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The regeneration games: purity and security in the Olympic city




This paper examines the wider social impacts of hosting the London 2012 Olympic Games and its ‘legacy’ ambitions in East London, emphasizing securitization as an inbuilt feature of the urban regeneration project. Drawing on extensive original empirical research, the paper analyses the modalities of Olympic safety and security practices within the Olympic Park itself and their wider impact, while also connecting this research to theorization and debates in urban sociology and criminology. In this complex setting, a raft of formal and informal, often subtle, regulatory mechanisms have emerged, especially as visions of social ordering focused on ‘cleansing’ and ‘purifying’ have ‘leaked out’ from the hyper-securitized ‘sterilized’ environment of the Olympic Park and become embedded within the Olympic neighbourhood. In such complex circumstances, applying Douglas' (1966) work on purity and danger to the spatial realm provides a key conceptual framework to understand the form and impact of such processes. The imposition of order can be seen to not only perform ‘cleansing’ functions, but also articulate multiple symbolic, expressive and instrumental roles.