- Prof. Dr. Eleni Theodoraki
- Prof. Dr. Iain MacRury
The rationale for this Special Issue is to contribute to knowledge with a collection of papers on socio-cultural outcomes and impacts as effects of mega-events on host communities from a multidisciplinary perspective. We will explore the methodological and conceptual challenges such work poses, and showcase opportunities and efforts for mitigating the unsustainable aspects of mega-event policies and practices.
Mega-events such as the Olympics, the World Cup and EXPOs have numerous socio-cultural outcomes and multidimensional longer-term impacts on the host country and local communities. Bids to host such events are hinged on the achievement of improvements in social life. The events’ hosting is often experienced like a once-in-a-lifetime social occasion for celebration and as active participation in a great spectacle. Such events often live on in cultural memory, and there is a continuing reframing and positioning of their meaning and identity in the fabric of the city and in digital memorialising. Despite the general appeal of mega-events, their effects are perceived differently by affected individuals and groups. The perceptions of these effects also vary in nature during each event stage in the lifecycle (the bid, the planning, the hosting and after the event). Even failed, postponed or cancelled events are believed to have legacies.
Mega-sport event owners such as the IOC and FIFA and local host governments are vested in creating a positive reputation and local support for the event, and this leads to the circulation of positive ex ante literature often written by consultants that shows the event preparations and promises in a good light. Such reports are omnipresent at the bid and sometimes planning phase in the mega-event lifecycle. Ex post-academic studies, on the other hand, focus on specific aspects of events’ effects, making it difficult to obtain a holistic picture.
Overall, there is evidence of a burgeoning-but-fragmented body of academic work in the area, with studies focusing on specific host cities and geopolitical contexts around the world. There are also some useful meta-analyses and meta-interpretations of studies that offer a broader picture. It may be argued that there are four main reasons why the evaluation of mega-event effects is challenging. First, there is the elusive nature of the concepts of outcomes, impacts and legacies as events’ effects. Second, the methodological task of finding any meaningful causal link between the event and its effects is very demanding. Thirdly, there are the vested interests of the various stakeholders involved with the event—notably, owners, global businesses and politicians—that often lead to exercises of control of the narratives regarding the events’ socio/cultural effects on host communities. Finally, mega-events’ preparations and hosting processes have the potential to capture people’s imagination, instil national pride and foster a sense of possibility for a better future. Such feelings of euphoria can lead to the silencing of dissenting voices.
Despite the challenges of evaluation, there is agreement among stakeholders’ views reported in the literature that mega-events have shown to be able to change the host city and country significantly, for better or worse, at various points in their lifecycles. The need to understand such social effects has never been greater. COVID-19 is threatening the mega-event dogma of big groups of people physically attending and participating in events. At the same time, the technological revolution has promise for virtual spectators’ engagement with mega-event experiences. E-sport mega-events and virtual spectacles may soon become part of future event portfolios. Now, there is an opportunity for cities and governance networks that are considering hosting a mega-event to rethink and influence the status quo. Likewise, mega-event owners are having to adapt to the current context by reshaping the events to make them COVID-19 safe and future proof. This may also lead to improvements in the social footprints of future events. Calls for phronesis or moral wisdom are already prominent in the debate on the utility of mega-events.
With this call, we invite papers addressing the social-issue theme of the effects of mega-events on host communities. Papers drawing from all disciplines, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary work, are welcome. The aim of the Special Issue is to extend the academic dialogue and debate on the topic and address the knowledge needs of those involved in planning for and managing such mega-events.
Flyvbjerg, B. (2017). Introduction: The Iron Law of Megaproject Management. In B. Flyvbjerg, (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Megaproject Management (pp. 1-18). Oxford University Press.
Flyvbjerg, B., Budzier, A., & Lunn, D. (2020). Regression to the tail: Why the Olympics blow up. Environment and Planning. A, 308518.
Theodoraki, E. (2016). The problem with sporting mega-event impact assessment. In International, T. (Ed.), Global Corruption Report: Sport. (pp. 143-151). London: Routledge.
Roche, M. (2008). Putting the London 2012 Olympics into perspective: The challenge of understanding mega-events. Twenty-first Century Society, 3(3), 285-290.
Roche, M. (2018). Mega-events and social change: Spectacle, legacy, and public culture (Globalizing sport studies). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Roche, M. (2016). Mega-events, Time, and Modernity. Time & Society, 12(1), 99-126.
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- FIFA World Cup