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Future Olympics must be sustainable, says Games’ head of construction

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In an interview, the man behind the construction of the 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2028 Olympic Games has said that in the future, the nature of the Olympics must change to be less wasteful and disruptive by, for example, replacing purpose-built stadiums with pop-up arenas.

Bill Hanway, head of global sports for AECOM, described how previous Olympic developments involved huge amounts of taxpayer money being spent on the construction of stadiums and the eviction of residents – more than two million residents between 1988 and 2008.

“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,” Hanway said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

According to Hanway, a more affordable and sustainable Olympics which listens to the needs of local residents should be the future of the games.

Hanway recalled how during a June 2017 meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach, its President, asked for suggestions for making the hosting process more appealing. The discussion arose after Boston, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome withdrew their bids to host the Olympic Games in response to public displeasure at the expense and disruption that hosting the event would cause.

The Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games, he said, will embrace sustainability by using temporary or upgraded facilities and funding the games entirely without taxpayers’ assistance, the IOC announced. This can be achieved by meeting the cost of construction through ticket sales and sponsorships and reusing and renovating existing infrastructure, such as that remaining from previous Los Angeles-hosted games.

The 2016 games, hosted by Rio de Janeiro, took some step towards sustainability by using some temporary arenas which could be dismantled and converted into school buildings after the games were over.

“We’re not impacting a single residential location and not disrupting any businesses in our entire planning process for the [2028] Olympic Games,” said Hanway.

“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.”

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