SPDC’s Wilson & Kassens-Noor co-teach MOOC about Mega Event Planning & the Sochi Winter Games

From Jan. 27-March 1 two professors in the MSU School of Planning, Design & Construction’s Urban & Regional Planning Program and one professor from the MSU Libraries, co-taught a course that took participants inside the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

From Jan. 27-March 1 two professors in the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction’s (SPDC) Urban & Regional Planning (URP) Program and one professor from the MSU Libraries, co-taught an interactive Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, that took participants inside the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The course consisted of five modules, each focusing on a different aspect of the Games. Participants were also encouraged to share their thoughts on the Games using social media, as the sporting events took place.

The course, Mega Events: Inside the Winter Olympics, was taught by Mark Wilson, URP professor and director of SPDC Global; Eva Kassens-Noor, assistant professor for URP and the MSU Global Urban Studies Program; and Lisa Robinson, head of metadata management for the MSU Libraries.

The SPDC Communications sat down with Wilson and Kassens-Noor to find out more about why they wanted to co-teach the MOOC and how it relates to the topic of planning.

Why did you want to host a MOOC on mega events and the Winter Olympics?
They told us that they put the MOOC together with the goal of getting people to think more deeply about the Olympics, and to give participants a chance to share their thoughts about the Games with a global audience, as the events occur. They wished to use the course to connect to anyone interested in mega events, as well as MSU alumni, as the event was free, and sports are a passion shared by many.

After the success of the Winter Olympics MOOC, the course faculty will be offering a smiliar course on the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil in June and July. The faculty hope to make the Mega Events MOOC Series a regular feature of SPDCs academic outreach with future courses on the upcoming World Expos and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

What sparked your interested in researching mega event planning?
Between the two of them, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Kassens-Noor have studied 22 mega events, ranging from the Olympics to World Cups to Tours de France to World Expos. The two came into mega event planning very differently. Where Dr. Kassens-Noor simply combined her passions for sports and research with planning experience at recent Olympics, Dr. Wilson was part of the team at the United States Pavilion at the 1993 World Exposition, and has remained in the mega event field since.

So why is researching mega events important?
While mega events draw record-levels of media attention worldwide as they occur, that attention rapidly fades once the athletes leave the venues. Both Dr. Wilson and Dr. Kassens-Noor find that not nearly enough attention is paid to the legacies that are left behind by mega events. They are all-consuming in the run up to the events, each trying to outdo its predecessor, but all that dedication disappears all too quickly.

Many host cities use mega events as opportunities for major construction projects that are not directly tied to the games or events that they are related to. For example, Shanghai (China) constructed two metro lines in the City when they hosted the 2010 World’s Fair.

Dr. Kassens-Noor identified the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, as the most successful as far as legacies go. The Games brought about much needed revitalization of previously neglected parts of the City.

Both she and Dr. Wilson agree that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, had the worst environmental impact of the events they have studied thus far. The venue was set up in two locations, one by the Black Sea in the City of Sochi, and a second in the nearby mountains. The second location also happens to be an UNESCO World Heritage Site, upon which the construction of a ski resort has had a considerable negative impact. Sochi is hoping to become a winter tourism destination with the ski resort they built for the Olympics.

Drs. Wilson and Kassens-Noor wish to use this course to bring greater attention to the legacies of mega events and, in this case, the Winter Games. While Barcelona successfully leveraged the boost the City received from hosting the Olympics, Athens, Greece, failed to capitalize on the mega event. The venues built for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games now lie mostly abandoned. The most drastic example, perhaps, is the legacy of the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Skiers last used the jumps during the Games, but today, due to civil war and neglect, the venues are now littered with land mines and the buildings are in a state of collapse.

The Winter Olympics MOOC ended with more than 950 participants from around the world, as well as showing how SPDC and MSU expertise can be applied to current planning challenges for mega events. The course faculty are excited about the level of attention that the MOOC has received, Dr. Kassens-Noor advises anyone interested in the field to “sign up!” Learn more about mega event planning and research at Mega Event Planning.


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