The turn of the south? Social and economic impacts of mega-events in India, Brazil and South Africa
University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
In the neoliberal era, competing to host global sporting events has become a prominent urban promotion strategy, and with a few exceptions, the scholarly focus has been on the western experience. In contrast, this paper focuses on the south experience with specific reference to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. A common argument is that such sporting events provide global marketing opportunities that can attract foreign investment, which may serve as catalysts for development. A key goal is to promote the status and power of the post-colonial nation-state (although ironically ceding sovereignty to entities like FIFA for the duration of events). While there are some benefits, especially in terms of infrastructure development, the Indian, Brazilian and South African experience suggests that the privileged tend to benefit at the expense of the poor, and socio-economic inequalities were exacerbated. These points are illustrated in this paper with reference to evictions, loss of livelihoods and violations of human rights. Disturbingly, the cost of constructing new sports’ facilities and associated infrastructure escalated phenomenally from the original bid-document estimates, without any public oversight, and some are destined to be white elephants. The mega-events were largely organised and funded by the governments in consultation with the private sector, with little or no accountability to citizens, although such decisions had major implications in terms of the diversion of public spending priorities from more urgent social needs such as housing, healthcare and education. © 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.