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From the East End of London to the Favelas of Rio de Janeiro: The relevance and transferability of the social legacy programmes of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (LONRIO)


European Commission
FP7 Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship

Value to Coventry University


Project team

Dr Ian Brittain


Leonardo Jose Mataruna Dos Santos, Brazil (Fellow); Ian Brittain (Scientist in Charge)

Duration of project

01/01/2013 - 31/12/2015

Project overview

Data was collected two years after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games had ended from across the five London boroughs over a period of 3 months via the application of a questionnaire using both face-to-face interviews and focus groups. Data was collected by a team of up to seven Brazilian researchers who were in the UK as part of a Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme project managed by Dr Brittain that is looking at the impact of mega-events. Interestingly, the fact that all the researchers were Brazilian appears to have aided the data collection process as many respondents who took part in the face-to-face interviews in the field commented that they were only willing to take part due to the fact that they wished to assist the people of Brazil so that they might not suffer the same perceived injustices they felt had been born upon them in the hosting of the London 2012 Games.

The questionnaire consisted of some brief anonymous biographical details (age, gender, borough lived in etc.) followed by eleven questions that were a mixture of open ended and tick-box answers. The aim was to get as many questionnaires completed as possible without taking up too much of the time of the respondents. A purposive sampling approach was taken with the two main criteria being that participants were 18 years of age or over (we did not have ethical clearance to interview children) and that they lived in one of the host boroughs and had done so in the lead up to the Games. In total 1046 fully completed questionnaires were collected with roughly 200 collected in each of the five host boroughs. Of the 1046 completed questionnaires 483 (46.2%) were completed by females and 563 (53.8%) by males.

Findings: Overall what the findings appear to highlight, in general and with limited exceptions, is the conformity of perceptions across the five boroughs irrespective of age or gender about the social impacts of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Regeneration, new housing stock (despite the apparent increased costs of both rents and purchase prices witnessed in the region), sports facilities and job opportunities were all seen as positive outcomes and the increased cost of living, overcrowding, noise and pollution and traffic jams were all seen as negative impacts of the Games, which could all possibly be results of the regeneration attracting even more people to the area. Perhaps more interesting and possibly a little surprising is the number of people who felt that as individuals that they personally hadn’t benefitted from the Games taking place, but at the same time agreed that the Games were both essential for the development of the area and were generally satisfied with the legacies or outcomes of the Games, despite the perceived negative impacts that came with it.

There also appears to be a general perception that although in some cases they felt able to put their opinions across in the lead up to the Games the majority appeared to believe that their opinions were not really listened to. Some even suggested that these opportunities were more PR exercises rather than a genuine attempt to listen to and include the opinions and needs of the local community, with the needs of big business taking precedence over all else. Amongst those who felt that they didn’t feel able to put their opinions forward perhaps the most interesting issue raised was that of language. With English being a second language for nearly fifty percent of residents in Newham, where the Olympic Park was situated, understanding what is being suggested and then making your opinions understood proved very difficult if not impossible for a large proportion of the residents.

This perceived lack of inclusion in the planning process is clearly demonstrated in the number of people who did not feel part of the Games in either the lead up to or after the Games were over. However, the perceived party atmosphere of the Games and the opportunity to follow the Games and be surrounded by thousands of people from all over the world may well have given a large number of people a greater sense of being part of the Games whilst they were on. This does not, however, explain why the majority of residents of Newham didn’t feel part of the Games whilst they were on. It is possible that as the Olympic Park is in Newham and so this is where the majority of spectators congregated that the overcrowding and difficulties in getting around may have made local residents feel somewhat trapped in their own homes.

The fact that so few residents attended any of the Games events in person (25.9%) may possibly be due to a combination of the cost of the tickets and their availability combined with the overall poverty and cost of living within the five boroughs. This in turn may well be part of the reason why people claimed not to have felt part of the Games when they were on, particularly in Newham, as they could either not afford or simply were unsuccessful in obtaining tickets for an event taking place in their own back yard. In hindsight it would have been interesting to find out from those who did attend an event whether it was an Olympic or a Paralympic event, where the tickets were much cheaper, although almost as difficult to obtain at times. What did come through from the research, however, is the genuine surprise, pleasure and even inspiration drawn by many of the residents from witnessing the exploits of the Paralympians.

Conclusion: Overall, if claims for any genuine kind of social legacy is to be perceived by local residents, what the findings of this research appear to highlight are the importance of listening to the local people that live in areas impacted by the Games in order to best understand their long term needs and their anxieties surrounding the hosting of such sport mega events. This also needs to be communicated in languages and in formats that are easily accessible and understood within such a culturally and linguistically diverse community. The need for long-term job opportunities rather than temporary short-term jobs and the inclusion of the local culture and the local community in the planning of any social legacy programmes following on from the event can help overcome some of the feelings of marginalisation felt by local residents.

Project objectives

There is a paucity of research on social legacy impacts of sporting and other mega-events upon socially deprived areas of host cities, especially from the perspective of the lived experiences of the residents of the socially deprived areas being targeted. Post event investigations within the 5 host Boroughs will serve several purposes: they will evidence events on the ground, the information will permit analysis of the various legacy programme efforts made by the British government, the London 2012 organising committee and the London Legacy Development Corporation who will take over the legacy programmes once the Games are over and will enable us to revisit and refine current theoretical frameworks. The findings will be rooted in local communities and contexts, but with relevance for other mega-event host cities and countries around the world. Our proposal, building on this research platform, will provide fresh insights from innovative and comparative fieldwork that contributes to conceptual and policy frameworks.

Objectives 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are centred on analysis of the legacy impact of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games upon the 5 London host Boroughs and recommendations for programming and policy for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games; the main research area will focus on the impact of the Games upon the lives of the residents of this part of East London. Objectives 6 and 7 contribute to broader international research and policy agendas. Objectives 8 and 9 relate to the research community.

  1. To investigate and analyse the social impact of London 2012 within the 5 Olympic boroughs.
  2. An analysis of the legacy programmes pertaining to urban regeneration used in London 2012 using a Meta-evaluation before and after the games.
  3. A comparison of the projected legacy outcomes in London with what actually happened.
  4. An investigation of the perceived legacy impacts amongst residents of the 5 host Boroughs.
  5. To make recommendations to Rio 2016 regarding social programmes to improve the lives of residents living in the Favelas.
  6. To inform policy debates around the impact of sports mega-events on local social issues.
  7. To provide a virtual platform for discussion of the impacts of sport mega events upon social issues.
  8. To further theorise the usefulness of sport mega events as a tool in promoting peace and development.
  9. To contribute to the scientific research on the impact of sport mega-events.
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