An international brand resource for neighbourhoods, towns, cities, regions and economic clusters.

Urban planning the Olympic way

Posted by Claire Matthews

For better or for worse, removing old landmarks changes a city irrevocably. And the Olympic Games, beloved as they are, can be blamed for many questionable urban planning choices.

A recent NY Times article discusses the current threat to Rio de Janeiro’s historic favela (or shanty town) Morro da Providência. The neighbourhood may not appeal to the city’s growing upscale population, but it is undeniably an important cultural and historic landmark. However, Olympic construction fever seems to be clouding municipal judgement.

In Russia, environmentalists fear that irreplaceable endangered trees are being removed to facilitate construction of the Sochi facilities. In Montreal, the remains of one iconic event – Expo 67 – were removed to make way for another (the ’76 Olympics). Even in Melbourne, Australia, the 1956 Games radically changed the city and erased many of its early buildings.

Of course the Olympics leave new landmarks behind. Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta remains a popular gathering place in Atlanta, as does the Olympic Park in Seoul. On the other hand, Beijing’s spectacular “Bird’s Nest” stadium is already having trouble funding its own maintenance, and Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is a rotting white elephant. It remains to be seen whether the new landmarks created in London’s East End – including the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower – will become part of the city’s fabric, or urban errors destined to be ripped out and “done over.”

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