Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park;

Cities Alive: Rethinking legacy for host cities

Legacy 2.0: how public need is reshaping Games design

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.

View of Paris at night View of Paris at night

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.  

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. ” Jerome Frost Jerome Frost Global Cities Leader

With an eye to events beyond 2020, 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: 

Urban overlay

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

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.

Operational excellence

Interior view of an interchange in London

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.

Cleaner and greener infrastructure

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

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’ve got 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.

Meet our team

Jerome Frost OBE

Jerome is Arup’s Global Cities Leader. He is a recognised expert in planning for delivery and specialises in economic development and urban regeneration. Jerome was the former Head of Design and Regeneration for the Olympic Delivery Authority at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Jerome uses this experience to advise cities that are considering or delivering major events across the globe.



Nick Merridew

Nick is a passionate believer in sport as a force for good, and as a positive catalyst for social change and economic development. As leader of Arup’s host cities business, Nick leads a group of city planners, designers, economists, consultants and engineers across a spectrum of services to offer cities expertise on the feasibility, bid, delivery and legacy of major sporting and cultural events.




Joanna Rowelle

Joanna Rowelle

Joanna is an experienced regeneration and economics expert. A specialist in social and economic policy, she leads Arup’s City Economics team. Joanna has recently advised cities internationally on the feasibility of hosting sporting and cultural events including world Expos. Her previous experience includes working as Assistant Director of Regeneration for the Mayor of London during the London 2012 games.



Joanna Rowelle

Will Goode

Will Goode

Will is an experienced civil engineer and project management professional with a background in major programmes and major events including High Speed Two (HS2) and the London 2012 Olympic Games. Will is now working with city clients to ensure that meaningful change strategies are a fundamental part of the feasibility, bid, delivery and legacy planning stages of major sporting and cultural events.


Eugene Uys

Eugene Uys

Eugene has worked in sport’s venue design and major event consulting for the last 20 years. He helped design many of the world’s iconic venues including Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, the Singapore Sports Hub and the Birds Nest. His understanding of the planning and design of event infrastructure supports his work with cities and organising committees to create efficient and sustainable sporting and cultural events with lasting legacies.



Ana Loreto Vasquez

Ana is an architect with 20 years’ experience, 14 of them in the operational planning of major events including project management, and overlay design. Her experience includes working for organising committees of Pan American Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games in Rio and London. Originally from Rio de Janiero, Ana was delighted to see the Games in Rio and was part of the Bid Committee.


Clement Ho

Clement Ho

Clement has over 19 years’ experience as a transport planner with Arup and has worked across the UK, Ireland and China, and is our host cities representative for East Asia. His understanding of how to model crowds using simulation software is combined with extensive strategic transport planning knowledge. Clement has applied this on a variety of sport and event-related developments.



Brian Swett

Brian Swett

Brian is a recognised leader of sustainability strategy and leads Arup’s cities business in the Americas. He has over a decade of leadership experience in both public sector programmes and private sector real estate development, including exploring and supporting bids for major events. Brian believes passionately that events, when effectively planned and managed, can be great catalysts for responsible and sustainable property and infrastructure growth, accelerating reductions in a city’s carbon emissions. 

Penny Hall

Penny is an experienced landscape architect and leads host cities initiatives in our Australasia region. Prior to transferring to Brisbane, Penny was design manager on what is now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and is now working on preparations for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Penny was also part of the official International Paralympic Observers programme in Rio de Janeiro in September 2016.