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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

An Analysis of Sustainability in Major International Sports Events: Case Study on the London Olympics

Priti Nigam

An Analysis of Sustainability in Major International Sports Events: Case Study on the London Olympics

Sports events are marked by their short-lived occurrence and can take a number of forms, from football tournaments to car races, from the Commonwealth Games to the Olympics. However, the feature that they all have in common is that these events have a considerable impact on the environmental, economic and social structure of the host city.  Due to almost a decade of preparation preceding a major international sports event, these are characterised by considerable social impacts in the form of increased housing prices, gentrification, mass evictions; economic impacts including increased marketability of the region, improved infrastructure, increased foreign investment and tourism and high cost of maintenance of venues and infrastructure; and environmental impacts including loss of biodiversity, pollution, impacts arising from influx of large crowds and energy and waste management. While the obvious contradictions between sustainable development and hosting major international sports events do pose challenges, these events can create an opportunity for governments to implement sustainable development policies within the national agenda. This report showcases various impacts of sports events, and studies four major international sports events in detail: the Olympic Games in London (2012) and Sydney (2000); The Commonwealth Games in Delhi (2010) and the World Cup in South Africa (2010). Each of these four events has been studied in terms of their contribution to sustainable development (SD), and to what extent SD has been incorporated into operating procedures and policies of these events. A historical comparison of the progress made since Sydney, and to what extent London, Delhi and South Africa (SA) have incorporated lessons learnt from Sydney has also been discussed, in addition to the issue of housing and gentrification with relation to sports events. The report culminates in a set of recommendations based on the information gained from research on the four international sports events studied in this report.

Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.