Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Rio Olympics

The Orange County Register has a great piece, "As Games nearly ready to begin, Rio's success or troubles may shape future Olympics," on the issues surrounding the Rio Olympics, which are occurring in the face of major economic deprivation, social and political unrest, the Zika virus public health crisis, and ever present crime. From the article:

A study of Olympic Games over the past 50 years by Oxford’s Saïd Business School found that the Games had an average cost overrun of 179 percent. An inflation rate of 11 percent has been a leading factor in Olympic costs rising $99.3 million from August 2015 to this past January.
“As with all Olympic bids since 1984, there are interested parties who are deeply invested for personal reasons, the principal one being financial gain, another being political advancement,” said Cashmore, author of “Studying Football.” “I have no doubt it occurred to some that a city might experience some benefit, but strictly as a byproduct rather than a direct effect of hosting the Games.
“The risks are colossal, too colossal for any individual or corporation to want to gamble. If you consider the security costs alone for London 2012 exceeded 1 billion pounds ($1.33 billion), you can’t imagine a corporation that operates for profit wanting to take a chance. In any case, even the most cursory examination of all the Summer Games since Sydney in 2000 alerts you to the fact that cities themselves, more specifically, their taxpaying residents, end up with enormous bills that take decades to settle.”
While some cities like Barcelona in particular have been successful at leveraging the Olympics as part of a larger and comprehensive land use and economic development plan and program, most cities have not been equally successful, being saddled with expensive buildings that take decades to pay off.

Also see "Much is at stake for Brazil as it takes center stage  in the Olympics," Los Angeles Times.and "Rio 2016: The high price of Olympic glory," Financial Times.

When I wrote about the fallout over Olympics bids and other mega sports events ("Not enough time for a) 2024 DC-Baltimore Olympic Bid (to make sense)" and "Big sporting events (World Cup/Olympics), economic development and trickle down economics") a key point was by the time the host city is chosen, such as with the Olympics they have only seven years before the event, and that isn't nearly enough time to build significant new infrastructure, irrespective of the issue that many of the buildings required for events are specialized with limited alternative uses, and the way that the International Olympics Committee has the majority of power, hosts are on the hook for overruns, which tend to be considerable.

Some simplification of requirements for host cities.  Even though the IOC revised the requirements for successful bids to allow for use of existing buildings rather than requiring new construction ("Olympic bid process to be simplified to allay fears over hosting games," Guardian), the reality is that especially for countries outside of the First World, the Olympics could be uplifting for communities but aren't, because of how asymmetric the power is between the IOC and the host community.

-- Olympic Games Framework for host city, 2024 Olympics bidding process, International Olympic Committee

Note that while I have not written favorably about a bid from the City of Washington, I did suggest when Chicago was bidding, back in 2009, that it would be possible to leverage the Olympics for intra-city, neighborhood, revitalization, in "Chicago Neighborhood Revitalization and the Opportunity presented by the 2016 Olympics." But the processes tend to be very top-down, and the Growth Machine types pushing for sports tourism aren't particularly interested in how a neighborhood might be able to be improved as part of the pre-Olympics development process.

Cities on the hook for cost overruns.  According to the New York Times ("The Backlash") it was the issue of seen paying for the privilege of the Olympics, and being on the hook for cost overruns, in the face of what was seen as limited economic returns, plus the realization that if Boston were selected the Olympics would take up the majority of political and economic energy within the state, regional, and local governments at the expense of being able to address housing, equity, and other issues, that led to the No Olympics 2024 campaign, which led to the city scuttling its bid.

IOC should share some of the cost of overruns.

Cities need more time.  To make the infrastructure development process more realistic and realizable, the IOC would have to change the timeline for the bidding process.  I'd add four more years to the time between being picked and holding the event--11 years instead of 7 years.

Instead, the Olympics could be augurs for local improvement if the IOC would use proceeds from television rights and sponsorship to help fund local infrastructure and other improvements as part of the selection and hosting process.

But that's not how it works.

Interestingly, the Guardian just ran a piece, "London's Olympic legacy: a suburb on steroids, a cacophony of luxury stumps," on post-Olympics revitalization in London.  It's taking a long time there too, even though London has been one of the world's strongest real estate markets for the last 15 years.

Proposals for the development of affordable housing haven't been realized and aren't likely to be.

Rio.  All those issues have come to a head in Rio de Janeiro, which hasn't been able to follow through on various commitments that were made, including ensuring that the water in Guanabara Bay was relatively clean ("Who is Polluting Rio's Bay?," New York Times; and "Rio Promised to Clean Up Guanabara Bay Before the Olympics:
Priscila Pereira was murdered while trying to make that happen
," Bloomberg Businessweek) for sailing.

Complaints are rife about failures in construction of the Olympic Village, and the new subway line, Line 4, will be running for the Olympics, but only for Olympics events, and it will close for awhile, open again for the Para Olympics, but not be fully operational until next year.

Plus there are allegations of corruption in how the subway contractors have been paid ("SUBWAY EXPANSION BUILT FOR RIO OLYMPICS OVERBILLED," Associated Press), etc.

Olympic Village

Line 4 Metro Station and Train (Image from Railway Gazette)

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At 6:34 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

My e-correspondent Nigel from New Zealand calls our attention to the Rio On Watch community reporting website, which is sponsored by a favela support organization called Catalytic Communities.

At 2:58 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

thanks. speaking of tourism, when I was writing on EUropean cities, you mentioned the impact of Ryanair etc. on intra-European tourism.

This piece from Der Spiegel is pretty hardcore about dealing with the negative impact of tourism in how it can change cities for the worse.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Thanks for this. FWIW, I don't think Formula 1 has the same heft in the US. FIFA not yet. Although the World Cup would do better in the US marketing to Hipanics.

Mostly, when cities go for that Grand Prix thing, the events fail. Big problem with Baltimore. The Grand Prix thing during the Wms. administration at RFK, etc.


1. I actually am fine with cities going for the Olympics, sort of.

2. But the process is too accelerated for most cities to be able to deal with it successfully. I was thinking, it takes 10 years to design and rebuild a road like H St. NE. Building all those facilities and new infrastructure in the average city but for the Olympics is very difficult.

They get 7 years. They need at least 11 years. Instead of being set up for success they are set up for failure, although as the FT article makes clear, once the event starts people focus on the athletes, not the problems.

3. The IOC needs to pay towards facilities and they don't. granted probably most of the $ for television rights goes to support various sports federations. But it seems like a few billion could go to the venue.

4. Within a city/region, the organizing process to get a games is very top down. I don't see a way around it, but because the process is so close to the vest, in democratic countries, it seems doomed to failure, especially because the cities are on the hook for overruns, and if a citizen vote is required, it will lose.

But the IBA process in Germany--Intl. Building Exposition, where they use a public expo as a way to spur revitalization in a community, plan and take on projects, and then show them in a year long exhibition, from pick in Germany is albeit it is a smaller scale. But at the expo time, the overall program is still underway and construction continues as the full program is realized.

The various IBA expos have a detailed publishing program. E.g., the one in Hamburg had many volumes, including on public participation.

Then again, the very wide ranging program BC had wrt cultural planning and reaping broader benefits, while was great from a planning standpoint, failed probably to generate much near term benefit. People come for the Olympics mostly, not to do other things at the same time. They do some, but limited. The post-Games bounce over future years is more important.

But like what I wrote about Liverpool, you need to plan for that post-event economic benefit at the outset, not afterwards.

5. cities are on the hook for overruns. Again, IOC should have to pay some if not most of this. But then, why should they be on the hook for local corruption raising costs?

6. I think it's very hard to claim that an Olympics is enough to deal in a substantive way with serious poverty, e.g., the favelas. I don't know what the alternative is, but it requires a different kind of program.

I think Medellin is probably the best example of how to go about that.

Could such a program be done in conjunction with an Olympics? Sure but not in 7 years, not even in 11. Doing that plus all the construction + presumably some transit expansion is not possible.

e.g., Sandtown-Winchester. More than $140MM from Schmoke to Freddie Gray period, and limited impact.

That is an agenda that would be too big for most cities in the First World, let alone one in a BRIC.

another example, how many billions has been spent on the former East German? The amount is mind boggling and for the most part the area still lags significantly compared to the West.

7. But I guess the other thing is that you have to pick some Big Hairy Audacious Projects and not fail.

Dealing with the water in the Bay was one of those issues. And they failed. That was a must do.

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I am intending to write about "events" vs. programs. I was thinking about this in terms of Walter Reed and St. Elizabeths, that instead of events like farmers markets, take a building and make it a multifaceted center and build from it.

The other way to think about it is one off projects vs. programs.

Most sports event tourism stuff is a project. They need to plan from the outset for more benefits for many years out from the specific event.

Plus have to be honest about how certain expenditures (food and drink, some retail) have significant local economic impact and others (travel especially airfare, hotels, rental cars) are more pass through revenues that are repatriated to the "home office" as most facilities are not owned locally, hence the benefits don't remain.

I was looking up the BC stuff (I can't find live links anymore to most of the documents they prepared in advance of the Olympics) but Travel BC did produce a guide to sports event tourism that you used to have to pay for but now you can download.

Anyway, the big thing about Barcelona is that the Olympics was part of a broader program and they kept doing revitalization afterwards.

Plus, it is super well located in terms of North American and European tourism, whereas many of the other Olympics venues are not.

wrt Adams Morgan etc., the issue is how to balance "tourism" and consumption in ways that benefit the locals. When it becomes just about drinking and appealing to louts, you've lost. That's a struggle that's difficult to win though because at the end of the day there are only so many people interested in cultural consumption and practicing their consumption in sustainable ways.

e.g., we use HomeAway (not Airbnb) and we've not been louts, we didn't have massive parties featuring drink and drugs, we didn't wreck places, steal stuff, etc. (I did break a couple dishes, unintentionally, in Savannah).

I bet the demographics differ by type of platform.

anyway, I am trying to organize a "Capitol Hill Area Destination Marketing Initiative." DestinationDC doesn't support in an adequate way sub-city/district marketing. And to be able to appear to tour groups etc., they need to be able to be able to consume a day's worth of activities.

There is that on Capitol Hill, but it's not organized in a way that is easily consumed by people not from the area. They have to put it together themselves. Meanwhile the businesses are complaining about lack of business during the week, when accommodating tourists would be a lot easier, and would have minimal negative impact on residents.

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous charlie said...


On the marketing, look at what Airbnb does in terms of selling a "neighborhood" in DC. It isn't half bad.

(I mean, that is the key with AirBnB is that is 75% house porn and 25% peer to peer rental).

On branding, yeah FIFA and F1 don't mean squat in the US.

On Olympics, having urban planning back as a olympic competition would be interesting. As would forcing a longer training session in the city.

I think during the original olympics games (ancient greece) they had to train together for 6 months.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I have looked at some of those airbnb neighborhood pages. Frankly, they do a better job than DestinationDC.

wrt the other, and IOC paying towards venue creation, cf. how the NFL is now providing some outright grants of a few hundred million towards new stadiums, plus loans. E.g., with Oakland and San Diego NFL has said they'll come up with some $.

Of course, it's all about net economic impact. E.g., wrt DC vs. VA or MD for Redskins, DC would benefit much greater for the team to not take up scarce land development opportunity within the city. Let them go.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

When I was looking something up, I came across the website of law firm Michael Greenberg of Milwaukee.

His practice areas include sports and entertainment law and he has written extensively, including books on the subject.

This law review article lays out what he calls the Sports.Comm or sports-based ancillary development (we could call it SOD, sports oriented development, or SAD, sports adjacent development).

It's a bit out of date and doesn't lay out a good framework for evaluating what works better and why, but it's impressive nonetheless.

Anyway, one of the things it mentions is that St. Louis does have a profit sharing arrangement with the team due on sale. I haven't tracked down the exact nature of the clause though, but it touches on stuff we've discussed.

2. wrt frameworks, I'd say places with more events (basketball, baseball) work a lot better than those with minimal events (football).

In city locations work way better than suburban.

But the Patriots development in Foxborough is an exception.

Transit isn't required but helps in places like DC or NYC.

minor league stadiums can work well for small cities. Certain places do get a lot of out of the area sports related visitors (e.g., Oklahoma City, or college football and basketball teams).

And because the piece is 5 years old, it doesn't include new arena district examples in Detroit and Sacramento.

And the supra exception of Las Vegas.

At 5:42 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

he does have a framework, but I don't think it's definitive.

... another arena district example is the new one around the hockey arena in Buffalo.

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