It can be appealing to city officials and residents to host the Olympics and leverage the opportunity to address community needs at an accelerated rate. Infrastructure is often a major investment for host cities. It’s also the foundation on which communities live, work and play.

In 2028, Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics. As host, LA plans to focus on what it has, not what it’s going to build. The city’s infrastructure plan for the games strikes a balance between revitalizing or capitalizing on existing infrastructure to address the needs of the community and expanding infrastructure required to handle the sudden temporary influx of people for the games. LA is taking a page from its experience hosting the 1984 Olympics, when it turned a profit by relying on existing infrastructure.

Planning With the Community 

In order to host a sustainable Olympics, or any new infrastructure project for that matter, one must first engage with the communities that make up the broader region to understand what stakeholders need and value to improve their quality of life. Past Olympic host cities have spent billions of dollars on infrastructure that ends up unutilized or underutilized after the games, leaving the community in a worse economic and social position than it started, according to Global News. A host’s investment in infrastructure and the Olympic Games should be driven by those who will be impacted by it most and use it beyond the three-week international sports contest, to achieve a positive long-term legacy.

Communities most affected by infrastructure updates should be a part of planning and design conversations. A key part of stakeholder management is the public outreach strategy, which, when carefully crafted can give all communities a chance to have a voice. It’s also important to make sure there is equitable investment in communities, particularly the most vulnerable communities.

Building for a Resilient Future

Residents of California are acutely aware of the severe effects of climate change; therefore, it’s essential to put sustainability and climate change at the forefront of Olympics planning. Host cities should consider the carbon footprint of the games, as well as how the weather — such as extreme heat or flooding — could impact the games themselves. Infrastructure should be built with long-lasting materials, and a maintenance plan should be accounted for in the design process.

LA is in the throes of a massive transit buildout that will provide long-term benefits to the city and help shuttle visitors from around the world to every corner of the region for the Olympics. Over the next several years, projects across LA will work to ease traffic congestion, expand rail lines, increase accessibility to public transportation and improve neighborhood streets. These efforts will likely create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, generate local economic benefits and increase the overall quality of life for residents and guests of the region.

As LA works to revolutionize its transportation system it must consider how rapidly the climate is changing so that the infrastructure is resilient enough to last beyond 2028.

Design standards drive the future of our infrastructure. With a focus on resiliency standards, infrastructure can continue to be the economic backbone for growth, no matter what.

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Melissa Elder manages complex infrastructure projects from initiation to closure and coordinated a variety of fieldwork. As an environmental engineer, her technical expertise focuses on permitting, reporting, and operation and maintenance of remediation systems at sites with petroleum hydrocarbons and sustainability reporting.