The nexus between mega-events’ sustainability and their local context: An exploration of concepts, plans, and projects in the 2002-2022 Winter Olympic Games



Mega-events, Olympic Games, Winter Olympic Games, Environmental Impacts




Over the past three decades, there has been a growing focus on the environmental impact of sport mega-events, prompting organizers to take corrective measures, as exemplified by initiatives such as the IOC Agenda 2020. Acknowledging that inadequately designed venues can have enduring local repercussions on the environment and landscape, particularly in the context of winter sports dependent on specific environmental conditions (e.g., mountainous areas, snow, frozen lakes), the paper explores the nexus between mega-events and their local contexts. Climate change further intensifies the challenges to sustaining mega-events like the Winter Olympics. While scholars and practitioners have made considerable efforts to develop models assessing the impacts of mega-events at various levels, from the overarching event to individual infrastructure projects, limited attention has been paid to the urban and regional contexts in which mega-events are hosted and projects are executed.

This paper introduces a theoretical framework aimed at enhancing our comprehension of the local context within mega-event planning, infrastructure development, and the resultant urban and regional effects, both positive and negative. Through an examination of the Winter Olympic Games spanning from Salt Lake 2002 to Beijing 2022, the study underscores the pivotal role of contextual features in planning practices. The findings emphasize the significance of considering urban and regional structures, strategies, and plans when hosting mega-events. In doing so, the paper not only contributes to theoretical insights but also offers practical policyrecommendations to enhance urban and regional planning practices, particularly in the context of Winter Olympic projects.

Author Biography

  • Prof. Davide Ponzini

    Department of Architecture and Urban Planning (DAStU) 

    Politecnico di Milano