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Title: Olympic territorialisation, shocks, and event impacts : small businesses and London's 'Last Mile' spaces
Author: Duignan, Michael B.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 5782
Awarding Body: Anglia Ruskin University
Current Institution: Anglia Ruskin University
Date of Award: 2016
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Mega-events greatly impact up on their host cities. This is particularly so when we look at the socio-economic, trade, tourism and commercial opportunities, and the recognised intense challenges such interventions pose for existing small business communities situated at the heart of regeneration efforts and Games execution. Although studies around ‘community impact’ feature across the literature, these specific spaces, and the complex effects upon adjoining small business communities, have been somewhat neglected. Arguably, whilst host communities often form hoped-for beneficiaries of project intervention - particularly during bidding and prior to hosting Games discourse and policy rhetoric - as the project draws closer to the Opening Ceremony, large flagship urban projects, like the Olympics, can often lose sight of their initial, virtuous aims. Host communities can be conceived as becoming invisible, somewhat depoliticised, and ignored in the melee of the neoliberal city. How best to re-distribute Games-related benefits, conceptually and practically speaking is thus a critical and strategic position across this thesis. The thesis presents four core research objectives: 1. an in-depth analysis of how host community small firms were impacted by the London 2012 Games - specifically those directly affected by project delivery across ‘Last Mile’ spaces. This is complemented by a critical examination of how and why tourism and trade was affected across host communities, and the specific effects this had on local consumption practices during the live Games phases. 2. Critical analysis of how and why host spaces became subject to intense territorialisation, being converted into a major project tool, resource and commodity to the detriment of existing small firms. 3. Potential small business legacies in light of concerns around on-going gentrification and risks of the clone town effect. And finally objective 4. draws on the main findings of the first three objectives to identify key lessons learnt and recommends a series of practical ways project actors, business support organisations and small firms themselves can better re-distribute Games-related benefits. The thesis presents a case study of the London 2012 Games, specifically focused on bounded spaces of the ‘Last Mile’ and HEZs’, inductive and exploratory in nature. It provides an in-depth, stakeholder informed, empirically driven qualitative analysis of the retrospective experiences of four key stakeholder groups. These include forty-three in-depth interviews conducted between 2013 – 2015 including: i) small firms impacted across the Last Mile of Central Greenwich, ii) official Olympic Borough local authorities and business engagement officers, iii) regional and national business support organisations (e.g. Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), London Chamber of Commerce), to iv) key project actors and governmental bodies at city and national level (e.g. Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), House of Lords). Comprehensive analyses of over 30 major policy documents released from 2005 – 2015 and a series of documentary, archival and media reports supplement evidence used across the findings and analysis of this thesis. The research sits within the sociology of radical change, invoking a radical humanist and critical theorist position. Findings illuminate the systematic negative impacts, major challenges and exclusionary environments small businesses can face throughout all phases of project delivery, specifically immediately before and during Games delivery. Analysis presented across the thesis, including the ‘SmallBizImpacts’ mapping, illustrates how the Games can disrupt existing host business environments and thus reduce the competitiveness of small firm performance and survival. Although small firms were promised lucrative opportunities to seize Olympic trade, event visitation and tourism, access to these event-related benefits was limited. During what should have been a thriving summer period for the heritage and artisan Last Mile topology of Central Greenwich and beyond, a range of negative tourism impacts emerge amongst some of the many factors contributing to what this thesis terms the ‘anti-tourism perfect storm’. This new contributory conceptualisation illuminates the intense accumulation of negative tourism factors that led to the extreme absence of Olympic tourism trade in the visitor economy. Findings reveal a series of major dichotomies between ‘rhetoric’ and ‘reality’ and amplifies the plight, disappointment and local narratives of feeling lied to and deceived by the practices of London’s grand project. Given these challenges, the research found small firms making deterritorialisation attempts to emancipate themselves in order to negate the established negative challenges. This illuminates, in significant detail, the reasons why and the specific methods with which the community fought back, demanding consideration of a plurality of interests and alternative narratives. It is in light of this, and the learning of this study, that the thesis constructs a ‘Manifesto for Resistance and Effective Leverage’ to illustrate ways small firms can mobilise, amplify and better access the very benefits initially hoped-for, and projected onto, host communities in order to re-distribute Games-related opportunities more effectively. With respect to local legacies, the findings reveal potential gentrification effects, shifting business demographics away from independent artisan high streets toward corporate chains. This illustrates pervasive concern over the clone town effect and the continued homogenisation and corporatisation of central urban areas, which present a dangerous future for the survival and competitiveness of local traders as we move further into the enigmatic legacy phase. As an antidote to the ‘fast’ form of Olympic tourism, the thesis considers how future mega-events can foster a deeper connectivity between event ‘visitor’ and host ‘place’. A major part of achieving this is to consider ways to de-securitise host spaces to allow greater flows of event visitors into host communities, whilst still maintaining a safe, secure event experience. The thesis provides a set of practical recommendations to empower local communities and help re-distribute benefits. A key issue is how small businesses themselves can develop consortiums and forums to help restore power imbalances and collaboratively enhance their political positions and business propositions to access event-opportunities. The thesis also calls for future mega-event policy to be developed with ‘social justice’ as a core narrative.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available