Hosting the 2012 London Olympics may damage rather than regenerate local communities and businesses

Visibilities and Invisibilities in urban development: Small business communities and the London Olympics 2012

From Urban Studies

The coming of the London 2012 Olympic Games has been presented as a unique opportunity for the regeneration of east London. This article considers the potential repercussions of regeneration. It warns that the process of clearance of the area and eviction of local businesses for new infrastructure can destroy pre-existing socioeconomic practices and paradoxically erode employment opportunities and the quality of life for existing residents. The study examines the impact the Beijing 2008 Olympics had on local communities, highlighting just how regressive and top-down policy-making can be. The irony is that, ultimately, the Olympics may lead to less diversity in this part of London. This article raises questions about how power-infused visualisations shape the form and character of urban policy interventions. The focus on creating ‘legacies’ has given a renewed impetus to debates over the relationships between mega-events, regeneration and urban change. The article concludes that there needs to be a move away from the dominant metaphor of visibility and the ‘spectacular’, to a greater concern with the less visible elements of urban society.


The principal stated rationale for bringing the 2012 Olympic Games to London was that it represented a once in a generation opportunity to regenerate the city’s East End. And yet, its arrival opens up questions over how problem places within cities are characterised and how selective and power-infused visualisations shape the form and character of urban policy interventions. This paper draws on research conducted on a community of over 200 small businesses that existed on the proposed Olympic Village site in east London before they were evicted in the summer of 2007. It documents the effects of the regeneration on their competitiveness and explores the highly circumscribed politics of contestation that emerged. Collectively, it argues that there should be a greater policy and academic concern with the less visible and ‘spectacular’ elements of cities and communities who cannot easily be seen, but are vital to urban vibrancy, diversity and sustainability

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Article details:
Raco, M., & Tunney, E. (2010). Visibilities and Invisibilities in Urban Development: Small Business Communities and the London Olympics 2012 Urban Studies, 47 (10), 2069-2091 DOI: 10.1177/0042098009357351

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