The end of the FIFA World Cup has me reflecting just how often these global sporting events come at a big cost to the cities that host them. In particular, urban renewal, housing and jobs promises are early causalities. There are many examples to prove the point in the excellent research of Dr Andrew Smith from the University of Westminster’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.
A big part of the problem is that the community-focused activities come at the tail end of major sporting events. Just when it is time for authorities to transform athlete villages into housing or stadiums to local sporting fields, the energy, will and funding suddenly evaporate.
An answer at hand
This makes me think there is a simple solution, and it is one that is happening right under the nose of the residents of Adelaide: start the renewal projects before the events are held!
Instead of doing everything required from a sports point of view, and then building the associated urban renewal projects, it may be more appropriate to start the renewal of those areas and use the sporting event as a major impetus to add to or complete them.
Adelaide is undergoing a substantial urban renewal program as it weighs up making a bid for the 2030 Commonwealth Games.
A vibrant new sporting stadium close to the CBD, a new traffic and transport plan already underway, and the redevelopment of brownfield sites, such as Bowden Urban Village are just three examples.
A call for change in event decision-making
Event organisers typically award events on the basis of the city with the most spectacular plans. The resources and capacity to achieve them comes second. Dubai’s bid for the World Cup, in a city without any sporting stadiums, is a case in point.
What if organisers changed the way they make decisions?
I propose that event organisers look for:
Let’s face it: if event organisers reorder their priorities, Adelaide’s bid would be well ahead. As a resident and an architect, I’d welcome such a shot in the arm for “brand Adelaide”.
- evidence of long-range planning for housing, sporting and transport facilities
- projects already underway that the event would help to further
- communities that are engaged in the changes underway and proposed plans for the sporting event
- job creation and community projects that could piggyback on the event impacts, such as global attention, lots of visitors and so forth
- reasons for funding the city renewal projects that extend beyond the event, and evidence of past political commitments made and kept.
Self-interest aside, however, I think that outcome is fair enough. Adelaide’s commitment to doing the work, regardless of whether it bids for, or wins, the games, should put it ahead.
By rewarding Adelaide, we’ll encourage other city authorities to act first, bid later, and the long run of broken promises will, I hope, come to an end.