London and Rio de Janeiro, like many of the Olympic Games gone before, have something in common: they both promised their people a legacy. At the time of selection, Brazil was set to become one of the world’s largest economies. Although in the interim it has been affected by economic shocks, presidential concerns and healthcare scares, it is the first South American nation to host the games and must be applauded for this reason.
The question is, with Rio’s construction programme estimated to have cost £9bn, are world sporting events such as the Olympic Games worth the money, and can we put a value on the legacy they create?
London 2012 promised to make a lasting impact on both physical regeneration and the UK’s sporting culture. With Stratford thriving and the UK winning more medals than ever before at the Rio Games, it seems the UK has avoided having its Olympic ambition quashed. Closer to home, the aquatic centre has become one the country’s most popular public pools and the Olympic stadium, instead of standing empty, is now the home of West Ham Football Club. There have also been meaningful improvements made to the built environments of the Olympic Park’s neighbouring communities, including Stratford, Newham and Tower Hamlets.
Three-thousand homes have already been built on the Olympic village site alone – and this is only one of several schemes either planned or already underway. The goal – to create a thriving community in a largely impoverished area of London – is still on track, partly due to the ability of those at the helm to adapt to change without compromising on the original objective.
As our focus moves from Rio to Tokyo in 2020, the challenges of creating a meaningful Olympic legacy are only just beginning in Brazil.