SAIIA News: Goal Orientated

Image: Flickr,Andrew Moore
Image: Flickr,Andrew Moore

The World Cup isn’t just about fun and frivolity.

There are serious economic and political implications for countries that host these types of ‘mega events’. Suzanne Dowse is a visiting PhD student from the UK who is investigating some of the impacts this World Cup will have.

Goal Orientated

Mega events, extraordinary large scale cultural or sporting events that generate significant global attention, are businesses which have grown significantly in recent years as a result of the revenue and international media attention they generate. Alongside this growth, and despite the expense and work involved in both bidding for and hosting, the competition for the award of such events is characterised by intense rivalry. Indeed, the allegations of foul play involving maladministration and corruption that often surround the bidding for and hosting of these events, be they founded or unfounded,   is a clear indication of the  importance attached to the undertaking.

Intuitively, the ambition and drive to host a sports mega event may be located with the respective national sport governing body. However, whilst their involvement is crucial, the decision is one that can only be made by the State. The reason for this becomes clear when the requirements of hosting such an event are considered.  Only the State can guarantee the undertakings required by the event governing body as a condition of award, which range from the delivery of international level stadiums and effective transport infrastructures, to tax and visa exemptions. Moreover, this political activity is not confined to the national government. For the successful delivery of a mega event, particularly multi-site events like the FIFA Football World Cup, requires public policy decisions to be made at sub-national level by the governing entities responsible for areas in which the events will actually take place.

However, despite this political reality, analysis of mega events tends to focus on the economic dimensions of hosting – what did the event cost, what revenue did it catalyse in terms of tourism flows, spend and so on. Given the level of expenditure involved, this is not unexpected, as the allocation of significant levels of public funds at national and local levels is often justified on the basis of various economic benefits said to flow from the event such as increased tourism, job creation and related business opportunities. This promotion of benefit, which begins during the bid phase, is problematic because, notwithstanding the fact that pre-event economic predictions are rarely followed by post event evaluation, it is generally accepted that the economic benefits of hosting a mega event are generally overstated, whilst the levels of investment required are de-emphasised.

Alongside the limited pre and post economic evaluation of sport mega events, there has also been limited consideration of how states at different levels of development approach and experience this area of activity.  Yet, the potential limitations on economic returns may mean that for States in the global ‘South’ where the resource implications of hosting are much greater, the non-economic outcomes of bidding for and hosting mega-events, at domestic, regional and international level,  maybe equally, if not more important, than any impacts on the national economy.

It is the non-economic ambitions and outcomes of sport mega events in the context of global ‘South’ that is the focus of my research project. Using the FIFA 2010 World Cup as a case study I am exploring the extent to which the ‘State’, as well as wider stakeholders, seek political outcomes from bidding for and hosting mega-events, both domestically and beyond the state borders, and how far outcomes derived matched these expectations.

Clearly a true appreciation of outcomes and impacts can only be developed after the event; however, such analysis is premised upon a clear understanding of the ambitions, expectations  and experiences that stakeholders have of the World Cup project. Gaining this knowledge and understanding the factors which shape these expectations and ambitions is the primary focus of my stay in South Africa. There is no blueprint for hosting a mega event, nor would one be appropriate as the context in which such events take place necessarily changes from host to host. However, there is the potential to learn from the South African experience in a way that will inform the political debate and policy choices surrounding future mega event activity both in South Africa and beyond.

Should you wish to get in touch with Suzanne you can do so via email on:

20 May 2010