Mega-events don’t exist.
There is no point in using the term “mega-event” except as a convenient placeholder for the impossibly complex, intersecting, mutually dependent and independently functioning elements that come together to produce whatever the “mega-event” is.
Deconstructing the World Cup and Olympics and organizing them into intelligible, digestible bits that can be understood is, perhaps, within the realm of possibility. Understanding the hundreds of millions of moving parts and how they come together to give us something like the 2014 FIFA World Cup is impossible. Pulling on a loose thread may begin to unravel the general structure, but without understanding the whole at the end of the day you’re left with a pile of micro-fibers.
So, let’s stop talking about mega-events and start talking about “accelerated process of socio-spatial transformation punctuated by signature global events”. Not very catchy, I know. How about “vicious circles of creative destruction marked by overlapping sovereignties, deliberately vague responsibility frontiers, and the imposition of homogeneous and globalized consumer cultures”. Perhaps something more pithy? Hmmm…”the normalization of a condition of political exception that generates the compulsory acceptance of a consumptive ritual decoupled from its ontological moorings.” Hard to put an acronym on that. Oh well. Perhaps my degree in philosophy will come in handy while discussing the non-existent.
It must be because the mega-event doesn’t exist that no one can take ultimate responsibility for the processes it unleashes and the impacts it generates. FIFA can’t be blamed for the transportation infrastructures that cities choose to install. The cities can’t be blamed for wanting to host the World Cup. The state can’t take responsibility for the way that FIFA goes about its business, though they could refuse to get on their knees to bring the event. Sponsors can’t be blamed for the human rights violations that pave the way for their profits. The security demands of the event attend to the real and perceived risks that the event itself generates. No event, no risk? Or is the risk in not having the event?
I am not trying to hedge my bets here, but trying to make sense of the arguments, displays, discussions and presentations from Soccerex over the last three days. There are billions of dollars of public funds in play. This money, although also fictitious and conceptual, has very real effects and could be put to uses other than hosting a month long soccer tournament. Because no one has ultimate responsibility over the way in which this money is spent and the effect it has, before smashing the Cup on the ground to see what it’s made of we’ve got to continually step back to look at the Cup as an object: an object of desire, a goal in and of itself, a process, a social construction, a symbol, a moment, and a means to various, valorous and nefarious ends. In Brazil, this Cup runneth over with problems, contradictions, intransient bureaucracy, narrow political agendas, nepotism, corruption, graft, conflicting interests, ill-conceived projects, forced removals, rule by decree, a lack of effective urban planning and the funneling of public money to private hands in one of the most unequal societies in the world - quite a lot for something that doesn’t exist.