On Thursday, I presented at the Association for Events Management Education (AEME) 14th Annual Conference, Cardiff Metropolitan University.
If you’re interested in reading my conference abstract (on academia or ResearchGate) or would like to view my presentation (on SlideShare), you can find it in the links below:
The impending demolition of the Don Valley Stadium is an unfortunate and untimely loss to the city of Sheffield. Remarkably the Don Valley Stadium has been operating at a significant loss (running costs spiralling to an estimated £700,000) and regrettably the city council, forced to make considerable spending cuts opted to vote in favour of the stadium closure. This multi-purpose, world class facility (principally the second largest athletics stadium in the UK) was originally built to stage the athletics events at the 1991 World Student Games in Sheffield. Ever since it has demonstrated its versatility by hosting live music events (U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers etc) and becoming the adopted home of the Sheffield Eagles (RFL).
The reputation of the 1991 World Student Games to this day remains tarnished by the financial misdemeanour’s of the organisers and the resulting incomprehensible debt repayments (Sheffield Council continue to repay £25m until 2024). As part of the bidding process other prominent venues were created for the World Student Games including Ponds Forge, the Motorpoint Arena (originally named the Sheffield Arena) and a smart renovation of The Lyceum Theatre. Moreover a reignited sporting culture emerged as well as ongoing investment in lottery funded initiatives such as the English Institute of Sport. As one state of the art facility slowly slips away its paves the pathway for the re-birth of another, inherently more diminutive or compact stadia. The council are undertaking plans to restore the Woodburn Road Stadium which has been unoccupied for around 18 months. This decision to close the stadium has been widely criticised by Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis who currently trains at Don Valley. On her official Twitter page, she remarked:
The year of the London Olympics has finally dawned upon us. London 2012 has been widely dubbed as being the “Regeneration Games” even before the Games have commenced. Like many other Games the London Organising Committee have recognised a series of development opportunities. These have come in the form of exploiting tourism agendas and regeneration plans which hope to transform the heart of East London. This begs the question of what are the long term objectives of the 2012 Olympic Games. Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport) is adamant that the games will be utilised as a driver to inspire more people to play sport. In recent times, the government has moved into an entirely new direction with the creation of the School Games and a new Youth Sport Strategy, namely Creating a Sporting Habit for Life. This is certainly well intended but I denote that it may be the last chance saloon for the government, and it may prove unsuccessful in reaping the rewards of the Games. Enhancing the state and quality of sport in the UK was already a difficult enough task without them realigning vast amounts of money away from sport. These governments cuts may start to erode and displace the sports development system. I am rather dubious about these new strategies, partly because I believe that the government is using the School Games as a last resort. For many that are already involved in sport and those that could be involved, these funding cuts may prompt a funding gap resulting in participation levels dwindling in the long term. But at the same time after the “feel good factor” of the Olympics has passed you may start to see rapid increases in the rates of those dropping out of sport.
Within the long term plans of the Games the organisers need to establish what will happen to the facilities and infrastructure after the Games has run its course. What has been noticeable from a government perspective is that the press and media centre’s situated on the Olympic park have been said to have gathered significant amounts of commercial interests from the likes of Loughborough University. At this moment in time a major issue is the long term legacy of the Olympic stadium, after West Ham United’s ownership bid collapsed. This was partially the result of persistent legal action from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and other clubs such as Leyton Orient. But out of this disastrous situation there have in fact been a number of positives. On the 11th November 2011 London won the right to host the 2017 World Athletics Championships. This change in events could actually work in favour for West Ham United unless Tottenham Hotspur drastically alters their plans. West Ham United reiterated that they would retain the running track in their original planning application, whereas Tottenham Hotspur on the other hand wanted to remove the running track. The organising committees for both the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2017 World Championships now have to rethink the future role of the Olympic stadium. I would like to see the Olympic stadium fully utilised and retaining the running track would act as a valuable asset for the 2017 organising committee, and to the hosting of the World Championships.
Ultimately, the initial legacy plans will be compared to the resulting benefits that may be gained from hosting the Olympics (if in fact there are any significant benefits!). I would just like to leave you with a few final thoughts which primarily concern whether hallmark events like the 2012 Olympic Games actually live up to the hype, and whether the organisers succeed in making their regeneration visions a reality. Undoubtedly, it can be said that on many occasions the Olympic Games fall short in reaching the projected image or vision for the Games. Moreover, the Olympic Games is unable to build long term community cohesion, integration and is incapable of meeting the needs of the wider community.