Can the (Para-) Olympics Make Cities Accessible?

Every Olympic Games seems to bring about so much controversy involving infrastructure and civic disruption. However, could the Olympics and corresponding Paralympics drive positive changes in their host cities to become more accessible communities for residents with disabilities?

Olympic Accessibility
In part due to the 2012 Olympics, London has made accessibility a top priority for the city’s expansive public transit system.

It’s costly to revamp a city for the Olympics, and not just in terms of money.  At present, the 2016 Olympics in Rio cost an estimated $15 billion U.S. (that number is set to increase over the next two decades) and required the forced evictions of hundreds/thousands of residents.

The bottom line is that the Olympics is a tale we hear time and time again: the guys at the top line their pockets and everyone else suffers the economic, political, physical and emotional consequences.

There are a lot of humanitarian reasons to not host the Olympics, but are there advantages to a city-wide Olympic makeover?

It was only in 1988 (Seoul, South Korea) that the world saw the Olympics and Paralympics hosted in the same city. And wasn’t until 2000 that there was an official agreement between the IOC and Paralympic Committee.

And today, making a city accessible for Paralympians and disabled civilians alike is a key component of securing a bid to host the Olympics. Just ask London.

London’s bid for the 2012 Olympic Games included a plan for integration of the Olympic and Paralympic games. In practice, this meant not only making the stadiums more accessible, but the city in general, especially the public transportation.

London came up with an eight-point plan to make itself accessible.

66 of London’s 270 tube stations were fitted with step-free access, while the above-ground Docklands Light Railway was fully accessible.

There is evidence (wheelchair ticket sales, pre-booked journeys, and increased lift usage) that suggests that many more people with disabilities were using London’s public transportation during the time of the games.

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