipfer and Keil explore the production of ‘goals and meanings’ of urban life in Toronto, emphasising how the process and its realisation is “neither free of contradictions nor immune to opposition” (p253).

David Harvey’s ‘Flexible Accumulation Through Urbanisation: Reflections on “Post-modernism” in the American City’ from Antipode 19(3). A classic piece in which Harvey anatomises “an ‘official’ post-modernist style that explores the architecture of festival and spectacle, with its sense of the ephemeral, of display, and of transitory but participatory pleasure”(pp275-276), exploring among other things the associated “serious social and spatial stresses” (p277): “Controlled spectacles and festivals are one thing but riots and revolutions can also become ‘festivals of the people’…” (p278).

*         *         *

Beyond Antipode‘s archives, the Environment and Planning journals recently gathered a collection of papers on ‘Sport Megaevents and the City’.

And, finally, while we’re continually told the legacy of the 2012 Olympics will be increased participation in sporting events, us desk-bound radicals might well prefer to observe, and perhaps contribute a paper to the An Unlikely Success Story? Olympic Cities and the London 2012 Experience‘ session at the 2013 AAG…

Organizers: Joachim Thiel (HafenCity University of Hamburg), Gernot Grabher (HafenCity University of Hamburg), Mike Raco (Bartlett School of Planning, University College London)

Commentators of the London Olympics 2012 have been swift in claiming that the overall event was a major success. The event triggered a wave of optimism within the UK and demonstrated that the British state has the capacity and expertise to stage and deliver global events of massive scale and complexity. In contrast to previous Games, it is claimed, the London organizers have also rolled-out an ambitious, yet considerate urban regeneration agenda, drawn-up a clear post-event strategy for venues and infrastructure, adhered strictly to pre-defined timescales and budgets, and organised the smooth management of the event. This narrative has been enthusiastically endorsed by the world’s media and politicians.

This unexpected euphoria contrasts with the generally sceptical tone in scholarly work about mega-events, and above all Olympic Games, in human geography and related disciplines. In light of this perceived ‘success’, do urban scholars have to re-examine the existing literature on Olympic Games and urban development? At the very least, the London experience affords a valuable opportunity to re-evaluate prevalent positions and to explore new perspectives in the study of Olympics host cities.

This session invites scholars from various academic backgrounds working on Olympic Games and their planning, politics and management. We invite contributions both on the London Games 2012 and on previous and successor host cities. We particularly welcome papers that consider how Olympic Games act as:

– catalysts of progressive and regressive policy agendas (e.g. sustainability and anti-democratic decision-making);

– arenas for new (transnational corporate) players in urban governance (e.g. Arup or Ernst & Young) and for new forms of community engagement;

– temporal nodes in global flows of urban policy templates, instruments and practices as well as of professional knowledge and expertise;

– ideal types of multi-scalar governance patterns; and

– complex mega-projects managed by a set of temporary organizations entangled in a web of institutional actors, e.g. sports associations, political stakeholders, public opinion makers, and local communities.

The organizers welcome abstracts of no more than 250 words by October 1, 2012. Please send inquiries and abstracts to Joachim Thiel ([email protected]). We hope you can join us and we are looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Joachim Thiel ([email protected])

Gernot Grabher ([email protected])

Mike Raco ([email protected])