Challenging the SD benefits attributed to sport Mega-Events hosting

John Karamichas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Sport Mega-event hosting faces opposition that is manifested with different intensity during the different phases of the event, from its inception as an idea to its delivery and legacy. Some Social Movements Organisations (SMOs) have acted as indefatigable monitors of the Sustainable Development (SD) dimension of sporting events in general and, in some of the most recent sport mega-events, in particular the Olympics, they have served as important advisors and facilitators. Nevertheless, in many cases we see enthusiastic supporters turning to vehemently challenging whatever positives have been associated with hosting the event. In addition, there is opposition to sport Mega-events in their entirety. That type of opposition tends to employ a holistic prism that manages to identify multiple interconnected negative aspects of hosting a sport mega-event and incorporate them into an anti-systemic discourse. It is important to bear in mind that irrespective of many proclamations to the opposite as far as megas are concerned (projects and/or events), a number of studies have demonstrated that citizen participation and democratic accountability in decision-making have been notoriously absent. After all, the idea of citizen participation in the planning of sport mega-event is essentially the public response to a plan conceived by others. There were, of course, some notable cases of democratic consultation at the early stages of bidding to host a sport mega-event but these more democratic approaches resulted in the failure of the bid (for e.g. Toronto 1996). The knowledge of this by the groups that initiated the hosting idea and the bidding process has led to discouraging in depth public consultation that may fit perfectly to the democratic process but not to the tight schedules of associated projects completion. That produces ‘autocracy against which opposition may arise’ (Hiller, 2000, p. 198). It is this democratic deficit that has led to important instances of social contestation and protest mobilizations by citizen groups as well as the more regular corps of social activists. From a perspective borrowed from the sociology of protest and social movements, sport mega-events hosting can operate as an issue that stimulates protest activities by an existing protest milieu and new actors as well as an important mobilizing resource. In fact, some scholars have also argued that the Olympic Games were an important frame for the transnational activism that was marked by anti-globalization protest in Seattle in 1999 (Cottrell & Nelson, 201; Lenskyj, 2008). In addition, it’s important not to lose sight of other acts dissent that take place in relatively close proximity, about a year before the event when most infrastructural and societal changes brought by hosting the event and impact start to become apparent by the host communities, like the rioting of August 2011 in the London Olympic Boroughs and the 2012 riots of June 2013 in Sao Paulo and other Brazilian cities. This paper starts by outlining the SD claims made in the bidding to host the summer Olympic Games by five prospective hosts (Sydney; Athens; Beijing; London and Rio) proceeds towards examining the opposition and challenges that was manifested in relation to these claims. In Particular it provides an assessment of protest-events over the aforementioned different phases of sport mega-events hosting. A different picture emerges for each of the host nation that is partly explained by local, national and global configuration of protest politics. Whereas the post-event legacy of the first two hosts of the Games can be assessed and that way see the validity of claims made by challengers in the other phases, in the other three cases, the implementation of Olympic Games Impact (OGI) studies offers the tool for discussing the post-event phase for Beijing and London and engage in a speculative exercise for the case of Rio. Judging by available findings, the paper concludes that the SD aspiration made in the bid documents are unlikely to be met and social contestation based on the same issues is likely to increase due to the current global economic crisis and BRICS, like China and Brazil, having entered the process of becoming global economic hegemons.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationII Mega Events Cities
Place of PublicationRio
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Sport Mega-events; Sustainable Development; Olympic Games


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