Building BRICS by building stadiums

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					              SPORT & SOCIETY
              The Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Building BRICs by Building Stadiums: Preliminary Reflections on Recent and
Future Sports Mega-Events in Four Emerging Economies i

Professor John Horne
Director, International Research Institute for Sport Studies,
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE United Kingdom


This paper suggests that analysis of sports mega-events, such as the FIFA football world
cup competitions and the summer Olympics, enables consideration of several overlapping
and intersecting issues of contemporary social scientific interest. Consideration of the sports
mega-events staged or to be staged in the so-called ‘BRICs’ – Brazil, India, Russia and
China - reveals several of the underlying tensions that emerge when a sports mega-event is
staged outside the advanced urban centers of the northern hemisphere and also provides
the chance to reflect on the role of the media in the construction of a culture of
consumption which surround such events. It is anticipated that these preliminary reflections
will form the basis for future empirical research.


Sports mega-events have the following principal characteristics: they are large scale, they
have dramatic character, popular mass appeal, international significance, and significant
consequences for the host (city or nation), and they attract global media attention (Horne
& Manzenreiter 2006). I have argued elsewhere that it is essential to look critically at the
assumptions, beliefs and misrepresentations that are often suppressed or even repressed -
the “unknown knowns” - of sports mega-events (Horne, 2007a).

I would emphasize the importance of continuing to ask difficult questions about the
hosting of sports mega-events. Who actually benefits from sports mega-events such as the
Olympic Games? Who is (which social groups are) excluded? What scope is there for
contestation? Some of these awkward questions can be found in ongoing research that I
have recently been engaged in. One project, which I conducted with Jean Harvey and
Parissa Safai, looks at sport and alterglobalization (Harvey et al 2009). Another offers an
assessment of what it would mean for the forthcoming Olympics Games in London to be
sustainable (Hayes & Horne 2011).

In this research the relationship between hosting sports mega-events and social power has
been a continuous undercurrent (Horne 2011). I hope that through this research I have
begun to recover, re-present and write the histories of social activism around and within
sport and sports mega-events, such as the Olympic Games. I hope that through studies
such as these that new light can be shed on more than simply scholarly and inter-
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disciplinary concerns. If shedding new light on sport and the Olympics can lead to
alterations and challenges to balances of power, this might bring about change in sport or
the Olympics and thus contribute to wider progressive social change.

In this short paper I will offer a few very preliminary reflections on the awarding of sports
mega-events to hosts in the BRIC developing economies. These reflections will
subsequently form the basis for future research.

Introduction to BRIC-Lands

The acronym ‘BRICs’ (standing for Brazil, Russia, India, China) was coined in 2001 by the
British Goldman Sachs economic consultant Jim O'Neill (2001). It has since become a
common umbrella term in business, media, academic and government rhetoric about the
future potential of these 'emerging giants', in particular the threat or opportunity that
these economies present to the developed world. The regionalised perspective of BRICs
encourages a commodified picture of these countries around major risks and opportunities:
investment, global hegemony, and social transformation.

The BRICs can be seen as the West’s/North's imagining of a new East/South with geo-
political status and power to rival the developed world. Indeed, much BRICs discourse
echoes Cold War rhetoric. Global political economy also seems to develop sporting
metaphors – for example the so called ‘next 11’ are the 11 nations thought to be the
biggest emerging economies after the 4 BRICs: including South Korea, Mexico, South
Africa, Egypt, Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile and Argentina.

Table 1: The Population Size of the Four ‘BRICs’

        Federal Republic of Brazil                              193 million
        Russian Federation                                      141 million
        Republic of India                                       1.15 billion
        People's Republic of China (PRC)                        1.3 billion

The development of BRICs discourse took place in the wake of the 9/11attack in the US
and the growing recognition of the complexity of economic globalization. Arguably, and
possibly counter intuitively, the attack on the World Trade Centre in Manhattan prompted
the search for new conceptualizations of globalization beyond Americanization. Another
assumption underpinning the BRICs discourse is that with such large populations these
countries will develop even bigger economies to rival if not challenge the countries in the
G7/G8. By 2009 the BRICs share of global GDP collectively had reached 15 per cent.

BRICs and Sports Mega-Events

In the context of neoliberal globalization nation-states use sport for different non-sports
ends – economic development and social development, nation building and signalling
(branding the nation) and to assist in economic and political liberalization. The allure of
sports mega events relate to their economic, political and symbolic potential. Looking back
to the Beijing Summer Olympic Games in 2008, and Delhi (India) Commonwealth Games

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in 2010, and projecting forward to the Sochi (Russia) Winter Olympic Games in 2014 and
Brazil FIFA World Cup Finals in 2014 and Summer Olympic Games in 2016 reveals the
importance of specific social, economic and political contexts for understanding the impacts
and outcomes of hosting sports mega-events.

As can be seen in table 2 estimations of the costs of the hosting of these mega-events
contributes to the view that these are indeed very large scale and expensive projects. Delhi
in 2010 staged the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever. The estimated cost of the
2014 Winter Olympic Games is three times the cost of any previous Winter Olympics.

Table 2: BRICs and Sports Mega-Events: 2008-2018

Year of Event   Location           Event              Host status       Cost
                (Country)                             awarded
2008            Beijing (China)    Summer             2001              $US 15 –
                                   Olympic &                            40 billion
2010            Delhi   (India)    Commonwealth       2003              $US 6.8
                                   Games                                billion
2014            Sochi (Russia)     Winter Olympic     2007              $US 14
                7-23 February      Games                                billion
                Coastal zone:
                Mountain zone:
2014            Brazil             FIFA World Cup     2007              $US 12
                                   Finals                               billion
2016            Rio de Janeiro     Summer             2009              $US 14.4
                5- 21 August       Olympic &                            billion
                7-18 Sept.         Paralympic
                Paralympic         Games
2018            Russia             FIFA World Cup     2010

To represent these four countries as a unified group however is beset with problems. It
belies each country's own set of economic, social and political relations, both intra-
nationally and with their regional neighbours and the developed world, and potentially
masks the socio-historical cross-border exchanges that encouraged their emergence.
Relations between them and other developing economies and economic regions are highly
instructive when it comes to considering sports mega-events however.

Hence for example much of the funding—and, indeed, the labour—to build the stadiums
for the 2007 Cricket World Cup held in the Caribbean (referred to the ‘West Indies’ in
cricket parlance) came from two of the BRICs. The Indian government contributed to
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building Guyana’s Providence Stadium, constructed by the Indian firm Shapoorji Paloonji
Company at a cost of $25 million. Money and labour from the People’s Republic of China
(PRC) helped build stands and pavilions in Grenada and Jamaica, as well as Antigua’s
stadium, and most funding for the reconstruction of Queen’s Park Stadium in Grenada
came from China (see Horne 2007b for details). China has also contributed massively to
the building of the sports infrastructure in several African countries and is developing a
substantial investment programme in Brazil.

Nonetheless when it comes to staging the world’s largest sports events, similar challenges
confront the four BRICs. Preliminary consideration of individual BRICs and mega-events,
and associated media representations, reveal four immediate challenges around:
consumption, construction, containment and communication. These give rise to a series of
related questions, as follows.

1. Consumption: sport (and sports mega-events) have become an increasingly central
rather than peripheral cultural form in the growth and spread of capitalist consumer
cultures – including tourism, consumerization, and global visitor destinations (Horne 2006).
This creates a potential set of issues about under-consumption. Are the ‘Games’ that
popular, really?

2. Construction: designing, building, engineering, and then sustaining ‘iconic’ facilities are
all part of the cost of hosting sports mega-events. These projects prompt the traditional
questions: will the facilities be ready on time? At the stated costs? And of adequate
standard? Will the facilities be more a form of monumentalism than a contribution to the
communities where they are built?

3. Containment: security and surveillance technologies connected with sports mega-events
were a developing market before 9/11. Social control and surveillance, measures
associated with sports mega-events have grown since (Giulianotti & Klauser 2010). As with
other major sports events in South America, new processes and technologies in public
surveillance and security will be evident during the two mega-events to be held in Brazil
(McLeod-Roberts, 2007). This raises amongst other questions the issues of: for whom are
the measures being introduced? And who is being subject to increasing surveillance? (on
developments in China ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, see Klein 2008).

4. Communication: involves both reaching the global audience and managing the message
conveyed. Harm to national reputation is a potential given the vast television audiences.
What happens if/ when things go wrong? The perils of media coverage from the South to
the North/ East to the West have been apparent for several decades, for example at the
Olympic Games in Mexico 1968 and Moscow 1980. Maintaining a good image can be
difficult. Dimeo & Kay (2004) have demonstrated developing countries run several risks
when hosting large events, not least of which is being portrayed negatively in the global
media. Coverage of events in developing nations is always prone to negative responses
when something goes wrong. It is clear for example that the Delhi 2010 organizers’
objectives were beset by the same contradictions that have confronted many previous
hosts of large-scale sports events. Some examples of British newspaper headlines during
the 2010 Commonwealth Games provide an illustration of the print media response:
‘Empty Delhi. Credibility takes a dive’ (The Guardian 11 October p. 24); ‘It’s just not
cricket: Indians stay away from costly Games’ (The Guardian 6 October p. 17); and ‘Sexual
athletes: condoms block Delhi Games drains’ (The Guardian 8 October p. 17).

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As regards one of the future mega-events in Brazil, barely had the 2010 FIFA World Cup
Finals in South Africa been concluded when a British newspaper reported that:

          With just 47 months until the next World Cup, the press is back on phase one of
          the World Cup reporting cycle: predicting the next tournament will be a security
          disaster staged in unbuilt grounds in unready cities, all of it run as a sweaty private
          cabal for FIFA’s personal gain (The Observer, 18 July 2010)

          [accessed 29 March 2011]

Conclusion: Sports Mega-events, Power and Consumer Culture

Research into sports mega-events can provide insights into the main dynamics of
contemporary capitalist consumer culture. Sports mega-events promise (albeit brief)
moments of ‘festive intercultural celebration’ (Kidd, 1992, p. 151) as they bring large
groups of people together in collective displays of devotion and celebration. Yet sports
mega-events have been largely developed by undemocratic organizations, often with
anarchic decision-making and a lack of transparency, and more often in the interests of
global flows of finance, technology and imagery, rather than local communities. In this
respect they represent a shift of public funds to private interests and in many ways reflect
policies underpinning contemporary ‘disaster capitalism’ informed by the ‘shock doctrine’
(Klein 2007). Using a crisis, or in this case a transformative sport spectacle, to re-shape
urban space and the economy in the interests of business can be seen as part of the same
strategy but instead this time using ‘shock and awe’ in the service of ‘celebration
capitalism’ (Hayes & Horne 2011; Boykoff 2011).

The strategy of hosting events, sporting and otherwise, has become popular among both
developed and emerging economies because it offers two prospects difficult to obtain any
other way: the ability to respond to external pressures for global competitiveness, at the
risk of heightening internal inequalities, and a chance to reinforce collective identity, at the
risk of damaging international reputation if things go wrong and the foreign media
negatively report the event (Black & van der Westhuizen, 2004). Research on sports mega-
events throughout the world has demonstrated that the benefits of staging them tend to
be overestimated and the costs underestimated (for example see several of the
contributions to Horne & Manzenreiter 2006). Additionally as British journalist David
Runciman (2010) wrote in advance of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals:

          In reality, sports tournaments rarely do much to transform the fortunes of the
          countries that host them – at least not for the better – let alone change the fate of
          whole continents. But they can tell us a lot about where power really lies.

Other journalists suggest that hosts would be better off playing down the ‘legacy’ aspects,
for example “Hosts need to understand what a World Cup is: a party. It leaves nothing
behind except a hangover, good memories and a large bill” (Kuper, 2010, p. 2). Certainly
the ‘legacies’ for countries hosting sports mega-events recently have included:
consumerization and increased reliance on China for construction (the 2007 West Indies
Cricket World Cup): debates over the unequal distribution of benefits (the 2010 South
Africa FIFA World Cup Finals); and environmental conflicts (the 2010 Vancouver Winter
Olympic Games). In the case of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games newly built

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‘Westfield Stratford City’, Europe’s largest shopping mall, promises to be the gateway to
the games for 70-80 per cent of potential spectators and is likely to be a clearer legacy
than any of the facilities on the Olympic Park for several years to come.

Sports mega-events have come in recent years to be seen as potential catalysts for
sustainable social and economic development in developing economies and sport a means
of meeting international development goals (Darnell 2010). In this ideological climate Curi
et al (2011p. 14) have recently suggested that a ‘BRIC-way to organise sport mega-events’
may come to dominate the Olympics in the near future. If this is the case – and given the
success of Russia in winning the right to host the 2018 FIFA Football World Cup Finals in
December 2010 - then the issues identified here and by others will certainly require further
social scientific investigation and scrutiny.

 This is a revised version of a keynote presentation given at the ‘Mega-Events and the City’
International Conference, Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Niteroi, Brazil, 3-5 November

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