The heavy legacy of the Olympic Games



Beijing, London and soon, Rio de Janeiro… In recent years, each of these cities has experienced major upheavals in its urban landscape and social fabric as a result of hosting the Summer Olympic Games.

Anne-Marie Broudehoux, research professor in the School of Design at Université du Québec à Montréal, has taken a critical look at the urban renewal related to the Olympic Games in Beijing, a city that she visited on numerous occasions between 1992 and 2008.

This study has laid the ground work for research into a subject that has been little explored.

Her work reflects what she witnessed there. Initial promises to renovate the city while protecting its history and its people quickly gave way to a lack of rules and long-term vision. All that counted was the success of the event and the illusion of modernity projected by the city. The result: the displacement of 1.5 million residents, the incarceration of protesters and the gentrification of the affected neighbourhoods.

This study has laid the ground work for research into a subject that has been little explored: the extent of the impact of major international sporting events on social, economic and urban levels. It has also provided insight into the relationship between these mega projects and the exclusion of certain social groups (the poor, prostitutes, street children), the displacement of populations and the reduction of civil rights.

The project, which is now continuing in Rio de Janeiro, host city of the 2016 Olympic Games, aims to establish guidelines for a more equitable and more democratic management of this type of event.