4. Stakeholder and citizen participation

Stakeholder participation can enhance the delivery of infrastructure and associated services by supporting the identification of needs and promoting transparency (OECD, 2017[1]). Weak participation can reduce the perceived legitimacy of infrastructure projects and major events and negatively impact trust and shared ownership of planning and delivery (OECD, 2021[2]).

The OECD Recommendation on Open Government defines stakeholder participation as all the ways in which stakeholders can be involved in service design and delivery, including (OECD, 2017[3]):

  • Information: an initial level of participation characterised by a one-way relationship in which information is produced and delivered to stakeholders. It covers both on-demand provision of information and proactive measures to disseminate information.

  • Consultation: a more advanced level of participation that entails a two-way relationship in which stakeholders provide feedback. It is based on the prior definition of the issue for which views are being sought and requires the provision of relevant information, in addition to feedback on the outcomes of the process.

  • Engagement: when stakeholders are given the opportunity and the necessary resources (e.g. information, data and digital tools) to collaborate during all phases of service design and delivery.

While the Recommendation groups together citizens and any interested and/or affected party, the OECD’s Guidelines for Citizen Participation Processes make the following distinction when referring to these groups (OECD, 2022[4]):

  • Stakeholders: any interested and/or affected party, including institutions and organisations, whether governmental or non-governmental, from civil society, academia, the media or the private sector.

  • Citizens: individuals, meant in the larger sense of ‘an inhabitant of a particular place’, which can be in reference to a city, region, state, or country, and is not meant in the more restrictive sense of ‘a legally recognised national.

Citizen and stakeholder participation are not mutually exclusive and can often overlap. However, stakeholders and individual citizens require different conditions to participate and produce different inputs. For example, stakeholders can provide expertise and more specific input than citizens through mechanisms such as advisory bodies or experts’ panels, whereas citizen participation requires providing the public with time, information, and resources to produce quality inputs.

Stakeholder and citizen participation can also help to ensure that the benefits of hosting the Games are distributed equitably. The OECD Recommendation on Global Events and Local Development advises employment and skills strategies should be implemented to create local job opportunities and develop local residents’ skills. The Recommendation also advises that the design and planning of major events like the Games should consider how they can support gender equality and the inclusion of people with disabilities, as well as increase the labour market participation of disadvantaged groups (OECD, 2018[5]). Achieving these goals requires that relevant groups are included in the planning, decision making and oversight of infrastructure and associated services.

In the Games context, infrastructure stakeholders can include a diverse range of interested or affected parties, including the IOC, the National Olympic Committee, international sports federations, athletes, spectators, local and national governments, local communities and civic groups (e.g. residents, local businesses, activist groups, trade unions), media, sponsors and suppliers, (Chappelet, 2021[6]; Parent, 2013[7]). As outsourcing entities embedded in a complex institutional environment, OCOGs need strong relationships with stakeholders and citizens to ensure successful delivery (Parent, 2013[7]). This section examines risks related to OCOG’s engagement with stakeholders and citizens in the context of the procurement and delivery of Games infrastructure and associated services, with a specific focus on the following key challenges:

  • The number of stakeholders and the complexity of the stakeholder environment faced by OCOGs;

  • The risk that a lack of citizen participation will threaten public trust and engagement with the Games; and,

  • The risk that a failure to meaningfully engage with vulnerable communities will result in disproportionate impacts.

The OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Infrastructure highlights the need for an upfront stakeholder mapping and analysis to ensure engagement efforts are effective in including relevant groups in decision making. The diversity and number of Games stakeholders creates challenges for OCOGs, as these diverse stakeholders will necessarily have different and sometimes competing priorities. For example, in developing the Olympic Village, London 2012 faced challenges reconciling the priorities of developers focused on long-term use and legacy and the need to ensure Games operations were accommodated (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, 2013[8]).

In addition, for some infrastructure stakeholders, the full impact of the Games will only be realised years after the Games have finished and venues have transitioned to their long-term use. OCOGs must be aware of the diversity of stakeholder groups, who vary in the degree to which they need to be actively engaged in decision making and to which they may be positively or negatively impacted by the Games. OCOGs may have limited ability to modify scope and requirements specified in the host city contract (signed before the OCOG existed), as changes require time-consuming negotiations with other actors. This can be particularly challenging for OCOGs in the face of immovable deadlines and significant scrutiny of their expenditures.

Multiple stakeholders have a direct stake in the short- and long-term impacts of Games infrastructure delivery. From end-users and civil society organisations to sports federations to local residents, all require extensive engagement. For London 2012, the use of landmark settings, venues and locations across the region required extensive, long-term communication with businesses, residents, and service providers to ensure services such as traffic management, security, and transport could continue to operate (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, 2013[8]). Without a strong upfront understanding and analysis of relevant stakeholders, OCOGs will struggle to ensure engagement efforts are effective in informing and including relevant groups in decision making. If stakeholders are not properly identified and targeted, mechanisms to actively engage them during the planning and delivery stages can be fruitless.

Facilitating public access to information, open debate, and participation in planning is a precondition for good infrastructure governance. A lack of participation and transparency in the delivery of infrastructure and associated services can undermine public trust and citizen engagement with the Games. Successful Games rely on support from an engaged public, and failure to engage citizens and be transparent about Games delivery creates significant reputational and delivery risks. Late or insufficient stakeholder and citizen involvement can prevent the Games from achieving transformative and long-term impacts if end-users’ priorities are left out of the infrastructure planning and design process. Weak engagement during planning and design can reduce the scope of benefits from sport infrastructure, while proactively informing, consulting, and engaging with stakeholders and citizens at all stages can facilitate the incorporation of their perspectives and expertise (OECD, 2021[2]).

The OECD’s Principles of Good Practice for Public Communication Responses to Mis- and Disinformation highlight how changing media and information ecosystems provide unprecedented opportunities for engagement, while also presenting challenges related to the consumption and sharing of information. Communication technologies like social media platforms have amplified the volume and reach of mis- and disinformation about the impacts of infrastructure and about the Games more broadly. If it is not appropriately anticipated and countered, misleading or malicious content can work against OCOGs’ goals, undermining public trust and the OCOG’s legitimacy. OCOGs can seek to build capacity for proactive, responsive and effective public communication that provides factual information, fills information voids and counters mis- and disinformation. Interventions should be designed to reach all groups, delivered in plain language that is relevant and easily understood. Channels, messages and messengers should be appropriate for intended audiences, and communication initiatives conducted with respect for cultural and linguistic differences and with attention paid to reaching disengaged, underrepresented or marginalised groups (OECD, 2022[11]) (OECD, 2022[12]). By contrast, empowering citizens through participatory processes helps to build relationships based on mutual trust and prevent conflict situations that might arise from not taking into account needs of all relevant groups (OECD, 2022[4]).

A lack of transparency in the delivery of infrastructure and associated services risks undermining the Olympic Agenda 2020+5’s commitment to good governance, while transparency about success and failure supports accountability and promotes public engagement and trust. The OECD Recommendation on Global Events and Local Development stresses the importance of transparency throughout the event lifecycle (OECD, 2018[5]). It can be promoted during all phases of event delivery, as well as embedded in overarching governance structures, through transparent stakeholder consultation, procurement and tendering, supply chains, monitoring and reporting and decision-making processes.

Involving citizens supports the public’s understanding of outcomes and the legitimacy of decision making. OCOGs face challenging trade-offs between the objectives of delivering the Games within budget and providing an extraordinary experience, which often manifest in decisions about infrastructure and associated service levels. A lack of citizen participation can reduce the public’s ability to follow and understand the processes leading to these decisions, undermining the legitimacy of the hard choices inherent to Games delivery (OECD, 2022[4]). On a practical level, citizen support is central to the successful delivery of Games services, which rely heavily on large numbers of volunteers to perform critical roles. For example, Paris 2024 will mobilise 35 000 to 45 000 volunteers in six categories: greetings, orientation and assistance; operational support (sporting events); operational support (organisation); transport; medical services; and at ceremonies (Paris 2024 Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, n.d.[15]). Failing to meaningfully engage citizens in decision making can undermine the public trust and support OCOGs need to mobilise communities for successful delivery.

The OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Infrastructure emphasises the importance of considering the needs of users and impacted communities throughout the project life cycle, through the assessment, debate and oversight of economic, fiscal, environmental, and social impacts (OECD, 2020[16]). Without a clear vision to guide the integration of inclusiveness and diversity considerations during planning and delivery, there is a risk that the Games will not address the needs of Host Cities and fail to reach the goals of the Olympic Movement. Decisions will not respond to the needs of the entire population in an exclusive and sustainable way without a thorough needs assessment and participation process (OECD, 2021[2]).

OCOGs face the challenge of working with partners to quickly implement an extensive infrastructure programme while avoiding or appropriately mitigating the displacement of residents and businesses and associated human rights impacts (Heerdt, 2020[17]). They must also be careful to ensure that Games infrastructure and related development do not result in the exploitation of vulnerable communities, including impacts on archaeological and built heritage or on indigenous sacred sites and monuments (International Olympic Committee, 2021[18]). Lack of participation can lead to venues that are not useful to communities after the Games, or to missed opportunities for creative reuse.

Inadequate participation can also undermine OCOGs’ commitments to accessibility, particularly with respect to the Paralympic Games. Under the practice of “one bid, one city”, OCOGs are responsible for delivering both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the provision of venues scaled to the needs of the Paralympics. It is important to ensure infrastructure and associated services appropriately serve both events, and that services such as websites and apps, ticketing, and transport are accessible. For example, different mobility needs to be accommodated, both at Games sites and in accessing venues. This can be challenging in urban environments that may not be fully accessible, but where the OCOG has limited control outside of venues and other Games areas. If planning for the Paralympics is not integrated from the early stages of the Games and included at all levels of the OCOG’s organisation, OCOGs risk failing to deliver an accessible event or incurring additional costs to incorporate accessibility requirements late in the delivery process.

Failure to consider inclusiveness and diversity considerations in the procurement and delivery of infrastructure and associated services can also hinder the prevention and mitigation of risks specific to certain population groups. Failure to assess impacts on minority or under-represented populations, and to incorporate these considerations in areas such as technical specifications or sourcing strategies, can threaten an equal and fair distribution of the benefits of the Games. This is particularly true of marginalised communities such as migrant workers, people with disabilities, minorities, the less affluent, and LGTBQI+ people, who may have less access to decision makers. Local communities negatively impacted by a project often mobilize to ensure their interests are protected (Denicol, Davies and Krystallis, 2020[20]), creating additional challenges for OCOGs. Involving citizen through targeted outreach and meaningful opportunities to contribute to decision making can improve the social sustainability of infrastructure projects by helping ensure that all voices are taken into account.

The Olympic Movement aims to support sustainable development, and opportunities for businesses led by under-represented groups in the delivery of infrastructure-related services can play a significant role in achieving those goals. However, without early development and engagement with these stakeholders, the success of these measures can be put at risk. Businesses led by people from marginalized or under-represented groups can be smaller and less experienced, and may struggle to respond to large and complex tender processes, while it can be challenging for OCOGs and their sub-contractors to shift procurement from known and regular suppliers with extensive experience, particularly given the time pressures of the Games. SMEs are often unable to compete for or deliver large or comprehensive contracts, and OCOGs should be conscious of the risks of developing uniformly large work packages, whether for infrastructure or associated services.

To maximise stakeholder and citizen participation, OCOGs can take advantage of a range of existing policies, tools and good practices from the world of sport and from broader infrastructure governance practice. These resources provide opportunities for OCOGs to assess their current practices and approaches, inform the development of their own strategies and policies, and serve as examples of good practice.

Many of these external tools do not pertain directly to sport, however, could be useful to organisers of large-scale international sporting events as they detail relevant public procurement roles and functions. They have been selected on their pertinence, quality and usefulness in enabling stakeholder and citizen participation. Table 4.2 outlines mechanisms that can be used to enhance citizen participation by integrating them into the planning process, stakeholder engagement with private partners and creating platforms to support active participation from all those who may be impacted by projects.


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