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The mega-event syndrome: why so much goes wrong in mega-event planning and what to do about It


Müller, Martin (2015). The mega-event syndrome: why so much goes wrong in mega-event planning and what to do about It. Journal of the American Planning Association, 81(1):6-17.

Abstract

Problem, research strategy, and findings: Mega-events such as the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup have become complex and transformative under- takings over the last 30 years, with costs often exceeding USD $10 billion. These events are currently planned and governed in ways that produce adverse effects for cities, regions, and residents. This study identifies a mega-event syndrome, a group of symptoms that occur together and afflict mega-event planning, including overpromising benefits, underestimating costs, rewriting urban planning priorities to fit the event, using public resources for private interest, and suspending the regular rule of law. I describe each of these symptoms, providing empirical examples from different countries and mega-events, examining the underlying causes. The research is based on material from field visits to mega-event sites in 11 countries as well as 51 interviews with planners, managers, politicians, and consultants involved in mega-event planning. Takeaway for practice: To curb the mega-event syndrome, I propose both radical and incremental policy suggestions. The most crucial radical change that an event host could make is to not tie mega-events to large-scale urban development, avoiding higher risks that create cost overruns, substandard construction quality, and oversized infrastructure not suitable for post-event demands. Further, event hosts should bargain with event-governing bodies for better conditions, earmark and cap public sector contributions, and seek independent advice on the costs and benefits of mega-events. Event-governing bodies, for their part, should reduce the size and requirements of the events.

Abstract

Problem, research strategy, and findings: Mega-events such as the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup have become complex and transformative under- takings over the last 30 years, with costs often exceeding USD $10 billion. These events are currently planned and governed in ways that produce adverse effects for cities, regions, and residents. This study identifies a mega-event syndrome, a group of symptoms that occur together and afflict mega-event planning, including overpromising benefits, underestimating costs, rewriting urban planning priorities to fit the event, using public resources for private interest, and suspending the regular rule of law. I describe each of these symptoms, providing empirical examples from different countries and mega-events, examining the underlying causes. The research is based on material from field visits to mega-event sites in 11 countries as well as 51 interviews with planners, managers, politicians, and consultants involved in mega-event planning. Takeaway for practice: To curb the mega-event syndrome, I propose both radical and incremental policy suggestions. The most crucial radical change that an event host could make is to not tie mega-events to large-scale urban development, avoiding higher risks that create cost overruns, substandard construction quality, and oversized infrastructure not suitable for post-event demands. Further, event hosts should bargain with event-governing bodies for better conditions, earmark and cap public sector contributions, and seek independent advice on the costs and benefits of mega-events. Event-governing bodies, for their part, should reduce the size and requirements of the events.

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15 citations in Web of Science®
16 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:06 Aug 2015 09:54
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 13:41
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0194-4363
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2015.1038292

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