PtG Article 09.11.2017

Mega-events and public rights: An intensifying battle

Key stakeholders will meet at Play the Game 2017 and exchange visions and experiences from what is still a massively successful entertainment industry, but with a high price tag paid by public coffins.

Few of the Play the Game 2017 conference themes touch on such a wide range of stakeholders as mega-events: From the individual sports federation to the international umbrella organisation to the national governments of bidding countries to the locals in the chosen host country.

And nowhere is the political battle over sport as visible as when it comes to global sports events: From the anti-establishment grassroots over middle-class taxpayers up to the world’s most powerful heads of state.

Because of this broad scope, mega-events discussions cover geopolitics, economics, human rights, sustainability, and much more.

The upcoming FIFA World Cups in Russia and Qatar are bound to stir up political debate on human rights issues. From the Qatar Supreme Committee, Hassan Al Thawadi, appearing in the Opening session, conference delegates can expect an in-depth review of the controversial up-coming event currently in deep in political tensions.

As an introduction to Al-Tawani’s presentation, James M. Dorsey will provide an overview of the current geopolitical situation and the consequences that this might have on the realisation of the World Cup in Qatar, while journalist James Corbett will guide delegates through a Q&A with Al Thawadi. Focus on human rightsA growing number of activist movements and athlete groups advocating human, workers and athlete rights in relation to mega-events have entered the political stage and their presence is being increasingly acknowledged by the official sports organisations.

Human Rights Watch has been one of the major critics of the lack of respect for human rights included in the organisation of mega-events, and Minky Worden, HRW Director of Global Initiatives, will join the panel and bring forward ideas on how to secure the inclusion of these rights.

Civic action in Boston, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest has left the IOC with only two contenders for the 2024 Olympics. FIFA and the IOC have opened dialogue with human rights groups, promising more focus on societal sustainability, but the results on the ground are yet to be seen.

FIFA included human rights in the statutes last year and FIFA’s Head of Sustainability and Diversity, Federico Addiechi, will let conference participants in on how the body’s commitment to respect human rights is currently being implemented across the organisation’s activities.

Raì Oliveira

from Pacific University, USA will give an overview of the growing activist movement and to present the athletes’ stand, former Brazilian footballer will speak about what legacy the Brazilian athletes are left with after the Games have left Rio.

Mega-events are notorious for exorbitant cost overruns and Sorbonne professor Wladimir Andreff will be providing an expert look into the economical dynamics of mega-events.

The Rio Legacy

Any legacy of the Rio Olympics seems acutely endangered by political and financial mismanagement on top of a deep societal crisis and the repercussions will be thoroughly debated at the conference.

With an outset in her recent book, Dancing with the Devil in the City of God’, Juliana Barbassa will take delegates trough the societal effects the Games have had on Rio in a session that examines the aftermath of the events from various perspectives.

A line of academic approaches to the mega-event debate will also be presented during Play the Game 2017. Harry Arne Solberg will talk about why these big sporting events often entail such big problems, Christopher Gaffney examines specific ways in which sports mega-events function to extract monopoly rents from their hosts while Dennis Pauschinger looks into mega-events’ ‘politics of camouflage’ and into what consequences hosting a major sporting event can have for a city.

The mega-events sessions will also touch upon questions like whether mega-events are drifting towards authoritarian regimes where voices and votes of taxpayers are ignored or suppressed, whether nationalistic trends offer a rescue belt for a movement built on internationalism, and if the IOC’s ‘Agenda 2020’ will be able to ensure tangible improvement of the environmental and social legacy of future Olympic Games.

Key stakeholders will meet at Play the Game 2017 and exchange visions and experiences from what is still a massively successful entertainment industry, but with a high price tag paid by public coffins.

In more than 40 sessions, over 150 speakers will present their thoughts and opinions on a wide range of the most topical questions in world sport during the tenth Play the Game conference, taking place in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 26-30 November 2017.Discover the programme and the continuously updated speakers list.Sign up now and secure yourself four days densely packed with debates, discussions and networking between experts and professionals from sport, media and academia.Read more and register