This paper develops the notion of “event seizure” to better understand how mega-events, and the elites associated with them, take possession of host cities and societies—of development plans, funds and legislation—and impose their priorities on cities and citizens. It illustrates how event seizure plays out in the preparations for the Football World Cup 2018 in Russia, which is on course to become the most expensive World Cup ever with a total cost of about USD 20 billion. Drawing on government and FIFA documents, public statements from authorities and officials, and media coverage, the paper examines three different dimensions of event seizure. First, infrastructural seizure, where event-related infrastructure, particularly sports venues, crowd out infrastructure that serves wider urban needs. Second, financial seizure, where a close circle of political and business elites benefits from state funding, while the public underwrites cost overruns. Third and last, legal seizure, where the event introduces exceptional legislation, infringing citizen rights and compromising due oversight of event preparations.