Tuesday, 11 November 2014

From Fan Parks to Live Sites: Mega Events and the Territorialisation of Urban Space

Professor David McGillivray and Dr Matt Frew

Our Urban Studies article is concerned with the relationship between major sporting events (particularly mega events), urban space and the extension of corporate brandscaping, with a focus on the (relatively) new phenomenon of World Cup Fan Fests and Olympic Live Sites (Frew and McGillivray, 2008; McGillivray, 2011).  The provision of specially designed, temporary venues located within prime urban civic space has been enshrined in host city contractual obligations since the Germany 2006 World Cup, designed to accentuate the vibrancy of the host cities, for residents and visitors, providing opportunities for those without tickets for matches or events to participate in a collective viewing experience.

In this short video we discuss how Olympic Live Sites are inseparable from the corporate-media nexus that increasingly defines the mega sports event phenomenon. We argue that instead of free-flowing festive spaces, Live Sites have themselves become carefully planned and orchestrated venues, which though free, are subject to extensive commodification processes. They are attractive to global corporate brands and the mass media industries because they provide these corporate actors with unfettered access to large audiences, facilitated by the resources of the host city in the form of security and promotional support. They now operate as part of the valuable real estate that the sponsor family gains access to as a feature of their sponsorship investment. Host cities are required to subsidise financially the hosting of Live Sites, in the process ceding sovereignty over urban civic spaces to external organisations for the purpose of brand extension. As parks, squares and buildings are opened up as commodities hosts are also required to introduce legislation to protect the rights (commercial and legal) of sponsors, whereby third party advertising and trading practices are tightly controlled across these zones during the mega event (and often beyond).
In this article we draw on the work of Deleuze and Guattari and liken Olympic Live Sites to striated spaces which, like any spatial structure, possess what appear to be objective boundaries. Risk and security narratives are amplified to provide justification for search procedures, security and the segregation of space to organise activities within bounded walls and fences. Live Sites represent yet another institutionalised commercial sphere during mega sports events. Event zones (including, but not restricted to, Live Sites) see public squares, parks, roads, pavements and airspace cocooned, controlled and commodified under a gaze of governance afforded by exceptional legislation.

Professor David McGillivray holds a Chair in Event and Digital Cultures in the Creative Futures Institute, University of the West of Scotland. His research interests focus on the contemporary significance of events and festivals (sporting and cultural) as markers of identity and mechanisms for the achievements of wider economic, social and cultural externalities.
Dr Matt Frew is a Senior Lecturer within the School of Tourism at Bournemouth University. He came to academia with 15 years of industrial experience. His penchant for post structuralist theory takes him into the terrains of mega events, music festivity and the embodied impact of digital, social and transformational technologies.