Bidding for the Future: Toronto's 2008 Olympic Bid and the Regulation of Waterfront Land
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This research examines the process by which rights to public resources, including public land, were negotiated during the Olympic bidding process in one modern western city. Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid involved not only the framing of an important public symbol but also the shaping of symbolically significant space, the city’s waterfront. Toronto’s waterfront has always reflected a negotiation between large institutional interests and the voice of the local citizenry. The nature of this space and the implied right of the public to define and use this space has made the representation of urban public interest a matter of crucial significance. To examine the relationships between sport, space and symbols during the bidding process for the Olympic Games is to expose an ongoing ideological battle over the ownership of public land. When the development of a particular parcel of public land is said to be in the public interest, it suggests that city residents from a wide variety of publics have collaborated and developed a shared and agreed upon position about how that development should proceed. The process of adjudication that serves to legitimate the production of space and symbols is important because it has crucial implications for the production of urban order. This research demonstrates that the Olympic bidding process can be understood as a moment that fosters an articulation of social and cultural claims, that offers an opportunity for masses of citizens to mobilize, and that facilitates visions of progress. On the other hand, it can also be the occasion for the defeat of public interest.