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Mega events, soft power and 'hijacking' the event platform

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Keynote address at the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy's Annual Conference, Berlin, December 2016 on Promoting Global Human Rights through Cultural Diplomacy

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Mega events, soft power and 'hijacking' the event platform

  1. 1. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Mega events, soft power and ‘hijacking’ the event platform Professor Gayle McPherson & Professor David McGillivray School of Media, Culture & Society @gmp01 @dgmcgillivray
  2. 2. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Mega events & the global order • International events are increasingly important within a globalising world, reflecting the growing levels of interconnectedness and social consciousness of the world as a single place (Brannagan and Giulianotti, 2014). • Mega sports and cultural events have an increased political saliency to a wide variety governmental and non-governmental actors across the world. • International expos and mega sports events, in particular, have historically been used by political elites to project their nation’s assets (economic and cultural) to international audiences. • Instrumental use of major events to achieve non sporting or cultural goals has intensified and accelerated over the last thirty years.
  3. 3. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Events, soft power & diplomacy • Soft power relates to the: – ‘the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments’ (Nye, 2004, p. 256) – ‘power achieved when people, institutions or nation states accept the authority of others as normal by way of culture, politics or policies’ (Schausteck de Almeida et al, 2014, p.273). • Mega sport events provide the platform for sharing cultural values and reimaging – utilising the global spectacle of sport and associated cultural programmes central to these events. • D’Hooghe (2015) argues that mega sport events are increasingly influential opportunities for public diplomacy, with cultural diplomacy/relations a key feature – involving both state and non-state actors.
  4. 4. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Mega events & soft power (1) • International event bids planned and organised in a variegated and contextual manner – nations: “adapt, innovate and manoeuvre…to differentiate themselves from each other” (Brannagan & Giulianotti, 2014: 3) • Bidding intention to create new ‘brand’ identities, generating change in international image and reputation or achieve domestic or foreign policy objectives (Grix and Houlihan, 2014). – Germany 2006 World Cup: projection of new, open, friendly image – South Africa 2010 World Cup: a reward for the entire African continent – as a symbol of unity, solidarity and peace (Cornelissen, 2011)
  5. 5. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Mega events & soft power (2) • Host cities and nations view bidding for sporting and cultural events as effective ways to enter the world stage and to “symbolically challenge the traditional global order” (Schausteck de Almeida et al, 2014, p272). • Bids for sporting and cultural events influence and are influenced by politics and foreign policy (Jackson & Haigh, 2008). • Securing a positive impact on the nation’s image (or brand) or international prestige is now a significant justification for bidding for, and winning the rights to host, mega sports events (Grix & Houlihan, 2014). • These events are thought to provide a valuable strategic vehicle to generate influence in the world or simply as a charm offensive to attract the interest of desired audiences (and markets).
  6. 6. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Attracting awarding bodies • Soft power offensives can also be directed at the awarding bodies, as opposed to other potential governmental actors (i.e. IOC & FIFA). • In order to meet their stated desire to take their event assets to new locations as part of a development, diversity or equality agenda, Schausteck de Almeida et al (2014, p272) argue that bid teams often try to: “identify themselves as representatives of wider emerging territories or cultures” • Bid cities/nations utilise sophisticated campaigns and lobbying tactics to ‘persuade’ voting delegates of their vision and values.
  7. 7. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Case 1: Beijing 2008 • Bid for Olympics emphasised environmental improvement, addressing human rights abuses and freedom of the press: – but only OC (non state actor) promised human rights improvements • The Olympics a feature of China’s ‘public diplomacy’ efforts – what D’Hooghe (2015) calls “proactive public diplomacy”: – Internal domestic audiences (generating public support) – External audiences (use of PR companies to ‘translate’ messages, to communicate the ‘New China’ to the international community) • Projection of ‘harmonious development’ aligning with universal Olympic values ‘One World, One Dream’.
  8. 8. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Case 2: London 2012 • London used its bid for the 2012 Olympic Games as a means of extending its soft power offensive and re-imagining Britain’s place in the world order after a few decades of declining influence. • The use of a mega sport event in this way was a departure for the British political elites as sport had not been a principal feature of public diplomacy up until that point. • In both the bid, and subsequent planning and delivery, the FCO played a significant role in using the opportunity presented by the Games to enhance the UK’s reputation overseas. • Thematically, they promoted British culture, the UK economy and enhancing security by harnessing Olympic values (Grix and Houlihan, 2013).
  9. 9. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Case 3: Rio 2016 • Rio’s successful bid for the 2016 Olympic Games projected its status as a rising economic and political power (in 2009). • Also made an emotional appeal on behalf of the entire South American continent which had, until then, failed to host an Olympic Games. • In presentations to the IOC, the Rio bid team showed maps of the world where the modern Olympic Games have been held to graphically illustrate the omission of South America. • This tactic was designed to both appeal to the ‘developmental’ agenda of the IOC as well as to draw attention to the relative bounty of awards that other part of the world have enjoyed.
  10. 10. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Case 4: Qatar 2022 • Commenting on Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, Brannagan and Giulianotti (2014, p.8) argue that: “core concepts and images emerge here, of competence, professionalism, technological sophistication and international benevolence, as the basis for Qatar’s soft power strategy” • The Qatar World Cup bid inseparable from its more general international engagement strategy: – Direct investment into sport industry; hosting major sport events; elite sport development; sport diplomacy • This small state had already taken steps to be a more influential partner in international security, global social issues and peace building prior to its eventual bid for the World Cup.
  11. 11. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Case 4: Qatar 2022 • Qatar has been strategic in its engagement with the global public: – enabling the participation of women in sport – the liberalisation of some earlier shibboleths – pursuing international sporting diplomatic relationships • It has also sought to communicate to the world through sponsorship of sport teams & media (e.g. Barcelona, PSG, Al Jazeera sport). • Public diplomacy efforts undermined by sponsors pressure on Qatari organisers to deal with issues of human rights (e.g. migrant labour conditions, visa restrictions) ‘Qatar World Cup of Shame’ (Amnesty International, 2016) • Danger of ‘soft disempowerment’ (Brannagan and Giulianotti, 2014): deleterious reputational damage when attention drawn to its failings by greater media exposure (during bidding or on successful award).
  12. 12. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY “Hijacking” (Price 2008) the platform • Sport events are the archetypal ‘media events’ (Dayan and Katz, 1992). • Sports rights contracts signed by awarding bodies/host destinations/media organisations. • Co-opting the media as a feature of cultural diplomacy, generating consent from the populace and international public. • Yet, all MEs of recent times have had oppositional, alternative media and (increasingly) social media working to challenge the communication messages of organisers and their media partners: – e.g. Brazil 2014 World Cup, Qatar 2022 World Cup
  13. 13. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY • Need for comprehensive ‘digital diplomacy’ strategies or ‘defensive public diplomacy capabilities’ (D’Hooghe, 2015) • Elements of geo-politics, cultural diplomacy and sporting competition come together and are debated across media platforms as event narratives and messages contested and uncontrollable: “When traditional media are challenged to accommodate and compete with new media…the full realization of technological potential is no longer solely the domain of broadcasters: activists, citizens and spectators now have the tools to potentially sustain and/or mobilize public sentiment” (Burchell, 2015: p661) • Sochi 2014 enabled Russia to enact laws, restrictions and other manoeuvres to restrict dissent and implement Olympic Charter ban on political protests • Pussy Riot ‘seized the Olympic platform’ (Price, 2011) through infiltrating the media event physical space and engaging in ‘asymmetrical’ hijacking’ and sousveillance using mobile devices and the networked potential of social media Disrupting ‘Digital Diplomacy’
  14. 14. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY Conclusions • Cities and nations are utilising mega sport events to change perceptions of themselves – at a cost – within the wider global order • Mega sport events provide the urgency or necessity (Broudehoux and Sanchez, 2015) to focus the minds of state and non-state actors to leverage soft power assets • Yet, there is little evidence that bidding for, or hosting, a mega sport event provides the impetus to address concerns over human rights and other social justice-related issues • Public (and cultural) diplomacy efforts are contested in a disrupted digital space whereby oppositional forces undermine intended messages
  15. 15. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY References • Aslan, B., Dennis, J & O’Loughlin, B (2015) Balding goes trolling? Cross-media amplification of controversy at the 2012 Olympics, Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, 12 (1) • Brannagan, P.M & Giulianotti, R (2014) Soft power and soft disempowerment: Qatar, global sport and football’s 2022 World Cup finals, Leisure Studies, DOI 10.1080/02614367.2014.964291 • Broudehoux, A-M & Sanchez, F (2015) The politics of mega event planning in Rio de Janeiro: Contesting the Olympic City of Exception, In Viehoff, V and Poynter, G (eds) Mega Event Cities: Urban Legacies of Global Sport Events, London: Routledge • Burchell, K (2015) Infiltrating the space, hijacking the platform: Pussy riot, Sochi protests and media events, Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, 12 (1) • Cornelissen, S. (2011). Mega event securitisation in a third world setting: Glocal processes and ramifications during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Urban Studies, 48, 15, pp3221-3240. • Dayan, D., and Katz. E. (1992). Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  16. 16. DREAMING / BELIEVING / ACHIEVING A 21ST CENTURY UNIVERSITY References • D’Hooghe, I (2015) China’s Public Diplomacy, Leiden: Brills Nijhoff • Gillespie, M & O’Loughlin, B (2015) Editorial introduction: International news, social media and soft power: The London and Sochi Olympics as global media events, Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, 12 (1), pp388 • Grix, J & Houlihan, B (2014) Sports Mega-Events as Part of a Nation’s Soft Power Strategy: The Cases of Germany (2006) and the UK (2012), BJPIR, 16, 572-596 • Jackson, S. J., and Haigh, S. (2008). Between and beyond politics: Sport and foreign policy in a globalizing world, Sport in Society, 11, 349–358. • Price, M. (2008). On seizing the Olympic platform. In M.E. Price and D. Dayan (eds.) Owning the Olympics: Narratives of the new China (86-114). Michigan: Digitalculturebooks. • Schausteck de Almeida, B., Marchi Júnior, W and Pike, E (2014) The 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Brazil's soft power, Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, 9:2, 271-283, DOI: 10.1080/21582041.2013.838291 • Whitson, D & Horne, J (2006) ‘Underestimated costs and overestimated benefits: Comparing the outcomes of sports mega-events in Canada and Japan, Sociological Review

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