Rio-London: Knowledge Exchange Scoping Paper

Coming from the recent PODIUM Knowledge Exchange visit by a number of representatives from FE and HE institutions in the UK to Rio, John Lock, the director of UEL’s 2012 Office, has written a scoping paper outlining the ways in which knowledge exchange activities between the two Olympic cities – London and Rio, may be achieved.


This note sets out a summary rationale for developing knowledge exchange between UK further and higher education institutions (FE/HE), peer organisations in Brazil and bodies involved in the organisation of the Rio 2016 Olympic & Paralympic Games and subsequent Legacy activity.   It identifies issues to be considered.

In previous Games, FE and HE institutions have sometimes been central to pre-Games organisation, Games-time delivery and preparations for Legacy, sometimes not.  They are generally more likely to have acted regionally, in relation to proximity to the Games, eg New South Wales TAFE and the Sydney Games, rather than systemically.  This changed with the 2012 Games for which a dedicated national unit, Podium, was established[1].   Podium is the UK’s national unit responsible for engagement of FE and HE in all relevant aspects of the London 2012 Games.  Its university and college members across the UK are in different ways playing roles critical to the success of the London 2012, individually and also jointly through actions coordinated by Podium or associations such as British Universities & Colleges Sports[2].

With this innovation, the London Games mark a significant departure in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

London and the Rio Games

All Games are different.   However, there are parallels between Games.  They all redevelop a large area within or next to a major city.  They all announce something to the world particular to that city and its nation.  They all confer a sense of global belonging on the host city and nation.  The Games are not just the world’s largest peacetime event, they are in a sense the world’s largest rite of passage.

For Rio 2016, it is understood that the aim is for Brazil to be recognised globally as a modern, developed country.  The impacts of the Rio Games should add impetus to the aim of ensuring that an increasing proportion of Brazil’s population is part of that success, socially and economically.  The 2016 Games intend to use education and sport to increase economic participation and narrow social gaps.  They aim to give a major boost to the development of Rio de Janeiro as one of the world’s great cities and hence also to the identity of Brazil.

In this, there are parallels with London.  In the modern Olympic movement, the 1992 Barcelona Games are recognised as a step change in terms of a planned, long-term connection between the Games and subsequent Legacy and city development.  The London 2012 Games will be a similar scale of milestone in the extent to which Legacy planning has been central to whole Games project in the UK.

This primary non-sport justification for the London Games is the transformation of east London, historically the biggest cluster of (relative) poverty and deprivation in the UK.  The London Games will add great impetus to a long-term process of regeneration, development and city-scale place-making whose ultimate goal is to enable London’s expansion as a leading 21st century ‘world city’ – the city of all most like the world in its diversity and where the world comes to do business.

For this to succeed, the inclusion of east London into the modern mainstream of economic and social life is essential – a process referred to as ‘convergence’ (the term agreed by UK national, London and local government).  The ‘host boroughs’ in east London, which are immediately adjacent to the Olympic Park and other main venues, have worked in partnership to ensure the generation of direct local benefit to residents from the Games[3]. This local collaboration within a host city is innovative and replicable.  There is also active participation of local universities and colleges in this work as well as sports and health bodies, for example.

To read the full scoping report – please click here.

[1] See

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