RAND Europe Study Says Evidence-Based Planning Will Be Critical to a Successful 2012 London Olympics

For Release

November 28, 2007

Planning a successful Olympics in London in 2012 will require organizers to learn from the successes and problems of past games in the areas of transportation, infrastructure and security, according to a report issued today by the RAND Corporation.

Researchers from RAND Europe analyzed 13 policy areas that will be critical to the London games and outlined a research agenda for transport and infrastructure, as well as a method for evaluating complex security needs.

"A successful Olympic Games not only depends on athletic excellence but also on the quality of decision and policy making relevant to the planning, delivery and legacy of the event. Our report offers planners and policy makers innovative methodologies and an evidence base on which to make more informed decisions leading to the success of London 2012," said Jonathan Grant, president of RAND Europe.

Researchers say hosting the Olympic Games has a lot more riding on it than the completion of a series of athletic competitions involving athletes from all around the world. Host cities also have a number of “legacy” aspirations, or goals for outcomes that will last beyond the actual games, from increased tourism to revitalized urban development to enduring employment gains.

London has set the bar particularly high, with organizers pledging to use the Olympic Games to promote better public health, encourage more citizens to volunteer and become part of their community, and develop lasting employment, tourism and economic benefits. Organizers also hope to revitalize part of East London as well as make the 2012 games the “greenest” and most environmentally sustainable games ever.

Unfortunately, a look at past Olympic Games shows most cities have a mixed track record. Lillehammer failed to achieve projected tourism levels after the 1994 Winter Olympics and Sydney continues to have difficulty filling its Stadium Australia, built for the 2000 Summer Olympics. But Atlanta befitted from urban regeneration after the 1996 Summer Olympics, and Athens reaped a greatly improved transportation structure after the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Building new infrastructure for the games may be the easy part of preparing for an Olympics; the difficult part is making sure the facilities work well during the games, and are still useful after the games are finished, according to the report. A look at past Olympics finds numerous examples of planners creating beautiful areas for the games, only to displace the original occupants entirely when they are priced out of the area.

Estimates are that the London transportation networks will have to move 55,000 athletes, officials and media, 500,000 spectators and 120,000 staff and volunteers each day — all in addition to the usual traffic on the networks. The development of an effective transportation strategy for an event of this magnitude depends on the development of rigorous and reliable travel demand models that are behaviourally realistic and accurate. The RAND report discusses relevant travel demand modelling methodologies and provides guidelines for planning agencies.

Security for the London Olympic Games will be a key issue, said Lindsay Clutterbuck, research leader, defense and security team for RAND Europe.

“The world spotlight is increasingly going to be on London as 2012 approaches and disruptive elements may try to take advantage of this to get their message across,” Clutterbuck said. “Security planners must anticipate and prepare for a wide variety of potential threats. Criminals may try to take advantage of the police focus on the games, protestors might mount demonstrations or terrorists may try to carry out an attack.”

RAND's dynamic modelling techniques can evaluate the different security environments that may exist during an event several years in the future. The model separates the characteristics into three dimensions — adversary hostile intent, adversary operational capacity and potential domestic/international influences. It also can be used to evaluate the utility of security responses within each environment.

The report draws on the cross-disciplinary talents of RAND Europe researchers to develop a planning tool that looks at the games from a myriad of angles — not just how to meet transportation and crowd control, but how those goals mesh with security concerns, environmental issues and promoting public health.

Based in Cambridge, U.K., RAND Europe continues the RAND tradition of problem-solving through objective research and analysis to address challenges facing many European countries. Much of this research is carried out on behalf of public and private clients; RAND Europe also reinvests the proceeds of its client work along with philanthropic support to underwrite work in the public interest that otherwise might not receive funding. This study was funded by RAND Corporation investment funding.

The authors of the study include Lindsay Clutterbuck, Edward Nason, Ruth Levitt, Lisa Klauser, Michael Hallsworth, Lila Rabinovich, Samir Puri, Greg Hannah, Aruna Sivakumar, Flavia Tsang, Peter Burge and Cameron Munro, all of RAND Europe.

The report, “Setting the Agenda for an Evidence-based Olympics,” is available at www.rand.org.

About RAND

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