Cyclist in olympic park; Cyclist in olympic park;

How to design, plan, and achieve an enduring legacy from major event programmes

Legacy: a vision for the community

As every mayoralty, city or regional authority knows, once a major event is over, day to day urban priorities re-emerge. Fortunately, well-planned, committed and community-focused legacy programmes can be an incredibly enduring form of urban regeneration. At Arup we believe that committing to host a major event comes the responsibility to leave a legacy that always addresses the anticipated needs of a city and its citizens.  

It has been a decade since London hosted the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. However, the bid that brought the Olympic Games to London was not just about successfully hosting the world’s most remarkable sporting event; it was largely about creating a new piece of city - a transformative vision that would provide the people of east London with the same opportunities afforded to the rest of the city. 

Define a compelling vision

Legacy schemes depend on a compelling vision, underpinned by rigorous analysis of the socio-economic community needs and preferences.. Whether sport or arts-focused, impressive new physical facilities often define the original host city scheme. But valuable, longer term social benefits should leveraged to ensure a true legacy. We also recognise that while host city projects often visually and perceptually transform an area, that level of change must be handled with sensitivity and inclusivity involving the existing community. Our approach is always a collaboration between economic analysis, design creativity, planning insight and local engagement. 

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Be inventive with the opportunity

Host city projects like major sporting events or cultural facilities present implications for cities’ existing energy and transport infrastructure. These are often opportunities to be inventive and address these needs while solving longstanding issues and understanding trends. The routing of new supporting transport links and services can provide economic stimulus to related areas that otherwise wouldn’t benefit directly from a scheme’s headline purpose. The Stratford City development and the HS1 rail link played a pivotal role in the London 2012 bid that won over the International Olympic Delegate. While it was originally intended to cut across this brownfield site, our team chose to alter this planned route to save the site, recognising the area’s untapped potential for commercial revival. Integrating seamlessly with the altered HS1 route, the completed development has transformed the lives of people living and working in Stratford. 

Find out more about our work on Stratford City redevelopment

Olympic-park-Stratford Olympic-park-Stratford

Sustainable in every way

Host cities and nations are always under pressure to show how a short-term event will provide long-term gains for its citizens. They increasingly also must demonstrate best practice for the planet at large. The sustainability of legacy projects can only be achieved by being written into the DNA of a project from the very start, from urban design that ensures connectivity and a high-quality public realm to the design of facilities and assets that involve lower embodied carbon emissions through to careful stewardship of local resources and materials. Arup uses whole lifecycle carbon assessments to bring a new level of rigour to setting these targets and the design and operational solutions that follow. 

A natural legacy

Effective legacy schemes derive from a well-defined vision of what an area needs. That vision should always embed the best of built form and natural environmental insights. Our participation in the landscaping of the Southern section of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park demonstrates that the public benefit is vast when you bring together deep knowledge about ecology, plants, biodiversity, and the many ways a space can be brought to life. Our contribution involved long-term collaboration between designers and urbanists, horticulturalists and landscape architects, planners and engineers.  

We recognise that the future resilience of cities will increasingly depend on more natural interventions in the city – improving air quality, encouraging physical activity, removing cars. This ethos underpinned all our work across the park and surrounding public realm, seamlessly integrating built and natural environments. We orchestrate the teams to achieve these ambitions over the life cycle of legacy schemes. 

Find out more about South Park

Committed to the long run

Once the 2012 Games ended, our journey continued. Arup has been supporting the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to achieve their ambition and create new and inclusive opportunities for the future, one that continues to improve the public realm for all citizens. Here's three ways we've worked with the LLDC:

1. A ground to test innovation 

Legacy commitments are usually an attempt to bring something new to a district or community – and that unfamiliarity needs to be understood and navigated. 

We conducted research into places that act as real-world testbed for new technologies, which informed the thinking and development for the leadership team of SHIFT.

This was a way to explore how new ideas and technologies can be applied to achieve movement, health, well-being, and climate adaptation goals in cities. 

2. An inclusive and safe legacy
To take action and address the important issue of safety of women and girls, LLDC worked with Arup’s town planning and inclusive design specialists to better understand the experiences of women and girls across the site. We worked on design interventions to make green and open spaces and active travel routes safer and more inclusive.

3.Post-games: environmental performance
Since 2016 we have continued to provide environmental advisory services for LLDC, undertaking more than 2500 environmental reviews for over 1200 different applications submitted for over 300 separate sites within the park and surrounding areas. The breadth and volume of our work is now informing emerging policies that will shape the park's future growth.  

We are delighted with the collaborative way of working with Arup; they have repeatedly exceeded our expectations. Arup has consistently demonstrated a pragmatic and efficient approach to undertaking a high volume of complex and diverse tasks. ” Anthony Hollingsworth Director of Planning Policy and Decisions, LLDC

London 2012: how we helped ready the site

Arup played a central role in the marathon effort to shape the site and deliver infrastructure for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, helping to secure a sustainable and lasting legacy for London. 



What could be more important than creating an awe-inspiring home for 10,000 athletes, 800,000 spectators and 21,000 members of the media at London 2012? Ultimately, the Games would be judged on its legacy of community and residential facilities. We were called upon to create facilities for 230,000 visitors at peak – and oversee its transition to an enticing home for over 2,818 future residents.

Read more about our role in London 2012

Stratford City

Stratford City

Stratford City is a mixed-use development located on former rail lands in East London.  As part of the planning process, our environmental and masterplanning teams developed a set of site-wide sustainability strategies, providing detailed guidance on issues such as energy, sustainable building design, waste, water, microclimate, air quality and ecology.

Read more about Stratford City redevelopment

Copper box

Copper box

The Handball Arena, or Copper Box, is one of only four permanent venues in London’s Olympic Park and the third largest indoor arena in London. During the 2012 Games the venue accommodated up to 7,500 spectators and hosted three events: the handball tournament, the fencing element of the modern pentathlon and the Paralympic goalball competition.

Find out more about Copper Box



Conceived as a landmark for the London 2012 Olympic Games, the sculpture remains a long-term symbol of the games’ legacy at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Fusing art, architecture and engineering, its unique and challenging form – a continuous, looping lattice of tubular steel – posed fundamental questions to planners, designers and engineers alike.

Find out more about the Orbit

Aquatics Centre

Aquatics Centre

Arup contributed to the construction of the Aquatics Centre with legacy in mind for after the Games, to be enjoyed by future champions, schools, visitors and local residents. Our multi-disciplinary engineering skills fulfilled architect Zaha Hadid’s vision for the stunning Aquatics Centre. The facility was designed primarily for legacy use with temporary structures built to accommodate spectators during the 2012 Games.

Find out more about the Aquatics Centre



Comprehensive landscape design, biodiversity and access improvements regenerated a 2.5km section of pedestrian/cycle path which sits atop of the historic Northern Outfall Sewer

Find out more about Greenway

South Park


Arup was responsible for detailed design and coordination of the South Olympic Park Landscape and Public Realm – a geographically challenging site with significant ground-level changes and the added complication of large scale utilities.

Find out more about South Park