City Rejuvenation through Major Sports Events

At the closing of EXPO Real in Munich, during the Planning and Partnerships forum, panelists shed light on the success of cities in the process of redeveloping vast sites while using the driving force of organizing high-profile sports events.

exporeal2013 day 3 - panel at the Special Real Estate meeting

As this year’s EXPO Real draws to a close we reflect on the takeaways from the various forums and conferences that have taken part. Apart from the focus on private/public partnerships and the emerging markets of Eastern and Northern Europe, as well as the retail boom generated by Turkey, one of the most remarkable ideas was the use of sports development and events in the rejuvenation of cities and the conscious way in which that has been done over the years.

At this year’s Planning and Partnerships forum, one of the talks regarded the long-term benefit components that a sports development could bring to a city. Representatives from Torino, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Barcelona attended in order to shed some light on the success of their respective cities in the process of redeveloping vast sites while using the driving force of organizing high-profile sports events.

According to Professor Valentino Castellani, deputy president of Torino Strategica and Former Mayor of Torino, the choice to bid for the 2006 Winter Olympics was directly linked to the improvement of the city, due to what the speaker called “the catalyst effect.” In the 1980s and 1990s, as deindustrialization began to take its toll, the municipality was faced with having millions of square feet of space left unused. Torino has also seen its hospitality stock grow by 36 percent, with the amount of help that the large event has given to the implementation of the new urban master plan being decisive. Its track record with the 2006 Winter Olympics has also resulted in it being named the upcoming European City of Sports in 2015. However, Prof. Castellani warned investors and organizers on the legacy of large-scale events, as some constructions cannot be phased out, giving as main example, the now defunct bob-track.

Glasgow, a city committed to holding the Commonwealth Games in 2014, was also present at the discussion through Stuart Patrick, chief executive of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. The city would have made a total investment of approximately 650 million euros, which for a city of the size of Glasgow, with a population of about 600,000 in its core, is a substantial bet. However, Patrick noted that the entire population is seeing the Commonwealth Games as an opportunity to improve the image of Glasgow, not only through development but also participation, as the edition will mark a record of volunteer applications for an event of its kind. The utilitarian approach that the city has taken in preparation for the games is seen in its development strategy. The newly-completed SSE Hydro arena is the largest event hall in Scotland and was built specifically for concerts, but will be used as the venue of Netball and Gymnastics competitions during next year’s event, and has also helped the city secure the 2015 World Gymnastics competitions. The entire East End of Glasgow has been revamped with new facilities such as the Commonwealth Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome which is already managed and operated for the nearby community. Glasgow’s objective was to get its projects up and running well beyond the start of the games, and its unorthodox approach has already paid off with facilities benefitting the population. The accommodation aspect for the games is an eco-friendly endeavor that has seen a zero-emissions complex built to host the athletes of the Commonwealth. The complex will be used as post-event housing units. The resulting community will be the starting point of an urban regeneration strategy that goes as far as 2028.

The panelists seemed to point to the fact that, with a healthy policy in place, securing major sporting events could be seen as an opportunity not for economic growth, but for the redevelopment of troublesome areas, the betterment of the overall image of the city, and the remedying of issues in the urbanization of major cities throughout the world. Growth will follow a healthy program, and avoiding troublesome aftermath in the case of legacy-driven games is a priority when thinking out the investment.