Originally posted at Participatory Evaluation Forum - Refocus Institute
With the world's attention on the Olympics it's a good time to think about the impacts, positive and negative, of sports mega-events like this. London has hosted the games and other mega-sports events in the past and understands the benefits and pitfalls of the endeavor. However, many countries, including the upcoming Olympics host Brazil, see these events as a way to build their national brand and kick start development.
|Sports mega-events leave communities with heavy-lifting, little benefits|
What is often sold to the public as a mutually beneficial endeavor, sports mega-events rarely sow the seeds for long-term, community-wide positive outcomes. Rather, politicians bolster their image and vested private interests reap short-term windfall gains. Many of these mega-events come with such hyperbolic sales pitches localities feel it would be crazy for them not to put up the cash and effort to build the necessary infrastructure to support them. When, in reality, after the fact they are left with facilities they will never use and bills they will have to pay for years to come. (See Porter 1999 and Whitson and Horne 2006)
Unfortunately, there are only a rare few studies that look at the broad scale and long term impacts of sports mega-events. A colleague of mine at Ritsumeikan APU set out to study the effects of the 2002 World Cup events in Japan in the hopes of providing lessons and caveats for his home country of South Africa who hosted the games in 2010. And even though he knew all about the paltry real impacts of hosting mega-events he got caught up in his own nationalistic pride and soon hopped right on the FIFA bandwagon, in part because he realized that he could hardly battle the giant interests at play.
I don't write this article to be critical of the Olympic games or to mitigate the other positive of sports mega-events such as developing sense of community and identity. However, I hope that those involved with Rio 2016 understand the powerful interests at play and can come up with a plan that will showcase their national pride, as well as benefit their country and local communities.
Photo courtesy of Jean Max-Reymond
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