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The various legacies enjoyed by Olympic host cities such as Barcelona, Vancouver and London are well documented, but the process of bidding to host the Games can also lead to numerous long- and short-term benefits for the cities involved, and in Chicago’s case, an excellent youth-engagement programme.
Chicago, for example, was one of the candidate cities for the 2016 Olympic Games, which were eventually awarded to Rio de Janeiro. Although the American city missed out on the chance to host the Games, it was able to use the candidature process to create a youth sports organisation that encourages children in Chicago to participate in sport, while also using sport to address wider social issues and teach positive values and leadership.
“They [Chicago’s Candidature leaders] decided very early on that there would be a legacy of the candidature, win or lose, that got more kids in Chicago involved in more Olympic sports,” explains Patrick Sandusky, Chief Communications Officer of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and a member of the Chicago 2016 bid committee.
The result was the World Sport Chicago (WSC) organisation, which was created in 2006, when Chicago was vying with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Houston to be chosen by USOC as the United States’ applicant city for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Six years after its formation – and despite Chicago missing out on the race to host the 2016 Games – WSC is still going from strength-to-strength and has so far worked with more than 30,000 local youth by introducing them to new sports such as archery, athletics and wrestling, providing coaching and training opportunities and launching a scholarship programme to reward young people who demonstrate a commitment to Olympic values.
WSC has also created a highly innovative programme called B.A.M. (Becoming a Man) Sports Edition – a project that tackles the issue of youth violence and seeks to provide a safe and engaging environment for at-risk male students in some of Chicago’s most challenged neighbourhoods.
Over the last 30 years, sustainability has become an increasingly important consideration when staging the Olympic Games. With that in mind, Olympic host cities must consider the environmental impact of the Games during their planning.
The same is true of cities that are bidding to stage the Games and many have been able to use unsuccessful Olympic candidatures to drive a series of sustainability initiatives and create environmental legacies that have outlasted their initial bids and created long-term benefits for their local regions.
Sion, for example, submitted candidatures for both the 2002 and 2006 Olympic Winter Games, which were awarded to Salt Lake City and Torino respectively. The small city, which is the capital of the Swiss canton of Valais, decided to make the environment a central focus of its bids for both the 2002 and 2006 Winter Games.
“In our 2002 bid, we had included the four mandatory pages concerning the environment in our candidature document but we also provided a much longer document that we called the ‘Sion 2002 Green Book’ about our efforts to implement environment initiatives in the canton,” explains Professor Jean-Loup Chappelet, the Technical Director of Sion’s 2002 and 2006 bids. “The IOC had appreciated this ‘Green Book’, and so when we decided to bid again for 2006, we decided to go full steam [ahead] with sustainability.”
In order to develop its sustainability activities, the Sion 2006 Candidature Committee created a “Department for Sustainable Development”, which oversaw the adoption of the canton’s own Agenda 21 – following similar environmental action plans adopted by the United Nations and the IOC.
The department also put forward plans for the creation of the Fondation pour le Développement Durable des regions de Montagne (FDDM) – a non-profit organisation in charge of coordinating the inception and execution of sustainable development projects across the region.
Since its formation on the back of Sion’s Olympic bid in 1999, some of the projects that have been successfully implemented by the FDDM include the organisation of ‘slowUp Valais’ – an annual mass participation sport event for families – and the development of Ecostation, a toolkit for local resorts that aim to attain standards for sustainable tourism. As recognition for its work, the FDDM has also received ISO 9000 and 14001 certifications for its activities and is also a member of the Network of European Regions committed to the issue of Sustainable Tourism (NECSTouR).
Many Olympic host cities have been able to use the Games as a chance to improve their image and increase their profile on the world stage. Turin, for example, used the 2006 Winter Games to shed its industrial image and promote itself as a new tourist and business destination by showcasing its rich history, culture and high-tech industry to the world.
Some cities have also been able to use the Olympic Games Candidature Process in the same way. The French city of Lille, for example, enjoyed a considerable boost to its global profile after bidding for the 2004 Olympic Games, which were eventually awarded to Athens.
While Lille did not make it on to the final list of five candidate cities, it had demonstrated its desire and ability to host major international events.
According to Nathan Starkman, General Director of Lille’s Development and Urbanisation agency, the most significant impact of the city’s Olympic Candidature was its contribution to the change of perception of Lille, both in France and overseas.
This improved image and heightened profile encouraged Lille’s successful bid to become to the 2004 European Capital of Culture – an event that brought a sizeable economic boost for the city, with a 30 per cent increase in tourist visitors during 2004.
Today, the annual number of tourists in Lille remains much higher than 10 years ago, with the city attracting visitors through numerous events organised as part of the Lille 3000 initiative, which was launched as a follow-up to the European Capital of Culture.
In 2011, the city hosted three art and scientific exhibitions, including a collection of works from the Saatchi Gallery in London, while it also staged the IAAF World Youth Athletics Championships, the FIH Men’s Champions Challenge II in field hockey and the 5th European Universities Rugby Sevens Championships.
Some of the most visible legacies in an Olympic host city are the sporting venues that are built or redeveloped to stage the Games, but some cities have also been able to use unsuccessful Olympic candidatures to create new facilities for their residents, providing numerous long-term benefits.
Manchester, for example, submitted candidatures for both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, which were awarded to Atlanta and Sydney respectively. As part of its candidature commitments, the city had already started construction on a new National Cycling Centre and the Victoria Arena. Although it missed out on the chance to host the Olympic Games, both venues were completed and have since become world-class facilities that have hosted major international events – such as the 2002 Commonwealth Games – and contributed to both the local economy and the long-term regeneration of Manchester.
“We would not have accomplished what we have in Manchester today without the two Olympic bids,” explains Eamonn O’Rourke, Head of Community and Cultural Services at Manchester City Council (MCC). “It certainly would not have been possible within a certain pre-defined period of time and without the same focus.”
The first venue to open was the National Cycling Centre – a 3,500-seat indoor track cycling arena that was completed in 1994. In addition to the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the venue has also hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Championships three times, as well as numerous UCI Track Cycling World Cup events.
Members of the public are also able to use the facility on a daily basis, while it has also become the permanent home of the British cycling team, which has gone from strength to strength since the opening of the National Cycling Centre, winning 53 track cycling medals at the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
“The presence of the track helped our organisation to centralise its operations both at elite and at grassroots level from Manchester,” explains Ian Drake, CEO of British Cycling. “The track at the NCC and the availability of funding have transformed the success of British riders in major championships and the Olympic Games.”
Manchester’s Victoria Arena, meanwhile, was originally planned as the gymnastics venue if the 2000 Olympic Candidature was successful. Now known as the MEN Arena, the 21,000-capacity facility opened in 1995 and has since become one of the busiest concert arenas in the world, playing host to the likes of U2 and Beyoncé. In total, the venue stages between 100 and 150 events per year, including heavyweight boxing contests and elite ice hockey and basketball matches.