The economies of mega-events: Decolonising the Olympic norm of hospitality in social science scholarship

Posted by Dr. Rodanthi Tzanelli on 2017/07/03

Seminar Presentation, Edinburgh Napier University
Business School, Graiglockhart Campus
14 June 2017

The economies of mega-events: Decolonising the Olympic norm of hospitality in social science scholarship

Rodanthi Tzanelli, University of Leeds, UK
r.tzanelli@leeds.ac.uk

My presentation considers mega-events as capitalist ventures, promoting re-organisations of time and space in host cultures to enable them to respond to various mobilities of business, technological and infrastructural development, tourism and professional migration, and cultural representation. I specifically examine the Olympic Games as a ‘hospitality enterprise’ still connected to the Olympic values of reciprocity and fair competition. However, contra Marxist and Foucaultian scholarship in the field, I argue that we should split this enterprise into two forms of economy that organise mega-event labour to ensure the provision of hospitality: the ‘artificial economy’ looks after surveillance, security and the control of leisure in the Olympic city; the ‘economy of imagination’ looks after the mega-event as a creative venture, thus producing architectural legacies and ceremonial art to enhance and circulate (broadcast) the host’s cultural atmospheres.

The current scholarly focus on the ‘artificial economy’ as an economy of guest and heritage protection, and the progressive displacement of the ‘imaginative economy’ to the fields of tourism, popular culture, leisure studies and so forth, are normative through and through. They introduce a symbolically gendered division of labour that we also encounter in tourism and hospitality business, moralising economic flows and demoting mega-event leisure regimes (associated with the mega-event’s architectural and ceremonial art, or tourism imaginaries connected to the host’s cultural atmosphere) to superficial, ‘cosmetic’ pursuits. Such arguments reproduce old political discourses that valorise (masculinise) nationalism and feminise national culture that do (should) not belong to contemporary globalised environments of economic transaction, cross-cultural fertilisation and international policy exchange.

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