Major sporting events (MSEs) have been the subject of increasing levels of critique in recent years for the social costs associated with their bidding, planning and delivery. The rationale used by cities and countries for hosting MSEs is often the potential for an event to generate positive economic and social transformation within the host area. However, research has repeatedly demonstrated the actual impact of hosting MSEs falls short of these lofty predictions and, in reality, often result in detrimental effects for host populations. The negative impacts of MSEs have variously been reported as: exacerbating human rights abuses in host countries; facilitating corruption; supporting elite beneficiaries over those most in need; and transforming host destinations’ urban environment by displacing vulnerable populations. Recent mega sport events (a specific category of the largest and most impactful MSEs, such as the Olympic Games and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup have been the subject of international condemnation for being the catalyst for forced evictions, restricting media freedom through censorship, abuse of migrant labour in the construction of stadia and associated facilities, and increased political repression.
There is evidence of growing public pressure, involving activists, social movements, and the general public in bidding nations, to hold their organisers and awarding bodies accountable before and during these events. At the bidding stage, only two candidate cities remained in the process for the 2024 Olympic Games, after withdrawals from Boston, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest, following either successful opposition campaigns or public referendum. Beyond the call to ameliorate the negative social outcomes arising from MSEs, there is a growing demand from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and citizens for governments, and international sport organizations to show how these events can also positively impact broader social outcomes, such as empowering disadvantaged groups, enhancing local community infrastructure, and increasing community and sport participation. Stakeholders are increasingly focused on how these events can be planned and delivered in a socially progressive manner, as catalysts for ensuring lasting (positive) social change in relation to equality, diversity and human rights, for example. Over the last two or three years, the main institutional actors involved in MSEs (international sport organisations, sport federations, governments, host organisers and civil society groups) have come together to devise and implement policies and procedures that will more effectively ensure that MSEs can make a positive contribution to a political process to ensure lasting social change from these significant investments.
EventRights will seek to explore (and share knowledge related to) the extent to which the landscape of MSEs can be improved to ensure a progressive, rights-focused agenda is pursued by awarding organizations and implemented in the formal institutions tasked with organizing these events. The project will produce recommendations as to how MSE organizing committees, awarding bodies, and the local/national state can be mandated to ensure that opportunities to address inequality, enhance diversity and facilitate greater dialogue are enshrined in the planning, delivery, and legacy plans for the events themselves.
The EventRights project will focus on two principal research questions:
How can the bidding, planning and delivery processes for MSEs more effectively lever progressive social opportunities to reduce inequality, enhance diversity and facilitate greater dialogue between the stakeholders?