London 2012, knowledge transfer and the challenge of Olympic legacy
Submitting InstitutionOxford Brookes University
Unit of AssessmentHistory
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Built Environment and Design: Urban and Regional Planning
Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
A concern for enduring positive outcomes has lain at the heart of staging
the Olympics since the birth of the modern Games in 1896. Professor John
Gold`s research has shown how Games- makers in cities that have hosted the
Games — the so-called `Olympic cities' — have repeatedly framed and
reframed their pursuit of those outcomes in light of the perceived values
and needs of their particular times. Drawing on that research, he has
contributed to public and policy debate about the lasting impact of London
2012, first, by identifying the challenges posed by demands for achieving
a discernible legacy from staging the Games and, secondly, by helping to
build a critical understanding of the formal and informal procedures by
which knowledge is transferred from host cities to their successors.
John Gold is Professor of Urban Historical Geography at Oxford Brookes
University and, over the last 25 years, has also held visiting positions
at the London School of Economics, Surrey University, Birmingham
University, Bowdoin College (Maine, USA), and Queen Mary, University of
London, where he has twice been Visiting Professor. The case study
outlined here builds on his longstanding interest in cities staging
cultural and sporting festivals, with particular interest in the role of
the Olympic Games in urban development. This interest is notably expressed
in three books co-written or co-edited with Margaret M. Gold (London
Cities of Culture: Staging International Festivals and the Urban
Agenda, 1851-2000 (Ashgate Press, 2005, ISBN 1840142855), which
sets the historical development of the Summer Olympics and their urban
impacts alongside those of other sporting and cultural mega-events.
Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning, and the World's Games,
1896-2016, (Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0415374065; Second edition,
2011, ISBN 9780415486583), which provided the first full overview of the
ever-changing relationships between the Olympic movement and their host
cities from Athens 1896 through to current preparations for Rio de
The Making of Olympic Cities, a four volume set published in
2012 by Routledge in their Major Works series (ISBN 0415553512), which
brought together important historic source materials on cities staging
the Olympic and Paralympic Games, along with an integrating overview
that elucidates the key implications for the cities concerned.
These works, which feature strongly in reviews of key literature produced
by the Library of the International Olympic Committee [see section 5.iv],
are supported by the articles and essays that appear in section 3 [below,
numbered 3.1-3.6, and referenced in square brackets]. Driven substantially
by invitations from publishers, symposia organisers and Games-makers,
these publications deal specifically with the experience of London 2012
and focus on such issues as city branding, [3.1, 3.4], historical
experience of funding [3.2], environmental sustainability [3.5] and stadia
All reflect John Gold`s critical approach towards the enduring outcomes
of hosting the Olympics, arguing that the current emphasis on `legacy'
reflects and presents a qualitatively different fusion of past experience
and contemporary practices than seen previously—a complex amalgam of
thinking derived from Olympic philosophy (`Olympism`), lessons drawn from
the disaggregated experiences of previous Olympic cities, and general
principles drawn from contemporary urban development. As such, he has
continued to ask questions about how legacy can be delivered given the
extended time frame over which it perforce operates after the conclusion
of the Games and points to the lack of clarity involved in the pursuit of
legacy alongside other kindred goals, such as those associated with
sustainability [3.2, 3.4, 3.5]. John has also considered the technical
legacy of the Games in the form of knowledge transfer. Established as an
ambulatory event, it is all too often the case that cities hosting the
Olympics create their Games de novo rather than building on the
lessons of predecessors. In an effort to improve practice, Professor Gold
most notably participated in the pioneering evaluative study of knowledge
transfer practices to, at and from London 2012 that is described in
section 4 [also 3.6].
References to the research
1. Gold, J.R. and Gold, M.M. (2008) `Olympic Cities: regeneration, city
rebranding and changing urban agendas', Geography Compass, 2 (1),
300-318. DOI 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2007.00080.x. Submitted to REF2014,
Oxford Brookes University, UoA30-History, REF2, JR Gold, Output
2. Gold, J.R. and Gold, M.M. (2009) `Future indefinite?: London 2012, the
spectre of retrenchment and the challenge of Olympic sports legacy', London
Journal, 34(2), 179-196. DOI 10.1179/174963209X442450
Submitted to REF2014, Oxford Brookes University, UoA30-History, REF2,
JR Gold, Output Identifier 7235.
3. Gold, J.R. and Gold, M.M. (2012) `After the Games: the Olympic
architectural heritage', in D. Boulting (ed) Building Conservation
Directory, vol. 19, London: Cathedral Communications, 196-8. ISBN
4. Gold, J.R. and Gold, M.M. (2012) `Global competition, local agendas:
Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and the unending Olympic cycle`, in V.
Girginov, ed. The Handbook of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic
Games, vol. 1, `Making the Games', London, Routledge, 291-303. ISBN
5. Gold J.R. and Gold M.M. (2013) `"Bring It under the Legacy Umbrella":
Olympic Host Cities and the Changing Fortunes of the Sustainability
Agenda', Sustainability, 5, 3526-3542. DOI 10.3390/su5083526
Details of the impact
Professor Gold`s impact rests on a portfolio, centred on London 2012,
which demonstrate a close involvement with public and policy debate. The
relevant activities come under three categories: knowledge transfer;
expert advice/consultancy; and public understanding and broadcast media.
(References to the corroborative sources listed in section 5 below are
noted, as before, in square brackets; with written or media sources by
Roman numerals and people by Arabic numerals.)
i. Knowledge Transfer
Sponsored by Podium, the co-ordination and communications unit created by
HEFCE and the Skills Funding Agency to support academic researchers in
their work relating to the 2012 Games, Professor Gold was a founding
member of an interdisciplinary team that was established to study the
steep learning curve that the four-yearly movement of the Olympics and
Paralympics from one host city to another imposes on the Organizing
Committees responsibility for staging the Games. Proceeding with
unprecedented cooperation from the key Games-making agency—the London
Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG)—the key data came from
in-depth interviews conducted with senior members of LOCOG at four
junctures between November 2011 and December 2012, thereby spanning the
planning, implementation and wrapping up phases of the Games. John Gold`s
particular area of responsibility was closely based on his urban
historical expertise, being concerned with the key Olympic venues, both
stadia and villages. He and Dr Vassil Girginov (Brunel University)
co-wrote the final report for the project, which was delivered to Podium
in May 2013 and published on its web-site in June 2013. Its analyses
pointed to the exceptional nature of LOCOG as a fixed-term task force
organization and the demonstrable importance of knowledge acquisition for
its functioning, with recommendations based on the forms of knowledge that
it tended (or was required) to produce, and the way that its structure
fostered knowledge transfer. [5.vii; 5.3, 5.4].
ii. Expert Advisor and Consultant
Professor Gold has served as specialist advisor/consultant on a number of
i. Acting as invited chair and rapporteur for a high-level meeting
entitled `Olympics and Paralympics 2012: Creating a UK Legacy for the
Future, Today'(24 March 2010). Organised by the events organisation
`Inside Government', the meeting included a front-bench spokesman from the
Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Shadow Minister for Sport and
the Olympics, and representatives from business groups, the Olympic
boroughs and Podium. Feedback thanked Professor Gold for delivering
`challenging, informative, thought-provoking speeches at the forum' and
for his `willingness to openly answer delegates' questions' [5.7].
ii. Serving in 2009 as a consultant to a putative Winter Olympics bid
under discussion in Tromsø (Northern Norway) — one of four Norwegian
cities then contemplating candidacy for the 2018 Games. Invited due to his
expertise with regard to the experience of previous centres that had
staged the Winter Games, he was asked specifically to address (a) the
likely consequences for Tromsø if it was chosen to arrange the winter
games and (b) the challenges involved. He met members of the local bid
team, gave a public address that pointed to the difficulties such a bid
would encounter on logistic, environmental and political grounds, and
addressed a subsequent closed seminar. The visit attracted wide reportage
in the regional press and broadcasting media [5.vi; 5.1].
iii. Contributing to the Economist Intelligence Unit`s prestigious report
on London 2012 entitled Legacy 2012: Understanding the impact of the
Olympic Games, which was published during the Games. His
contribution concerned the need for greater precision in measuring legacy,
noting the need to blend qualitative and quantitative methodologies in
order to build more self-critical bases for assessing legacy, to promote
better event planning, and to facilitate greater accountability [5.i].
iv. Acting as invited discussant for a meeting at the Japan Foundation in
London (June 2012) at which Tokyo`s plans for the 2020 Olympic and
Paralympic Games were outlined by bid team member Yasushi Aoyama.
Professor Gold assessed the bid`s strengths and the nature of the legacy
that might be anticipated, as well as making comparisons with the legacy
strategies used by London and other previous successful host cities in
framing their bids. His participation and insights, especially in
sketching parallels between London and Tokyo, were commended as making
`the discussions richer and deeper' [5.iii; 5.2, 5.5].
iii. Public understanding and broadcasting media
Professor Gold has always undertaken activities that transcend the normal
boundaries of academic discourse about staging the Olympics. During 2012,
while giving nine keynote presentations to academic gatherings in Britain
and overseas, he also contributed widely to events outside of the academy.
These included, for example, the `Abandon Normal Devices' festival in
Manchester and `After the Party', a gathering at the Royal Institute of
British Architects' bookshop in Portland Place London (both September
2012). His reputation as an expert commentator has been recognised by the
frequent work that he has undertaken for the press and broadcasting media,
both nationally and internationally (including Time magazine and
major circulation newspapers in North America, Western Europe and
South-East Asia) [5.ii]. His domestic broadcasting credits include Radio
3, Radio 4, BBC TV (national and regional), Carlton (ITV), BBC 1
(Scotland), local radio and cable TV [5.6]. Internationally, his
broadcasting credits include :
- Sami Radio, May 2009, interview on the Tromsø bid and its
environmental implications, especially for the fragile mountain
- US National Public Radio`s `Only a Game' (April 2012), commentary on
sporting legacy and environmental sustainability [5.v].
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation's National Radio influential and
long-running discussion programme, 'Rear Vision', which examines the
historical context of current news events. Professor Gold contributed
substantively to the hour-long edition entitled 'Transforming the City
through the Olympic Games', broadcast in April 2012, which dealt with
the linkage of London 2012 to urban regeneration programmes [5.iii].
It must be stressed that involvement in all the above categories
continued after London 2012. The preparation of further evaluative reports
for the major stakeholders based on knowledge transfer, continuing
contacts with Games organisers (especially after the successful
application of Tokyo for the 2020 Games) and requests from media for
analyses and commentaries on forthcoming sporting mega-events (e.g. the
2014 Commonwealth Games), inter alia, point to the continuing
community value of Professor Gold`s historically based analyses of Olympic
legacy [5.5, 5.6].
Sources to corroborate the impact
i. Economist Intelligence Unit' (2012) `Legacy 2012: Understanding the
impact of the Olympic Games, http://legacy2012.economistconferences.co.uk/
; `Measuring the legacy:
In search of greater precision', http://legacy2012.economistconferences.co.uk/#measuring-the-legacy
accessed 1 September 2012.
ii. Gray, S. (2009) `Olympics 2016: Chicago Makes Its Case' Time
Magazine, 5 April, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1889532,00.html
, accessed 1 September 2012.
iii. Japan Foundation (2012) `Not the winning but the taking part', http://www.uk.emb-
, accessed 1 September 2012.
iv. Library, International Olympic Committee (2013) Jeux Olympiques:
Héritages et Impacts, http://www.olympic.org/assets/osc%20section/pdf/lres_7e.pdf
, accessed 1 September 2012.
v. Littlefield, B. (2012) `Olympic Gold Going Green In London', NPR with
WBUR (Boston), http://onlyagame.wbur.org/2012/04/21/london-olympic-stadium
, accessed 1 September 2012.
vi. Pettersen, J. (2008) `Frykter at et ungdoms-OL vil svekke Tromsø`, Bladet
Tromsø, 6 May 2008.
vii. Podium (2013) `Report chronicles London 2012 knowledge transfer
following unprecedented access', http://www.podium.ac.uk/news/view/1271/report-chronicles-london-2012-knowledge-
transfer-following-unprecedented-access , accessed 1 September 2012.
viii. `Transforming the City through the Olympic Games', Rear Vision,
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 22 April 2012, transcript available
games/3930560 , accessed 1 September 2012.
- Corroborative contact 1. Professor, Department of Sociology, Political
Science and Community Planning, University of Tromsø.
- Corroborative contact 2. Director-General, The Japan Foundation,
- Corroborative contact 3. Former Director of Venues and Infrastructure,
- Corroborative contact 4. Former Head of Village Management, LOCOG.
- Professor, Graduate School of Governance Studies, Meiji University
(Contact details available from Oxford Brookes University Research &
Business Development Office upon request)
- Corroborative contact 5. Producer, BBC Radio Features.
- Programme Manager, Inside Government (Contact details available from
Oxford Brookes University Research & Business Development Office