Impacts of Mega Activities on the City

Impacts of Mega Activities on the City
The concept of large-scale activity is defined in general that is widely acclaimed, popular and cultural, commercial and/or sport-oriented activities which are of capital importance internationally. Desire of being an international city is among the main motivations to be a resident for large-scale houses. In order for the activities to be defined as large-scaled, the primary provision is indicated to attract the attention of the media.

Large-scale activities are defined to be short-period (e.g. world market and Olympics) as well as having long term impacts on the cities which hosts these activities. Costs such as infrastructure, transportation and improvement of the facilities for conducting a large-scale activity results in long–term loans. In addition, in case of a successful organization, a positive image is created for the host cities on both local and international media. It is also known that these activities have long-term positive results such as providing a refresh for tourism, encourage for foreign investments to the city.

Large-scale activities on an international scale such as expositions, exhibitions, international sports organizations, biennials and other artistic activities are used as a strategy for repositioning of the city and differentiation itself from other cities. Large-scale organizations, in general, play a big role in increasing the significance of the city on both national and international market and developing employment and tourism opportunities in the host city.

In relation with increasing interest on the countries hosting large scale organizations, local or central managements of the host city take action for the objective of changing the image of the city with an intensive schedule which is in a short term period. Developed projects with an organization focus, instead of providing a long term solution for residence/shanty house problem, show themselves by relegating the poor from the region which the organization takes place and transferring high-income groups to these regions.

Researches searching for the impacts on large-scale organizations on the city revealed that there is a need for using more holistic approaches while they just dealt with economic impacts previously. The economic, environmental, socio-cultural, psychological and political impacts of large-scale organizations on host cities are presented in the following table which is summarized by Preuss (2009).





Generation of employment

New Commercial Relations

Reputational Increase in the

Region for commercial activities and potential investment

Increased prices during the organization

Speculation in the real estate sector

High security costs

Increase in local taxes


Reputational Increase of the Region as a Tourism Destination

Creation of new accommodation facilities and tourism activities

Improved transportability

In sufficient facilities

Increased crime rates

Creation of negative impression related to highly increased prices



Construction of new sustainable facilities

Development of local infrastructure

Ecological destruction

Architectural pollution

Destruction of heritages


Increase in the public’s attention to activities related to the organization and increase in participation

Strengthening of national and local identity, strengthening of traditions

Impact on participation to sports activities

Cross cultural interaction

Strengthened social identity

Festival atmosphere during the organization

Physical jam in relation to overpopulation

Unsustainable facilities

Potential increase on crime rates

Change in social structure

Settled people are forced to eviction

Cultural shock

Traffic jam


Reputational increase of the region and regional values internationally

Not managing the organization correctly and failure in achievement of the objectives

Providing opportunity for new political evolutions

Increase in the management costs

Development in skills of marketing experts and gaining experience

Using the organizations as an excuse for different purposes

Development of communication and cooperation between different groups (public-private sector)

Using the organizations right along with personal objectives by political powers

Source: Preuss, 2009:135


When researches about the outcomes of large-scale organization are examined, positive and negative impacts of international organizations especially like Olympics and EXPOs on cities can be summarized as follows:


  • Improvement of urban infrastructure and sports arease
  • Increasing international reputation
  • Development of tourism
  • Increasing public welfare
  • Creation of more local commercial opportunity
  • Creation of additional employment
  • New opportunities for advertising the city
  • Improvement of regional co-operation
  • Production of new ideas, cultural values and popular memory


  • Loans related to construction activities
  • High opportunity costs
  • Emerging infrastructure facilities that may not be needed after the organization,
  • In case that the organization does not come to effect, loss off the incoming tourists to the host city,
  • Forcing disadvantageous groups to change place
  • Increase in the real estate property rents.

Main critics about the large-scale organizations and their results are that they leave inefficient heritage, a lot of poor person are forced to change their location because of these organizations and countries use these organizations in order to renew their images. In the focus of the request for hosting the organization, there is transformation of urban areas since it constitutes new requirements and new demand on the real estate market. However, data provided from data gathered from many of the past experiences reveal that the impacts of the potential profit which is on urban and environmental transformation process reveal that is not developed as expected after the organization and increased the costs to a large extent.

If transportation and infrastructure investments which are oriented to the large-scale organizations in host cities can be performed in an effective way, they provide significant benefits in the long term. However, while the infrastructure investments serve for zoning of the constructions and development of new residency regions, they should also serve for protection of reputations of existing residency regions in the city and do not lose their values.

A significant negative impact about large scale organizations that should be considered is forcing the poor people living in low-income regions to change their places by means of the increase in hiring purchases that the organization causes. For example, in 1993, for Sdyney’s 2000 Olympic Games, till the declaration of the organization, an increase took place in the number of starting urban transformation projects in traditional industry suburbs which are just near to the center where the games take place. Apartment projects are put into practice again in an increasing manner in some of the regions of the country and an “Olympic corridor” is formed.

In relation with the effort of real estate companies in the regions to form a new residency area in the region by increasing the region profile and as a result of this, increase in the dynamism of the market, there becomes an observable impact on the residency areas surrounding the Olympic corridor. This impact, which shows itself by the increase in the residence prices and rents, created problems for the poor people who are forced to leave their traditional and cheap residence areas. 

It is asserted that, one of the most brilliant methods to convert the cities to construction areas by these large transformation projects and to show every type of destruction, displacement, ecological devastation to be legitimate in this direction is large scale organizations.

With the report of COHRE (Center of Housing Rights and Evictions- Konut Hakları ve Tahliyeler Merkezi), which examines the host cities of the Olympic Games between the year 1998 and 2008, it is declared that more that 4 million people were discharged in opposition to their desire.

According the “Mega Organizations Report” presented by UN-Housing Rights Reporter Raquel Rolnik in 2009 to UN-Human Rights Committee provided statistical evidence of the increase on the numbers of obtrusively discharging, right along with the increase in the hire purchases negative impacts of mega projects on social real estate policies

These statements are included in the related report:

– It took barely 30 years to refund the loans of Montreal Olympic Games which carried out in 1976.

– Olympic Games carried out in Seul in 1988: While the flat prices increased with a percentage of 20.4 in the first 8 months of 1988, an increase experienced in terrain prices by 27% that reached to the highest number till 1978, and 720 thousand people forced to eviction.

– Olympic Games carried out in Barcelona in 1992: With an excuse of arranging infrastructure and the city, settled population in neighborhoods placed in historical places and Roman neighborhoods were forced to eviction and it affected 2500 people. After the declaration of the city hosting, in 5 years period including the games, real estate prices increased by 131% and after the Olympic Games, in 1993, increase rate of real estate prices was reported to be just 2%.

– Olympic Games carried out in Atlanta in 1996: In Atlanta where monthly rent increase rate is just 0.4% in 1991, before Olympic Games this number reached to 7.9% in 1996 and 15000 people from low income groups had to leave the city and approximately 2000 social real estate unit were pulled down.

– Olympic Games carried out in Sydney in 2000: In 5 years period including the Olympic Games period, while increase in countrywide was 39%, real estate property prices increased by 50%.

– While the calculated cost of Olympic Games that was carried out in Atina was 1.6 billion Dollars, in reality it increase 10 times more than the calculated cost.

– 2008 Pekin: Chinese government, with excuse of Olympics destroyed the settled hometowns and historical Dazhalan region and transformed these places into shopping centers, luxury residences and sports centers. This caused 1 million and 250 thousand people’s forced eviction.

– In 2010, Vancouver Winter Olympics, while original budget was 660 million Dollars, the real cost of the games became 5 billion Dollars.

– In Londra which is the host of 2012 Summer Games, population from low income group districts near Olympics Village and social real estate areas were forced to eviction. While Increase rate of real estate property prices in the regions near to Olympics Village was 1.4%, with the declaration of city hosting, it increased to 4.6%. In the same period, increase rate in other regions of the city was reported to be just 0.2%.

– 2012 London: While the financial profile of the city was calculated to be 2.37 billion Dollars, after gaining the year 2005 Games city hosting, this budget increased to 9 billion Dollars which means that it was quadrupled.

– İstanbul 2020 predicted the investment amount was 19.7 which was four times more than Tokyo and 10 times more than Madrid. 

David Harvey (2008) defines mega organizations as a means of a tool for making savings for capital by displacement and dispossession and he defends that the mega organizations are very speculative and it is an expensive attempt to prepare the city for becoming a candidate for the Olympics which has a risk of unamortizing itself.

Mike Davis, on the other hand, states that these organizations having different names and contents such as Olympics, exposition, culture forum or capital of culture, has an history which is “very dark and mystery history”.

Arthitect Miloon Kothari, who worked for United Nations (UN) between 2000 and 2008 years as the first Housing Right Reporter searched and reported the urban transformation application in the world and housing right violations and states that they researched all examples of mega sports organizations such as world championships and Olympic games worldwide and found that there is not almost one positive example.

When example of İstanbul is evaluated; it is a matter of a debate about the coherency of using this much budget for hosting a large scale organization instead of using it for strengthening the settled hometowns especially starting from public buildings of the city without displacement, recovering many failures such as traffic and infrastructure and strengthening the buildings against earthquakes. While TOKİ reimburses an investment of 1000 real estate property in İstanbul by 28 million TRY, with one fourth of the budget which is allocated for the Olympics, we can be able to build 200 thousand earthquake resistant building. While we are faced to İstanbul Earthquake which threatens people’s safety of life and property, it is not possible to find it reasonable to prefer investing on Olympics which just enriches special entrepreneurs. 


PREUSS, Holger, Opportunity costs and efficiency of investments in mega sport events, Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, 2009.

ESSEX, Stephen, B. CHALKLEY, Mega-sporting Events in Urban and Regional Policy: A History of the Winter Olympics, Planning Perspectives 19, 2004.

ROCHE, Maurice, Mega Events &Modernity Olympics and Expos in the Growth of the Global Culture, 2000.

McKAY, Melinda, C. PLUMB, “Reaching beyond the gold: The impact of the Olympic Games on real estate markets.” Global Insights Issue 1, Jones Lang LaSalle, 2001.

RITCHIE, Brent, M. HALL, Mega events and human rights. Proceedings of Sport and Human Rights Conference, 1999.



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