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Open AccessArticle

Coping with a Self-Induced Shock: The Heterarchic Organization of the London Olympic Games 2012

Urban and Regional Economic Studies, HafenCity University of Hamburg, Überseeallee 16, D-20457 Hamburg, Germany
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Soc. Sci. 2014, 3(3), 527-548; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci3030527
Received: 4 May 2014 / Revised: 12 August 2014 / Accepted: 26 August 2014 / Published: 11 September 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Constructing Resilience, Negotiating Vulnerability)
This paper starts from the assumption of a structural analogy between mega-events and large-scale disasters. Both imply forceful interruptions of everyday routines, and both involve imperatives for imminent action. Similar to the immovable deadline of an opening ceremony, a looming natural disaster triggers a complex set of precautions and preparations to cope with the inescapable forthcoming shock. In the case of mega-events, of course, this shock is self-induced. In fact, cities fiercely compete to host mega-events. In the face of the daunting challenges of hosting a mega-event—the immovable timeframe, the rigorous standards set by regulatory bodies, and the exceptional public visibility—the authorities and organizations in charge traditionally have resorted to strategies of a strict adaptation to the conditions imposed on them. Aligning all available resources and capabilities to match the foreseeable demands, however, undermines the adaptability to cope with unpredictable perturbations. This paper seeks to explore the strategies and practices to attain adaptability during the preparation, staging and implementation of legacy plans of a mega-event with an evidentially noteworthy record: the London Olympic Games 2012. The paper seeks to demonstrate that the project ecology in charge managed to enhance adaptability by implementing three key features of heterarchy: ambiguity, redundancy and loose coupling. By leveraging the principles of heterarchy, the project ecology was able to draw lessons from previous mega-events and both to anticipate and respond to unforeseen challenges. View Full-Text
Keywords: adaptability; heterarchy; project organizations; Olympic Games; London; high reliability; mega-events; urban development adaptability; heterarchy; project organizations; Olympic Games; London; high reliability; mega-events; urban development
MDPI and ACS Style

Grabher, G.; Thiel, J. Coping with a Self-Induced Shock: The Heterarchic Organization of the London Olympic Games 2012. Soc. Sci. 2014, 3, 527-548.

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