David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


Over determined spaces: From Live Sites to Olympic Venues

Working alongside my colleague Matt Frew (aka @graffiticloud) on Olympic Live Site research (www.researchinglivesites.net) I’ve been in London for two days now wandering around Olympic venues and experiencing the Live Sites and Celebration events that are part of the Host City Contract for the Games. In this short blog post I want to rehearse some of our initial thoughts on the socio-spatial dimensions of the consumer experience of London 2012.

First, it’s worth thinking about the idea of ‘produced space’ around London for the Games. It’s clear that detailed transport planning has taken place to ensure that the way visitors experience the city is structured around certain routes and the Olympic venue corridors. Sponsors ‘own’ the advertising hoardings along these defined routes, representing valuable real estate in return for their considerable investment. My customer journey is prescribed where possible offering a narrowly defined gaze directed for the activation of the Olympic brand family.

Of course, we’re told that is the ‘cost’ we need to bear in order to host the Olympics in the first place and there are other, less corporate, ways of consuming the Games in public spaces open to anyone, free of charge. These are the Live Sites. Free, though ticketed, held in public parks and other civic spaces. Spaces where those without tickets can congregate, watch events and attend pop culture events collectively. We’ve been in these spaces for the last day of two and here are some thoughts:

1. These spaces are like any music festival – you can’t bring your own food, drink, unofficial merchandise, video cameras and numerous other things. Justified on the basis of security (important) the effect is to reduce freedom and fluidity in experiencing these celebrations. These sites are essentially additional venues controlled by the sponsor family for profit maximisation.

2. The Potters Field live site is more informal, relaxed, accessible and ‘public’. The community live sites across the south of England are even more accessible, open to local people and devoid of sponsor priorities.

3. When linked to the wider issues surrounding viewing the Olympics (ticketing, etc), there is a sense that people want to congregate and experience the atmosphere of the event but the Olympic Park experience is disappointing people. We’ve spoken with lots of people who want to enter the park, see the venues and watch events on the Park Live screens but access is restricted, only limited tickets are available and disappointment abounds. When we watch television and see the empty seats in stadia but can’t even enter the space to gaze upon the iconic architecture then we wonder whether the discourse of securitisation justifies the over-determination of space which is occurring.

There’s lots more to come of our Live Site research over the course of the next few days. To participate, tag your tweets or photos #livesites or comment on this blog post.


David McGillivray • July 29, 2012

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