Olympic planners say they want to build a more compassionate Games

In a recent interview, Bill Hanway, one of the head architectural organizers for the Tokyo 2020 and Los Angeles 2028 Olympics Games, stated that building plans would not involve in local evictions and would seek community input while utilizing already built structures.

Yohei Kanasashi/AP
The Olympics village in Tokyo is under construction on July 23, 2017. With only three years to go, Japan has sponsored relays, concerts, and dances to garner enthusiasm and support for the Games in 2020.

Future Olympics can be built without taxpayer money or a single eviction, with pop-up arenas replacing grandiose new builds, according to the architect planning two of the next Games. 

Bill Hanway, head of global sports for architectural and engineering giant AECOM, has masterminded the construction of the last two games and is working in Tokyo on the 2020 games and Los Angeles, which on Monday was announced as the 2028 host. 

Mr. Hanway envisions a break from the major disruption of past Olympic developments, which Games watchdogs said displaced more than 2 million residents, sometimes violently, in the two decades between Seoul in 1988 and Beijing in 2008.

In an interview, Mr. Hanway set out a more sustainable Olympic future – one of community-backed masterplans, pop-up venues, renovated stadia, and modular handball courts that can be shipped to other cities or transformed into schools.

Hanway said the Los Angeles games will rise to public demands and be economically viable, socially sensitive, and environmentally sound.

"Everybody is aware of the damage that global sports are getting in terms of press, cost over-runs, corruption, doping," Hanway told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"People are losing sight, in some ways, of why we have the Games, and of the Olympic and athletes' experience – the things that made the experience positive in the first place."

Dwindling Interest 

In July, two cities, Paris and Los Angeles, were chosen as hosts for the next two Olympics as a pair, in an unprecedented move seen as a bid for stability at a time when interest from potential hosts is dwindling.

The only other cities left in the race – Boston, Hamburg, Rome, and, most recently, Budapest – withdrew in the face of public opposition.

Massive price tags like the $51 billion spent by Russia on the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and images of decaying white elephant venues from Rio 2016 have left cities and governments questioning the value of hosting an Olympics.

When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) met in June, President Thomas Bach asked organizers and planners how to make the bidding and hosting process more viable, said Hanway.

According to the IOC, the 2024 and 2028 games will be the first to fully embrace its new sustainability drive and use a record number of temporary facilities. 

Organizers for the Los Angeles Games say they will be entirely privately funded, relying heavily on ticket sales, upgrades to existing venues, and corporate sponsorship. 

"We're not impacting a single residential location and not disrupting any businesses in our entire planning process for the [L.A.] Olympic Games," said Hanway.

"Absolutely it's possible to avoid any disruption on the scale that has historically been seen in the Olympic Games – that is certainly the approach that any bidding city would take in the future."

Listen now, design later

Hanway said securing local support was crucial for any prospective host, as shown by the referendum that ended Hamburg's bid and demands for public votes that led Rome and Boston to withdraw their unpopular bids. 

Organizers have a responsibility to show communities how the Games respond to their needs – be it for transport, sports facilities or schools – and to minimize the number of residents disenfranchised by any development, he said. 

"You listen first and then you start designing. That has to be the way forward … or you'll never get community support."

That – and some architectural creativity.

Hanway said new construction techniques allow for temporary arenas, such as a 10,000-seat handball court in Rio, which was designed to be taken apart and converted into school buildings.

As for permanent venues, organizers must ensure their plans can respond to a changing economic situation, Hanway said, recalling the crashes that upended work in Brazil in 2014 and in London in 2008, during the global financial crisis.

Los Angeles claims it can put on a low-cost, environmentally sound Olympics because it already has the infrastructure. The city, which hosted the games in 1984, will use the residence halls of University of California, Los Angeles, as the Olympic village, cutting one of the top expenses.

"What you're seeing now in the Games is that you don't have to spend $1 billion or $2 billion to build a brand new neighborhood."

This story was reported by Reuters.

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