Image via Gabriel Cabral
With the World Cup in full fledge and some controversy associated with it and the 2022 edition, mega events in cities are back on the spot. It is hard to ignore that there has been a gigantic paradigm shift of how these events develop.
Increasingly so, developing nations have won the bids to host World Cups and Olympic Games in a way previously unseen with China, Brazil, South Africa, Russia and Qatar hosting the last, current and future editions of such. This is both good news and bad news depending which side of the coin one looks at.
It is true that there are huge investment opportunities that pump good money to the local economy to develop decaying, inefficient, outdated infrastructure amongst other things. Additionally, such events give a massive boost to national and local sentiments, and place traditionally overlooked nations on the spotlight for a couple of weeks as it happened in South Africa in 2010. Little known places such as Sochi, Manaus and Durban all of the sudden are on par with cities like NY or London truly giving citizens a sense of place and belonging.
It is also hard to miss the issues associated with mega events in their host cities as these may outweigh the events themselves. Sochi Olympics brought a once declining Black Sea resort back into the spotlight at the expense of becoming the most expensive Olympics to date; the money many locals would assert went directly somewhere other than Sochi. Brazil’s World Cup has been riddled with delay, protests and has put social divisions on par with the event itself. And further down the line, Qatar 2022 is in the middle of a possible bribery scandal of how the event was secured in the first place.
So what’s the role of these so called mega events? Are they truly engines for growth and development in cities across the globe or are they detrimental to the most important unit of our cities, its citizens?