Geography Compass

Olympic Legacies: Branding the London 2012 Olympic Games

Sarah Mills

The official mascots of the London 2012 Olympic Games were unveiled this week.  Wenlock and Mandeville are animated characters who are supposed to be fashioned out of the last two blobs of metal during production of the Olympic Stadium frame at a factory in Bolton.  In their accompanying story, written by children’s author Michael Morpurgo, they are brought to life by a retired factory worker and embark on a journey to London.  The decision to choose these mascots over others (including an animated Big Ben and pigeons from Trafalgar Square) raises questions over whom or what represents the UK.  It is also an example of how branding and marketing (mascots, logos) are used to promote and remember both the Olympics and host cities.

In Geography Compass, John R. Gold and Margaret M. Gold examine the implications and significance of being an Olympic city.  The concept of urban regeneration here is crucial, as they note that “Winning the right to host the Olympic Games is widely regarded as the most significant prize on offer in the never-ending contest between the world’s leading cities for prestige and investment.”  The authors illustrate their discussion through the example of London’s East End – the site for the Olympic Park in 2012 – and the notion of ‘legacy’, a powerful metonym for the way in which Olympic games are discussed and judged in terms of ambition and success.

Read John R. Gold and Margaret M. Gold (2008) ‘Olympic Cities: Regeneration, City Rebranding and Changing Urban Agendas’, Geography Compass, 2 (1): 300-318

 Read The Guardian news story on the unveiling of the official mascots.

 Watch the story of Wenlock and Mandeville on the official London 2012 website:

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