Sports mega-events and inequality - why do we host them?
Sports mega-events such as the Olympic Games and football World Cup are increasingly viewed by national and local governments as good ways of stimulating economic growth through tourism and foreign investment. City and national governments spend vast amounts of capital on bidding procedures, promising rich economic rewards, employment generation, as well as stimulation of long-term economic growth. Yet, almost all of the published evidence shows that that few predicted benefits of mega-events ever materialise, whilst estimated costs of constructing stadiums and large-scale infrastructure projects are nearly always affected by massive cost overruns. Considering this evidence, many have questioned why governments want to host such events in the first place.
Often, when developing cities or nations wish to host a mega-event, the project is motivated by equity concerns. It may be argued that stimulated economic growth from the event will trigger wider processes of economic and social integration in cities, for example. This was certainly the case with the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa – the massive spending and preparations were justified by the objective of addressing the social and spatial inequalities of the apartheid past. But do the outcomes for the host communities ever match these promises?
With the 2012 Olympic Games and 2014 World Cup in Brazil around the corner, it would be highly relevant to reflect on the relationship between mega-events and inequality. The questions to guide this discussion are:
What are your experiences with mega-events and issues of inequity?
Are there any good policy examples of how mega-events can be used to promote equity?
What are some examples of groups and organizations that contest the assumed benefits of hosting mega-events?