Mega-events as part of urban strategies to revitalise cities – opportunities and local challenges

Guest talk: Michael B. Duignan, 14 March 2014, Lord Ashcroft International Business School, Anglia Ruskin University


Synopsis: where once up on a time cities were known for being a harbinger of decay (see Dicken’s play: ‘Oliver Twist), central global city districts represent prosperity and the epitome of successful urban economic development. The role of the mega-event has often played a facilitative role in this transition, offering opportunity for national and local economic growth via residual effects of gentrification, uses as a way of globally enhancing place image (aka ‘showcasing’) and opportunities for urban regeneration. But why are they such a powerful mechanism for change? Alongside their ability to absorb dynamic city agendas, they catalyse new and existing policies (aka ‘fast-tracking’) and provide neat justifications for pooling together a medley of both public and private funds to operationalise the grand plan. Coupled with strict deadlines for completion (e.g. 7 years for the Olympics from time of winning the bid) and the world’s eyes watching the move of these urban plans – these pressures provide the impetus needed ‘to get the job done’.

We must however be respectful of the local community challenges stimulated as part of delivering such a mega-event. I speak about the economic risks of gentrification and the difficulties this poses to the rental market (both residential and business), direct displacement effect to make way for Games stadia and urban infrastructural projects. And also highlight criticisms around poor local community consultation and understanding of local interests.

In light of the above we reflected on a range findings from previous (e.g. Barcelona, 1992) and forthcoming mega-events (e.g. Rio, 2016), however key insights were presented around the case of London 2012 – both opportunities, and such local challenges.

Workshop activity: class put together a key stakeholder analysis, as if they were applying to bid for the next Olympic Games. We highlighted the multitude of stakeholders interested/involved in hosting such a mega-event and explored some of the key reasons how and why they would be interested.

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