London 2012: ‘Legacy’ as a Trojan Horse

Keywords: London 2012, Legacy, Community, Culture


This paper is a critical analysis of the urban geographies of London 2012, the so-called Regeneration Games. London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics on the basis that existing communities and cultures of East London would profit from urban regeneration; the promise of ‘local legacy’. Using the analogy of the Trojan horse, we demonstrate that the benevolent empty signifier ‘legacy’ disguises the politically dubious aspects of mega-event and strategic planning, especially its controversial aspects such as escalating costs, privatisation and displacement. We zoom in on 3 empirical cases – a rowing club, cultural hub, and festival – in the neighbourhood Hackney Wick Fish Island in East London to demonstrate that there was (and remains) a disconnect between the rhetoric of politicians and Olympic planners, who promised both citywide and local ‘legacy’, and the actual legacies (after-effects) of the Olympics. With a focus on the process, construction, or making of legacy within the local context, our analysis reveals that Olympic planning creates irresolvable contradictions in scale, which cannot be resolved in favour of existing communities. The alignment of Olympic planning with neoliberal spatial practices means that neighbourhood needs can never truly be met.

Author Biographies

Francesca Weber-Newth, Humboldt University of Berlin


Cultural and Social Geography Department

Sebastian Schlüter, Humboldt University of Berlin
Cultural and Social Geography Department
Ilse Helbrecht, Humboldt University of Berlin


Cultural and Social Geography Department

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