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London’s local Olympic legacy : Small business displacement, ‘clone town’ effect and the production of ‘urban blandscapes’

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Purpose

London’s Candidature bid projected an irresistible legacy of lasting benefits for host communities and small businesses. Yet, local post-Games perspectives paint a contrasted picture – one of becoming displaced. This paper aims to draw on event legacy, specifically in relation to rising rents, threats to small business sustainability and impact on place development by empirically examining London’s local embryonic legacies forming across one ex-hosting Olympic community: Central Greenwich.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 43 interviews with local businesses (specifically, small retailers and hospitality businesses), local authorities, London-centric and national project actors and policymakers underpin analysis, supported by official London 2012 archival, documentary and media reports, were conducted to add texture and triangulate primary and secondary data sources.

Findings

Juxtaposing ex ante projections vs emerging ex post realities, this paper reveals a local legacy of small business failure fuelled by rising commercial rents and a wider indifference for protecting diverse urban high streets. Embroiled in a struggle to survive, and barely recognised as a key stakeholder and contributor to legacy, small businesses have and continue to become succeeded by a new business demographic in town: monochromatic global and national chains. Typifying the pervasive shift toward clone town spaces, this article argues that corporate colonisation displaces independent businesses, serves to homogenise town centres, dilute place-based cultural offer and simultaneously stunts access to a positive local development legacy. This paper argues that such processes lead to the production of urban blandscapes that may hamper destination competitiveness.

Originality/value

Examining event legacy, specifically local legacies forming across ex-host Olympic communities, is a latent, under-researched but vital and critical aspect of scholarship. Most event legacy analysis focuses on longer-term issues for residents, yet little research focuses on both local placed-based development challenges and small business sustainability and survival post-Games. More specifically, little research examines the potential relationship between event-led gentrification, associated rising rents and aforementioned clone town problematic. Revealing and amplifying the idiosyncratic local challenges generated through an in-depth empirically driven triangulation of key local business, policy, governmental and non-governmental perspectives, is a central contribution of this article missing from extant literatures. This paper considers different ways those responsible for event legacy, place managers and developers can combat such aforementioned post-Games challenges.
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Keywords: Clone town and urban blandscapes; Host community; Legacy; Place development; Small business sustainability; Sports mega-events

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Coventry Business School, Coventry University, Coventry, UK

Publication date: June 3, 2019

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