Major sporting and leisure events are under scrutiny like never before to deliver long term benefits for their host city, and the citizens within them. Host cities have been struggling to convince their citizens that they are worth the investment and the upheaval.

Hosting an event places a city in the spotlight like nothing else. But when the event is over, cities face increasing demands to demonstrate the long lasting benefits the event has delivered for its citizens. With games in the near future being awarded to cities that are largely already “games-ready” in terms of infrastructure and venues, future events carry the risk of no tangible legacy at all.

Designing a longer-lasting legacy

Arup is rethinking legacy. As a firm with a long history of the development and design of major sporting venues across the world, we’ve conducted a study into the changing nature of successful legacy. From venue optimisation, through to innovative finance models securing long term investment, we believe there are new ways to help cities achieve long term value and increased civic engagement through hosting. 

Learn more about our work with host cities.

The old legacy era was too narrowly focused on the physical structures left behind. Legacy 2.0 is about placing socio-economic and city resilience outcomes at the centre of event planning. With an eye to future events, organising committees and host cities are beginning to reconsider legacy priorities, placing a more central focus on citizen’s benefit and community value. The new era of hosting major events should be defined by the use of existing or temporary venues, maximising the host city’s operational efficiency, minimising cost and reducing the risk of unused venues post-Games. The ‘shock’ of hosting a major event has the potential to challenge a city’s resilience. But getting legacy right has the capacity to strengthen it.

Winning behaviours

It might seem an obvious question, but it’s often the unasked one: what do cities want their populations to be able to do once the games are over? Focusing on the behavioural legacy of investment is the best way to design future value. Cities need to see the games as a ‘partner’ in helping them deliver solutions to meet the growing longer-term challenges they are facing. They should be a focal point for citizen engagement and galvanise investment momentum so that the post-games infrastructure becomes part of the city’s social fabric.

So how do you design for behavioural legacy? Arup’s team have identified three tactics: 

1. Urban overlay

'Urban overlay' is a multi-phase ethos that finds innovative ways to enthuse and inspire the local community before, during and long after an event is over. By using longer-term temporary infrastructure and staging event-themed cultural activities, communities deepen their connection to the site and places can be transformed well ahead of their permanent form.

2. Operational excellence

Operational excellence requires live, in-depth understanding of public behaviour and being organised to respond to it. Games time operational models can also embed future resilience. At the 2012 London Games, the multi-modal Transport Coordination Centre was the nerve centre which managed London’s transport in real-time. It demonstrated how responsive public transport could be, even under intense pressure. This organisational model has since been reused on other complex urban events such as the London marathon.

3. Cleaner and greener infrastructure

Cleaner and greener infrastructure is a win-win opportunity to take action on climate change through hard and soft infrastructure and widespread shifts in behaviour. A low emissions zone can improve air quality around venues. Flood protection and retention initiatives can be designed into new public leisure areas. And new parks that improve air quality will also help future generations lead healthier, more active lifestyles.

Activating the behaviour factor

We believe this is a cost-effective and forward-looking vision that has great potential to unlock the long-term value of major event infrastructure spending. Cities need to look at these measures to reduce costs with maximise the transformational impact of hosting the games and re-gain the support of the public.

Today we have amazing new tools to design the legacy people want and need. We can develop smaller, smarter temporary venues. Connected technology can personalise and increase access to events. And sophisticated data and analytics tools are providing ever greater insights into people’s leisure habits and preferences. Together these present an opportunity to design for specific community needs, producing a valuable social legacy of which a city can be proud.