UCL Urban Laboratory


Olympic Urbanism: Past, present and future

07 May 2024, 2:00 pm–7:30 pm

A photograph of The Olympic Stadium, Maroussi, Athens, 2009 from the 2004 Olympic Games. Photo by John Gold.

Join for an afternoon symposium exploring city responses to hosting the Olympic Games and their subsequent legacies and sustainability.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Professor John R. Gold, Editor of Planning Perspectives, in collaboration with UCL Urban Laboratory


UCL East Cinema
1 Pool Street
E20 2AF
United Kingdom

This half-day event accompanies the publication of a special issue of the journal Planning Perspectives on ‘Olympic urbanism’ and the launch of the fourth edition of Olympic Cities, edited by John and Margaret Gold – the standard text on the changing relationship between the Olympics and their host cities. It follows on from the ‘State of the Legacy’ conference organised by UCL Urban Lab and IGP at UCL Here East in 2022, which examined the legacy and lessons of the London 2012 Games a decade on. 

The event will be held shortly before the Summer Games opens in Paris and will bring together an invited group of international scholars who have contributed to these publications. Collectively, they will explore the changing ideas and practices that have shaped and reshaped the ways in which cities have responded to hosting the Games, comment on the lessons about legacy and sustainability that can be learned from previous events and look forward to the challenges facing the host cities of Games to come. 

Further information



In the Long Run: Olympic legacy and sustainability Chair: Peter Bishop (The Bartlett, UCL) 

Editors’ Introductions John R. Gold (The Bartlett, UCL) and Andrew Smith (University of Westminster)  

Why a Cultural Olympiad: The defining role of cultural programming in Olympic cities, from Mexico 1968 to Tokyo 2020  Beatriz Garcia (University of Liverpool)  

The vexed legacy of Sydney 2000's Olympic Park precinct Rob Freestone (University of New South Wales)  

The Institutional Afterlife of the 2012 London Olympics: past, present and future Mike Raco (The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL)  

15:45-16:15 Coffee break 


Culture, imagination and Olympic futures Chair: Clare Melhuish (UCL Urban Laboratory) 

Rio de Janeiro 2016: A model city for the Olympic Games? Gabriel Silvestre (Newcastle University)  

 Is Culture the future of the Olympic Games? The case of Paris 2024 Cécile Doustaly (Cergy Paris University)  

Preparing for Olympic Los Angeles 2028: The spectacular tension between imagination and reality  Daniel Wolfe (ETH Zurich)  

Discussant/Rapporteur Juliet Davis (Cardiff University) 

18:00-18:30 Refreshment break  

18:30–19:30 Book Launch: Olympic Cities, fourth edition 

Introductory Remarks Graeme Evans (University of the Arts) and Margaret Gold (London Metropolitan University/Goldsmiths)  

19:30 Drinks Reception and viewing of Urban Room Exhibition: Maplective 


Juliet Davis is Professor of Architecture and Urbanism and Head of School at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University. Her teaching and research span the fields of Architecture, Urban Design and City Planning History/theory. She has authored two books and numerous publications on urban change and regeneration, mega-events, urban heritage and the ethics of design practice. Juliet completed an AHRC-funded PhD at the London School of Economics’ Cities Programme in 2011, which focused on critically exploring the role of urban design in shaping the trajectories of long-term regeneration in East London connected to the 2012 Olympic Games. Before entering academia in 2007, she practiced architecture and urban design in London for ten years, contributing to Eric Parry Architects’ regeneration of St. Martin in the Fields and Stanton William’s Millennium Seedbank among other projects.  

Cécile Doustaly is Professor (Habilitation Thesis) in British Studies and Comparative Cultural Policies, Management and Mediation at Cergy Paris Université. She is a member of the Research Centre UMR Héritages  and a fellow at the University of Warwick. Using pluri-disciplinary methods her research explores urban and cultural planning, policies, management and mediation. She questions how different cultures attempt to balance conservation and creation, democratization and local engagement; tourism, development and cooperation, most notably in London and Paris, the UK and France.  She collaborates with ministries, local authorities, cultural institutions and international organisations. 

Graeme Evans is Professor Emeritus of Culture & Creative Economy, University of the Arts London where he led a five-year AHRC Creative Clusters R&D project with UCL, Loughborough, Cambridge and Leeds universities. He convened the Regional Studies’ Mega-Events Research Network and recently completed an AHRC-funded study Future Trends on Coventry UK City of Culture. Recent publications include Cultural Spaces (2024) and Mega-Events (2021). He advises the Culture Ministry (DCMS) on Culture & Regeneration, Placeshaping and Cultural Asset Mapping and he has researched the regeneration of the Olympic zone from inception, authoring the London 2012 chapter in successive Olympic Cities’ editions. 

Robert Freestone  is Professor of Planning in the School of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales. His authored and edited books include Australian Urban Policy (2024), Community Green (2024), Campus (2023), Iconic Planned Communities and the Challenges of Change (2019), Designing the Global City (2019), Place and Placelessness Revisited (2016), and Urban Nation (2010). He chairs the editorial board of Planning Perspectives and was president of the International Planning History Society (2002–6). He is an elected Fellow of four professional bodies: Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Australian Academy of Humanities, Planning Institute of Australia, and the Institute of Australian Geographers. 

Dr Beatriz Garcia is an expert in international cultural policy and mega-events. She is Associate Director of the Centre for Cultural Value (University of Leeds) and member of the Culture & Olympic Heritage Commission – nominated by the International Olympic Committee. Beatriz has been at the forefront of research on the rhetoric, impact and long-term legacy of culture-led regeneration interventions since 1999, conducting fieldwork on the cultural dimension of every edition of the Olympic Games since Sydney 2000. She is the author of The Olympic Games and Cultural Policy and The Olympics. The Basics (2012) and London 2012: Impacts of the Cultural Olympiad (2013). She is the lead advisor for the evaluation of the Paris 2024 Cultural Olympiad.  

John R. Gold is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCLn and Professor Emeritus at Oxford Brookes University. From 2014-21, he was Special Appointed Professor in the Graduate School of Governance Studies at Meiji University (Tokyo, Japan). He is the co-editor of Planning Perspectives: An international journal of history, planning and the environment and has authored or edited 24 books on architectural and cultural subjects, many of which have also appeared in translations. These include: Representing the Environment (2004), Cities of Culture: Staging International Festivals and the Urban Agenda, 1851–2000 (2005), The Practice of Modernism: modern architects and urban transformation, 1954–72, (2007), Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning, and the World’s Games, 1896–2032 (Four editions: 2007, 2011, 2016, 2024), a four-volume edited collection on The Making of Olympic Cities (2012) and Festival Cities: Culture, Planning and Urban Life (2020).  

Margaret M. Gold lectures in cultural tourism and events management at London Metropolitan University and at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the co-editor of Planning Perspectives: An international journal of history, planning and the environment. Her books with John Gold include Imagining Scotland (1995), Cities of Culture: Staging International Festivals and the Urban Agenda, 1851–2000 (2005) Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning, and the World’s Games,1896–2032 (Four editions: 2007, 2011, 2016, 2024), a four-volume edited collection on The Making of Olympic Cities (2012), and Festival Cities: Culture, Planning and Urban Life (2020). She is currently working with John on The Necessary Huddle: Festivals in the European urban experience. 

Mike Raco is Professor of Urban Governance and Development at The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL and current Head of School. His background is in Planning, Geography and Urban Studies. He has published widely on the topics of urban governance and regeneration, urban sustainability, housing markets and the politics of urban and regional economic development. His recent publications include London (with Frances Brill) and Planning and Knowledge: How New Forms of Technocracy are Shaping Contemporary Cities (with Federico Savini). 

Gabriel Silvestre is Senior Lecturer in Urban Planning in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University. His research interests include the areas of urban governance and policy analysis with a focus on circulating knowledge and policy mobilities. He is the author of several articles published in English, Portuguese and Spanish examining the planning and delivery of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. His most recent Olympic-related work, authored with colleagues based in Universite de Lausanne, compares the long-term planning impact of the Games in Tokyo, Munich and Montreal. He is currently comparing development impacts of mega-events in host cities in the BRICS countries. 

Andrew Smith is Professor of Urban Experiences at the University of Westminster. He is based in the School of Architecture and Cities leads one of the University four cross-disciplinary research communities, dedicated to Sustainable Cities and the Urban Environment. Andrew has published widely on the subject of mega-events and Olympic urbanism, including two monographs Events and Urban Regeneration (2012) and Events in the City (2016). He has written several well-known texts on the London 2012 Olympic Games, and is particularly interested in the implications of mega-events for the provision of urban public space. 

Sven Daniel Wolfe is Swiss National Science Foundation Ambizione Fellow at the ETH Zurich. An urban and political geographer, he works on the socio-spatial impacts of mega-events, urban sustainable development and geopolitics. He has authored and co-authored a variety of articles about the impacts of mega-events worldwide, and has focused on case studies primarily in Russia, France and the US. He is the author of More Than Sport: Soft Power and Potemkinism in the 2018 Men’s Football World Cup in Russia (2021). 

 Image: The Olympic Stadium, Maroussi, Athens, 2009. Photo by John Gold.