Impacts of the Olympic Games on Madrid Neighborhoods: Lavapiés Case Study

Imagine that the Olympic Games are going to be celebrated in Madrid in 2020. What effects could have this big event on Madrid neighborhoods? Madrid has a population of 3.237.937 people (Padrón 2012, INE) and it is composed by twenty one districts. Besides, each one of these districts consists of different neighborhoods. One of these neighborhoods is Lavapiés, officially called Embajadores, which belongs to Madrid’s “Centro” district.

Source: Dirección General de Estadística de Madrid

Lavapiés has a population of 48.477 (Padrón 2012, INE) residents and more than a 30% (Padrón 2012, INE) of these people are migrants. It has a population density of 490 persons/ha (Padrón 2012, INE). That is really big, because the average population density of the city of Madrid is around 54 persons/ha (Padrón 2012, INE). According to the housing market, more than 35% (Censo 2001, INE) of the houses are rented in the neighborhood. The importance of the rental market and cheaper prices than in the rest of the city center are some of the reasons that attract migrant people to Lavapiés. The most important problems of Lavapiés are the followings:

1. Street-dirt accumulation. Streets are generally dirty compared with other areas in Madrid. Nevertheless, I personally believe that this problem is not due to a lack of action by municipal cleaning services because they do their activity regularly.

2. Lack of public spaces, such as parks, squares, sport areas or playgrounds. This way, children don’t have a place where they can play safely and people cannot practice sport because there are not any areas prepared for doing this kind of activity. On the other hand, the few squares that exist are not designed to favor this use. For example, the square in the next photo is Cabestreros Square, one of the biggest squares in Lavapiés. However, it doesn’t have any green space or sport area.


Source: Ayuntamiento de Madrid

3. Housing quality. Houses are generally small, old and they are in bad conditions. About 65% (Censo 2001, INE) of the total dwellings of Lavapiés were built before 1920. On the other hand, only 7,4% (Censo 2001, INE) of the total houses in Madrid were constructed before this date. This way, people of high purchased power that used to live in the city center have moved to other areas with best housing quality in Madrid. As a result, there are more houses available for renting than in the rest of the city. Moreover, houses are generally overcrowded and that has provoked an increase in the use of public spaces in the neighborhood.

The celebration of the Olympic Games in Madrid would have a positive effect on Madrid neighborhoods, especially in Lavapiés. The problem that the Olympics would solve is the shortage of public spaces in the neighborhood. These sportive big events always have a big impact on cities transformation, because new infrastructures are built and these ones can be used by all the citizens. Therefore, more public spaces such as sport areas or green spaces would exist in Lavapiés due to the reorganization of urban space provoked by the Olympics. Moreover, these kinds of events tend to result in stronger citizenship feelings.

Madrid could take advantage of the Olympics celebration because this competition is not only addressed to the elites. The Olympics could drive sportive practices over the whole population. This way, citizens would feel part of the society by practicing sportive activities. For this reason, the transformation of Madrid’s public spaces is an essential step that should be taken by the local authorities. In Lavapiés’ case, these measures could improve the insertion of people on risk situation of local exclusion, such as immigrants or people of low purchased power. For instance, the Olympic Park of London 2012 was built in a low-income neighborhood in order to improve the situation of the population that lived in the area. However, London 2012 was not exempt from critics.

Thus, Madrid City Council could take some particular measures to increment the areas to practice sports in the neighborhood. For example:

Therefore, the celebration of the Olympic Games in Madrid could have a positive impact on the different neighborhoods, and particularly in Lavapiés. Some of its mains problems could be solve through the agenda of the Olympics’ for the above-mentioned reasons.


Ayuntamiento de Madrid: Área web de información estadística.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística: Censo 2001.

Instituto de Estadística de la Comunidad de Madrid.

Nomenclátor Oficial y Callejero de la Comunidad de Madrid:

Padrón 2002-2012 del Municipio de Madrid.

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