An Olympic legacy worth £3.5billion?
19 August 2016 by Ties Bouwmeester
When Rio won its bid to host the Olympic Games, becoming the first South American city to do so, the decision was heralded as an opportunity for Brazil to show the world that an emerging country could host a world-class sporting event to remember. With a total cost of an estimated £3.5billion, the event has attracted much criticism, not to mention the fact that Brazil is in the midst of a crippling recession.
However, the opportunities for Rio are much greater than some world-class sporting facilities. It is hoped that the Games will provide growth and wider development in the country, providing new homes and commercial property for businesses. When the greatest show on Earth leaves Rio however, will the development have any lasting effect, or will the city continue to function as before?
Having mentioned commercial property for business development, it is worth considering the legacy of the 2012 Olympics in London. Much the same as Rio, spending £8.77billion during a recession was rather controversial. However, following its official opening in April 2014, the former industrial site is now unrecognisable. Since the end of the sporting events, the focus has turned to providing jobs and housing. The International Quarter is also currently being developed, which will eventually be home to 4m sq ft of commercial property space. As we know, the Olympic Stadium will be home to West Ham Football Club and these things combined create a success story and a positive legacy for London 2012.
It’s not just office development either. The legacy has left prime commercial property in the form of Westfield Shopping Centre, where footfall numbers are almost as high as they were during the Olympics’ peak. By 2021 there will be a new V&A museum and the London College of Fashion will have moved into the area.
Turning back to Brazil, what can Rio do to make sure that the Games provide more than just a few weeks of world-class sporting entertainment? Sadly, much of the proposed development is yet to materialise. The most ambitious project of the city’s redevelopment plan since it won the Olympics in 2009 is the Porto Maravilha. The plan centred on turning the city’s deprived and run down port area into a business and tourist hub. More than 20 corporate developments were planned, including hotels and the five ‘Trump Towers’ – backed by businessman and US presidential candidate Donald Trump. The towers appear to have stalled for the time being and the wider port redevelopment has also been criticised over its displacement of local families.
Rio is in the spotlight now, but the real test will be whether the legacy from their £3.5billion investment works in the long run.