Chapter 10 Mega-events and Placemaking: Place Image Construction between Reality and Imagination

In: Placemaking in Practice Volume 1
Authors:
Erna Husukić International Burch University Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Emina Zejnilović International Burch University Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Dimelli Despina Technical University of Crete Chania Greece

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Ayse Erek Kadir Has University Istanbul Turkey

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Nika Ðuho Catholic University of Croatia Zagreb Croatia

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Open Access

Abstract

Mega-events are considered as one of the anchors of the consumption-based development that plays a significant role in the contemporary production of urbanity. They are complex and transformative undertakings that inevitably create an impact of great magnitude, mass popular appeal and international significance. This chapter explores mega-event phenomena in different national and geopolitical contexts through which cities are increasingly formed and compares emerging practices on making and selling of post-event places of host cities whose legacy is still unfolding. It aims to bring together different perspectives of the placemaking process using comparative study analysis of four distinct cities: Sarajevo in the context of the 1984 Winter Olympics; Athens in the context of the Summer Olympics of 1896 and 2004; Istanbul in the context of Formula 1 along with cultural events such as biennales and art fairs; and Dubrovnik in the context of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. What kind of places did events produce? How did event-led urban conditions merge under the radar of official planning guidelines in Sarajevo, Athens, Istanbul and Dubrovnik? What determines the capacity of cities to capitalize under the cover of an event? Both Sarajevo and Athens have undergone distinctive historical pathways in the post-Olympic period which help to understand how far these cities’ strategies have addressed the need to leverage legacies and to turn towards the new urban economies. The Dubrovnik and Istanbul cases embrace the cultural events for urban image production, highlighting the long-term significance of events for public spaces for subsequent events where unprescribed interaction could lead to innovation and creativity. On the one hand, the chapter contends that the mega-events are powerful mechanisms that re‐prioritize urban agendas, foster urban redevelopment and are instruments for reinventing cities and promoting economic growth. On the other hand, the research on the mega-event-based urban imaginaries reveals contradictions and tensions between two distinct urban realities, the actual reality of the city in the post-event era followed by uncertainty and anticipation, and the constructed (mediated) reality built on the utopian vision that is in most cases far from being a reflection of urban, social and cultural identities.

1 Introduction

Fairs, festivals and other cultural and sport events have been part of the urban scene as long as there have been cities. The event-based urban imaginaries have a long trajectory. However, the history of hallmark events such as universal expositions and world fairs, the forerunner of today’s expos, date from the 1700s, early examples of globalization and capitalism through respective Franco-British empires, converging in the exemplar Great Exhibition in 1851 (Evans, 2020, p. 1).

The role of events has expanded significantly since the 1960s to the point where they have come to be considered as solutions to a wide range of urban problems (Richards & Palmer, 2010). According to Harvey (1989), cities have tried to adjust themselves to complex new economic and social circumstances by shifting their policies from urban managerialism to urban entrepreneurialism. In a comparable vein, Silk (2014) argues that the hosting of sport mega-events “is inextricably bound with a series of processes related to the reconstitution of ‘spectacular urban space’” (p. 50), whereby various neoliberal logics link the production of symbols to the production of space. What has arguably changed over time is the scope and scale of special events that expanded their footprint beyond one-off events. Since the 1990s, as the promotion of city brands has grown as a priority of post-industrial urban policies, mega-events have become privileged tools of urban marketing and repositioning for host cities in world urban networks promoting their attractiveness to tourists and to the media (Hall, 1992).

Mega-events should not be deemed as extraordinary phenomena, but rather as complicated episodes of ordinary urban change processes (Di Vita & Morandi, 2018). Mega-events or enterprises, which have been described by Hall (1992), mark events such as economic trade fairs or artistic biennials, and sportive events like the Olympics, have caused a large number of participants and an audience to travel and have attracted worldwide publicity due to the development of mass media (Getz, 1997). Hall (1992) defines mega-events in terms of their size, level of public financial investment, political effects, television coverage, construction of facilities, and the economic and social impacts of the host community. According to their large diffusion through cities, their capability to synthesize the complexity of usually fragmented urban change processes, the long duration from their bid to their legacies, as well as their shifting role in relation to different phases of world urban dynamics, mega-events can be considered as privileged reflection scenarios on contemporary urban phenomena, also in relation to global geo-economic and geopolitical trends (Di Vita & Morandi, 2018). Similarly, festivals as periodic public events contribute to the process of community self-presentation and constructing the identity of the place. The city and local community by using the past images through processes of festivalization tend to emphasize what they are and what they have never been (Kelemen & Škrbić Alempijević, 2012). Festivals have become one of the most important urban events due to rapid globalization and homogenization of urban culture. They are focused on local culture and tradition, but not only to imitate it but to re-imagine their position in relation to contemporary changes and challenges. Festivals can be defined as periodic public events in various forms in which all community members who are united by religious, historical or cultural worldviews participate directly or indirectly (Kelemen & Škrbić Alempijević, 2012). Different social actors participate in the realization of the festival: political elites, sponsors, media, organizers, performers, locals, target audiences, external visitors as well as random passers-by.

The process of identity construction is most visible through narrative discourses related to the event itself. Identity is also created through temporal dialectics (the relations between past and present). In addition to recognizable cultural heritage and tradition, we could say that festivals act as the intertwining of tradition and innovation (Kelemen & Škrbić Alempijević, 2012). There are narratives about ancient traditions and the town’s past, but festival practices also attribute innovation, creativity and openness (to the world), which allows not only the reconstruction of the past but through the “selective traditions” (Škrbić Alempijević & Mesarić Žabčić, 2010) the creation of desirable narratives and images through which their authenticity is expressed outside of local borders.1 Festivals could also be described as social spaces allowing social interaction, participation and the feeling of social inclusion through the fulfilment of the public spaces during festival times. All these contributions encourage interaction between actors and so enhance the vitality of urban space (Quinn et al., 2021). Much attention has been paid to the importance of image, ephemera and spectacle that have given a new impetus to events, as creators and carriers of meaning and wealth in cities. Event images are now so important that they “are starting to dominate the natural or physical features in the identification of cities” (Burns et al., 1986, p. 5). In such a context of intercity competition and urban policies promoting cities as commodities where the efforts of the cities for characteristic “physiognomy” and place identity in the global urban system, epitomize key morphological means for “branding” the cities.

This chapter aims to bring together different perspectives of the placemaking process using a comparative study analysis of Sarajevo, Athens, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. Each of the four cities under discussion have shown that current patterns and processes of dynamic urban grounds are influenced by past events and legacies. Drawing on Roche’s (2000) perspective on mega-events as important points of reference for processes of change and modernization within and between nation/states, and for globalization processes more generally, and following recurrent discussion of urban competitiveness, this work acknowledges the relevance of major events and festivals to the creation and marketing of place.

2 Cases

2.1 Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a special, transcendent place (Bollens, 2010). The city has a rich past, a dynamic present and a promising future. The city itself is a conspicuous example of a city of intimate diversity where the 1984 Winter Olympics reinforced its already rich cultural environment and connected the city with the spirit of the Olympics. Undoubtedly, the 1984 Olympics transformed the Sarajevo landscape rapidly and intentionally in a very visible way. Sarajevo showed that mega-events could turn a profit and that the Olympics could be used as a rationale for inducing consumption-based development.

The games were a turning point in terms of city development that completely changed the image of the city. The built heritage of Sarajevo was enriched with spacious new sport venues and competition centres, cultural facilities, new hotels and residential buildings sited within a maximum radius of only 22.5 km, with a lot of them being built in the city itself. The Olympic project also included some improvements in the urban infrastructure, the extension of the existing airport and other renovation and restoration projects. Although host cities tend to be criticized for overly embracing the utopian images of the Olympic vision and its grand narratives, the representation of that vision by the Sarajevo Olympic city was not false but rather really showed the true character of the city. As such, the identity of the Olympic city was meditated as a live experience derived from the Yugoslav socialist regime that advocated modernist and functionalist urbanism. All of the buildings designed had been gracefully fused into the city landscape. The architecture of the Sarajevo Olympics is neither a monumental nor a hysterical episode in the city’s development. It does not call for form itself, but it represents a model of social use, coherency and construction of the public realm (Husukić & Zejnilović, 2020). Along with the stimulated economic growth, the 1984 Olympics reintroduced a sort of human pride and bolstered social inclusion and created a new identity for a city appropriate to a rapidly changing urban world. This enhancement of community pride and the city’s self-image following such an event could be referred to, as Hall (1992) describes, the “halo effect” or the “feel-good effect” (Allen et al., 2005). Perhaps one of the greatest impacts of the games was the image of a successful Olympics organized by an amateur city. From this point of view, the most enduring legacy of the 1984 games was the sense of accomplishment in Sarajevo and Yugoslavia.

The Balkan Wars, which had flared up in the 1990s, created a state of affairs which threatened the very existence of the Olympic idea as a gleam of joyful hope. Yet, ironically, only eight years after the Olympics, Sarajevo was home to the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The war clearly had a significant and consequent negative impact on the newly created image of an Olympic city. The cityscape of Sarajevo suffered much lasting damage. Since the Dayton Accords brought peace in 1995, Sarajevo has been divided by the Inter-Entity Boundary Line into two almost entirely mono-ethnic cities: Sarajevo in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and East Sarajevo, which is part of Republika Srpska. Consequently, the division of the Olympic mountains, which were assigned disruptive prefixes based on the logic of national attributes, was an example of the collateral damage done as the legacy was torn apart on two sides, neglecting the Olympics, as Vuic (2015, p. 63) indicates, as a symbol and the apotheosis of an earlier, idealized period in which Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats got along.

Both, the 1984 Olympics and the war were turning points in terms of city transformation that completely changed the image of the city. Today the legacy of the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo is recognized as a legitimate historical layer in the city’s urban fabric, most of which is being used by Sarajevans. City identity is being reinterpreted alternately through the lens of the Olympics and war, shaping urban imaginaries that reveals contradictions (fig. 10.1).

Figure 10.1
Figure 10.1

Signs of remembrance preserved on Ferhadija Street, one of the main pedestrian streets in Sarajevo. Left, one of the many wounds of war remembrance preserved in 1996 on the streets of the city called “Sarajevo roses”. Right, snowflake imprinted in 2012 as a symbol of the 14th Winter Olympic Games held in Sarajevo in 1984

Source: The author (Husukić)

City images of the euphoria and spectacle are continuously overlapping with the images of trauma and suffering, creating some sort of resistance to reminisce and hold firmly the most glorious period in the city’s development (fig. 10.2). Confronted with a sporadic attempt of a city that fails to preserve the image of the Olympic city in its conventional sense, maybe we should ask if our tendencies are limited to simply reinstating what the city used to be, insisting on clarity in the face of something far more contested and demanding.

Figure 10.2
Figure 10.2

Competing memory of the Olympics and the war presented in Sarajevo’s Olympic Museum

Source: The author (Husukić)

2.2 Athens (Greece)

Athens is the capital and by far the most important city in Greece, exhibiting a variety and a concentration of economic sectors and activities, such as high-level public administration, business headquarters and a wide array of services. There is a population of about 4 million in the greater metropolitan area of Attica (Beriatos & Gospodini, 2004). After Baron de Coubertin’s initiative in 1894 to bring back the Olympic Games, Athens was the first city to host the modern Olympic Games in 1896, as Greece was the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games. After almost a century, the Olympics returned to Greece, with the 2004 Summer Olympics.

The 1896 Olympic Games had only 241 participants from 14 nations, and there were seven structures provided for their accommodation. The most important was the Panathenaic Stadium (fig. 10.3), which accommodated four of the total nine sports facilities, as well as the opening and the closing ceremonies. Today, this stadium is an important landmark of the city of Athens and, due its proximity with the important archaeological sites of the city and the fact that is used for concerts and other important ceremonies, it attracts a lot of visitors. As for the other sports facilities, public buildings were used that today host public events, such as the Zappeion (fig. 10.4), while others today do not remain, such as the velodrome and other open spaces.

Figure 10.3
Figure 10.3

The Panathenaic Stadium during the 1896 Olympic Games opening ceremony

Source: https://streetlife.gr/2020/04/06/6-aprilioy-1896-i-teleti-enarxis-ton-sygchronon-olympiakon-agonon-tis-athinas/https://streetlife.gr/2020/04/06/6-aprilioy-1896-i-teleti-enarxis-ton-sygchronon-olympiakon-agonon-tis-athinas/
Figure 10.4
Figure 10.4

Zappeion today

Source: The author (Dimelli)

Athens was chosen as the host city for the 2004 Olympic Games in 1997. There was a perception that the Olympic Games would revise the image of the country in the eyes of the world, by securing for it social, economic, environmental, cultural and sporting recognition appropriate to a modern metropolis (Kissoudi, 2010). The 2004 games provided Athens the opportunity to construct world-class sporting venues as well as to accelerate the completion of major infrastructure upgrades in transportation, telecommunications and other sectors (Kasimati, 2015). It was a chance to improve the quality of its urban spaces, to upgrade the city to meet global standards (Beriatos & Gospodini, 2004) and to put Athens on the map as a major metropolitan centre in south-eastern Europe (Economou et al., 2001).

The basic idea for the Olympic development was that the structures would primarily be constructed in Athens, but stadiums for the preparation of the athletes would be located in other Greek cities. In Athens, there were projects for athletic activities, accommodation for athletes and journalists and transport infrastructure. The 17 smaller and larger spatial units hosting Olympic activities in Athens were developed in a scattered way which promoted a multi-nucleus urban regeneration and development (Beriatos & Gospodini, 2004).

The Olympic venues were mostly constructed in greenfields around the city or in undeveloped areas, although there were existing brownfields which could be developed. It is characteristic that 95% of the projects planned for the 2004 Olympics were permanent spatial structures, so that they could be easily redesigned, reconstructed and reused after the games. Although this reuse strategy made the infrastructure flexible for the future, there was no strategic plan for their use after the games, so this idea was not utilized. Except for the Olympic spatial units, regeneration programmes were applied in the historic centre of Athens with the development of networks for pedestrians which united the archaeological sites, as tourists were expected to be able to use them later on.

One year after the end of the Olympic Games, the Hellenic government enacted a law for the use of the Olympic infrastructure. Within basketball and fencing venues, cultural events, exhibitions, shops and restaurants were allowed. In the baseball, softball and hockey venues, athletic uses, cultural events and public domains were allowed. In the canoe/kayak/slalom infrastructure, shops and public domains were permitted. Finally, in the surrounding areas a sports park was permitted (Milionis, 2010).

Today, some of the Olympic infrastructure are being used. Many of them have changed their initial use and were leased for 99 years to private organizations, which have converted them into malls. At the same time, many Olympic spatial units stand deserted and are deteriorating (fig. 10.5) as the Greek bureaucracy, the lack of strategic plans and the economic crisis have made their development by the Greek state extremely complicated.

Figure 10.5
Figure 10.5

The abandoned softball stadium in Elliniko

Source: Google Earth

2.3 Istanbul (Turkey)

The changing sense of place and the transformation in narrative making marked the 2000s in Istanbul. The emergence of financial centres and gated communities on the outskirts of the city in the 1990s expanded into urban central areas in the 2000s. The emergence of theme parks, shopping malls and fast urban renewal projects and housing complexes in various parts of the city accompanied the displacement of local communities and manufacturers and posed a threat to the urban ecology. The rise of global cultural events (art fairs, exhibitions, contemporary art biennales, gallery weekends), the foundation of institutions of culture (Erek and Köksal, 2014), the plans for mega projects aimed at attracting international audiences and the circulation and criticism of information related to these all play a part in the global system. Istanbul’s renewal is central to understanding the relationship between the material and immaterial dynamics of this process.

Istanbul experienced rapid development over the past 30 years. The building of the Istanbul Park (a racing track suitable for hosting Formula 1 Grand Prix events) stands as one of a series of projects realized in the outskirts of Istanbul that opened the area to new infrastructure systems and real estate development. The project was an outcome of the urban sprawl that started in the 1980s and was a precursor to the construction of future mega-projects in the region. This can be seen in two recent projects built north of Istanbul: the third bridge over the Bosphorus (2016) and the third Istanbul airport (2018). Both were controversial. The bridge poses a threat to the water reservoirs serving Istanbul, and the airport was placed in a major green area north of the city. Development like these is paving the way for additional construction projects and further controversy. Opposition to the development of the Istanbul Park was led by eleven organizations who objected to the site chosen as it was located within the Ömerli water catchment and forest area, emphasizing the environmental risks it would pose (Gezici & Er, 2014). A report prepared collectively in 2005 by various NGOs and other professionals “investigated the project regarding ecology, agriculture and wild life, and concluded that the way the project was to be realized was in apparent conflict with regulations and laws, international agreements and the public benefit” (Bilgenoğlu, 2005). Nevertheless, after a short delay the project kicked off even though the case was still in the court system. What was once a little village turned into a densely populated area in the eastern part of Istanbul.

Istanbul Park began to host Formula 1 Grand Prix events starting in 2005 and, after a change in management in 2009, continued until 2011. It was seen as a tourism opportunity that would bring international audiences to the city and so the park was planned as a consumer complex. The project was funded through significant public and private investment and played a huge role in the development of the city brand. The park ceased hosting Formula 1 events in 2011 for financial reasons, but was able to host other kinds of sports events in its place. In 2020 the presidential investment office used its role as one of the founding partners to restart Formula 1 at the park. The office saw the start of the event as a call to “international investors”, within the campaign “Turkey: Your Resilient Partner”, implying “a resilient and a trusted position for global investors” (Hürriyet, 2021). The head of the office said that “the vision of the presidency is in accordance with the vision of Formula 1”, implying the financial benefits expected. Formula 1 would promote Istanbul to an international audience; the media campaign of 2020 blended city branding with advertising for the event. The promotional video included various historical locations in the city and it was expected to reach “millions of viewers to promote the country”, as claimed by the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Communications (Aydoğan, 2020). Formula 1 “wouldn’t be measured by only financial benefits but more: networking of global investors and touristic marketing” (Köprülü, 2017).

Figure 10.6
Figure 10.6

Istanbul Park

Photo: Formula 1, 8 November 2020. https://cdn-1.motorsport.com/images/mgl/yp3o4ee2/s1200/istanbul-park-1.webp

Despite all the expectations and the conflicts created by the Istanbul Park project, the owner of the park, which hosted a Formula 1 event recently, affirmed that a renewal of the contract (ending in 2023) would not be possible if the state and the private sector did not increase their investment in the park (Levent, 2021). The revival of the Formula 1 relationship reinforces once again the importance of city branding and it role in generating regional economic success. This must be considered alongside the ongoing discussions about ecology and citizen decision-making processes. Istanbul already has a greater population than its resources can support, but it is still an arena for new urban projects and narrative-making strategies, in a period of economic decline and an autocratic regime in crisis.

2.4 Dubrovnik (Croatia)

Dubrovnik, historically known as Ragusa, is a city in southern Croatia. Today, it is known as one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Recently, the city has often been used as a filming location, and it is especially known for the HBO television series Game of Thrones.

The Dubrovnik Summer Festival was formally instituted in 1950. The official festival period lasts annually from 10 July to 25 August, although some activities take place over the entire year. The festival begins and ends with a solemn ritual ceremony. In addition to the festival period, the heart of the festival are numerous daily cultural, theatrical and musical events that are strategically performed in the most prominent places of Dubrovnik’s historic core (parks, fortresses, markets, streets2 ), transforming the whole city into an open theatre. The fascinating materiality of the historic core becomes a marker of festival identity and local authenticity.

Festival narratives and practices can be explored through several different media used by the organizers themselves: programme booklets, official websites as well as social networks. This case draws on a content analysis approach to interrogate official narratives produced by the organizers themselves. It should be emphasized that the identification process is a complex and layered process, therefore we can talk about creating multiple identities (local, national, international or global).

Local identity is most often associated with the ambience of the historic core and the independent era of the Republic of Ragusa, which is expressed through the symbol of freedom and the libertarian spirit of the era connecting it with contemporary cultural and artistic expression: “living spirit of drama and music actually derived from the intellectual way of life of the city itself”. The prosperity of the city was historically based on maritime trade. It achieved a high level of development, particularly during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as it became notable for its wealth and skilled diplomacy. At the same time, Dubrovnik became a cradle of Croatian literature. In addition to freedom, local identity is expressed through the presentation of the most famous Dubrovnik’s writers, such as Držić, Nalješković, Gundulić and Vojnović, who became the “mainstay of the drama programme”. This also seeks to show cultural heritage on the local scale. Elsewhere, it is possible to recognize the narrative discourses that position the Dubrovnik Summer Festival at the national level. Thus, on several occasions the festival is characterized as a traditional festival of high importance or as a very representative cultural manifestation in Croatia. It was also noted that from the moment of its official establishment the festival sought to rise above the local level and gain the status of a “Yugoslav festival”.

But apart from the local and national level, the festival also take place on a European and global scale. Dubrovnik’s festival tradition relates to the context of Western Europe (thus at the same time trying to separate itself from the Eastern European cultural context). The positioning of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival within the Western European cultural context is visible through the connection of the creation of the festival itself with the numerous theatrical and musical events that took place throughout Western Europe during this period, thus placing the Dubrovnik festival in the European cultural network. This practice shows us how a certain tradition and identity are created at relatively recent historical events (Hobsbawm & Ranger, 1983). The emphasis on belonging to the (Western) European cultural context is in relation to contemporary political and social constellations, especially to the time before and during the Croatian accession to the European Union. Finally, the festival tradition is also associated with global narratives to ensure the visibility of the city and the local community on a global scale and to create a destination image (Škrbić Alempijević & Mesarić Žabčić, 2010). It is possible to highlight several strategy narratives that are officially used, such as “cultural diversity,” “cultural tourism” or “cultural cooperation”. Following these narratives, we can conclude that the cultural policy of the festival expresses openness to the world and cosmopolitan spirit that is often associated with the politics of the Republic of Ragusa but now it turns more to the cultural level. Globally, the city is promoted as an “open theatre” and as an intersection of “Croatian and world cultural spirit”. In doing so, cooperation with numerous performers coming from different parts of the world is often mentioned.

Figure 10.7
Figure 10.7

Sponza Palace (1996)

Source: liberoportal.hr
Figure 10.8
Figure 10.8

Romeo and Juliet in 1970

Source: liberoportal.hr
Figure 10.9
Figure 10.9

Official festival flag “Libertas” (“Freedom”)

Source: The Dubrovnik Summer Festival

3 Discussion on Outcomes and Results of the Four Cases

This chapter brought together different perspectives on hallmark events. Drawing on historical evolution of the presented case studies and following current debates on the factors influencing city making in the context of each city, this chapter highlights the relevance of major events and festivals to the creation of urban imaginaries.

The case study on Sarajevo showed how to create, sustain and develop an Olympic project in order to reap a number of benefits. Sarajevo is recognized widely as an example of a city that used the 1984 Winter Olympics to modernize the city and revive a flagging economy. Moreover, the Olympic movement in Sarajevo significantly influenced the multifaceted reconstruction of city identity and by that the Olympics became a lynchpin in the projection of the city’s image. Undoubtedly, the violent disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Bosnian War and the siege of Sarajevo profoundly affected and irreparably left a mark on the urban imaginaries of Sarajevo. As Husukić and Zejnilović (2020) claim more than two decades later, the war in Sarajevo has continued to cast an influential shadow.

The juxtaposition of the present with the past, and of the Olympics with the war, becomes evident in reviewing the current state and meanings of the Olympic legacies. In the case of the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, the legacy carries bittersweet memories. It evokes sentiments that range from hopefulness to dejection, playfulness to anxiety. Sarajevo is perhaps an extreme example of a mega-event to study since it was based on urban imaginaries where the dynamics of history and memory, the need for commemoration and amnesia, pervaded the host city as never before. Regardless of current competing memories and the misinterpretation of the Olympic legacies in a divided post-war city, the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo was one of the major avenues for harnessing potential and the rebranding of a city’s image. Understanding governance as politics in the context of Sarajevo requires examining actor constellations and power relations between all forces involved in the planning of the future of the Olympic legacy.

The Summer Olympics in 2004 added new dynamism to Athens and helped to polish the jaded image of the city. The event was very well organized and it succeeded in securing the collaboration of social and economic groups in the city and in creating jobs. The Olympic infrastructure seemed to be an opportunity for the improvement of the city’s image and a chance for the development of new forms of urban tourism. The initial enthusiasm was, after the games, replaced by strong criticism about the effects of this important event, as Greece faced the results of the economic crisis in 2009. The games were related to the cost overrun and the financial debt while the evaluation of the Olympic infrastructure’s reuse caused disappointment due to unrealized aspirations because of missed opportunities (Kissoudi, 2010).

The Olympic Games of Athens have been the focus of political debate until today. Recent decisions about the reuse of infrastructure in terms of public and private sector partnerships have been criticized as they are not supported by participatory processes. They are characterized as being fragmented and driven by private market forces. One positive aspect is that many elements of the infrastructure, such as roads, pedestrian routes, mass transport networks and regenerated public spaces, which were indirectly related to the games, have been the reason for Athens’ development.

Both Sarajevo and Athens illustrate that the Olympics are “an immense playground, marketplace, theatre, battlefield, church, arena, festival and Broadway of cultural images, symbols and meanings” (MacAloon, 1984, p. 5) whose image creation today is open to interpretation.

Istanbul is a megacity that experienced fast urban transformation, expanding its borders after the 1980s. The realization of mega-events in Istanbul have been explored in regard to the issues such as the selection of the site, new infrastructure systems, real estate development and changes in urban policy (Gezici & Er, 2014). The mega-events in Istanbul have been explored partially, in regard to urban image making and city branding processes, and especially in their relevance to changing approaches to entrepreneurism and creation of consumer spaces. In a short span of 30 years, a quick population rise and a decision to make Istanbul a centre for tourism and culture in the region turned the project of mega-events into a strategy to invite national and international visitors to the city, rising economic income and reinforcing narrative making for the branding of the city. The appearance of Formula 1 Grand Prix in Istanbul in the 2000s is one such attempt and was an outcome of a scheme in urban transformation where real estate and new construction projects constituted the major income. At a time of global ecological crisis and problems in urbanization, Formula 1 is a case that exemplifies the conflicts revealed by its effects on the vast areas of the city.

As can be seen in the example of Dubrovnik, the Summer Festival as a cyclical celebration of culture generates many points of identification and provides fertile ground for the birth of non-mainstream urban identities. On the one hand, festival practice contributes to the process of identification of the city and the local community and encourages the creation of a “local memory”, but, on the other hand, it contributes to mobilizing this same identity on a global scale, primarily for tourism purposes, by turning the festival into a recognizable city trademark. On a global scale, the image of the city is associated with symbols of the sea, its maritime tradition, its historical status and power, which once again confirm the city’s aspiration to position itself and its culture in the wider Mediterranean environment as a “link with continents, other civilizations and nations” (Škrbić Alempijević and Mesarić Žabčić, 2010).

In conclusion, we can say that the festivals themselves can be woven into the identity of their host city and become a significant symbol and marketing tool of the city, as is seen in the example of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. The festival tradition points to the values of culture, identity and freedom by seeking to position itself locally and globally. Although festivals and perceptions of them are multifaceted and layered, we can point out that cultural festivals can serve as tools of community identification that are inspired by tradition and the past as seen by different festival actors. Apart from the time horizon, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival speaks in spatial terms about tradition as well as embraces the contemporary idea of ambient theatre and the use of space as an opportunity for participants to express themselves freely. It also acts as a metaphor with its encouragement of dialogue with the contemporary social, political and cultural contexts.

Significant new spaces for public cultures have been created by the festivals, sport and cultural events in Sarajevo, Athens, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. Creative destruction that evolved along these events generated dramatically different landscapes of economic power (Zukin, 1991).

4 Lessons Learned

The research on the mega-event-based urban imaginaries opened a window into diverse topics to be studied, such as changing realities, unfolding city narratives, place branding (creating new urban identities), place marketing (mapping city at the global level), cultural inclusion/exclusion, politics of space and many others. In that respect, this work critically discusses, analyses and challenges the planning of the mega-events in light of their legacies, including the built environment, socio-economic systems, societal values and cultures. This is vital for creating socially and spatially responsible plans for future urban development.

This chapter gives a critical appraisal of the event-led urban image construction in the context of Sarajevo, Athens, Istanbul and Dubrovnik. All the cities have gone down distinctive historical pathways in the post-event period. Nevertheless, this work has accumulated and presented valuable findings. Based on them future studies could be carried out to examine and compare the cities in an even more evocative way. The key points can be summarized as follows:

  • Mega-event-led urban development can cause problems but also provide solutions at the same time. Mega-events might bring desirable social change and an enhanced global reputation, but they can also cause difficulties and a range of criticism in host cities. There is a need to find a balance between temporary event programs and social, economic, environmental and symbolic considerations in order to take account of long-term realities. This implies understating the mega-event growth machine and the complex interplay between, on one hand, global forces and, on the other, the changing nature of societies and cities hosting such events.

  • It is necessary to view the pursuit of mega-events as the opportunity rather than the intervention itself.

  • The legacy of mega-events should be seen as dynamic and developmental in character. Naturally, event legacies should not entail only selective legacies as those that accommodate the desires of a political or an economic elite. Instead, event legacies should reinforce the concept of universal legacies which are much more communal, collectivist and inherently democratic.

  • The post-event era represents a new phase of city development where the temporarily displayed fashionable image of the host city, without exception, has been replaced by urban and social realities of different cities to distorted urban images.

  • Regardless of the existing level of recognition of the former host city to capitalize upon events, each event should generate promise, drive for possible future transformation, city growth and betterment.

  • In order to capitalize under the cover of an event, we must draw upon forces in cities’ past heritage which can be used to reconstruct the urban futures.

5 Conclusions

The creation and promotion of hallmark events such as festivals, shows, exhibitions, fairs and sport events have become a powerful force shaping urban development strategies across the globe. Undoubtedly, a dynamic urban policy becomes part of the image of a city and an agent for its symbolic economy. Despite the lingering concerns of political accountability, financial uncertainty and post-event viability, there is increasing competition by cities to host mega-events. It seems that cities have come to accept the logic of global competition to attract international investment.

This comes as no surprise as mega-events are expressively pursued at the international market – global media, tourists and investors in line with local and national participants. They also entail major capital invested in venues, facilities and transport, and drive a number of planning imperatives.

Richards and Palmer (2010) pointed out that competition between cities in a crowded field of images is one of the major factors stimulating cities to adopt branding strategies that seek to transform traditional cultural capital into a competitive lead through the staging of cultural events and the construction of cultural landmarks. Re-presenting and re-imaging cities through such events is both a competitive strategy but also a reflection of the “festivalization of the city” (Richards & Palmer, 2010). These hallmark events also present a dualistic challenge to their hosts – between the temporal/ephemeral nature of the event and its permanent legacy, and between the “host” audience and the outside world – that should be carefully coordinated.

The presented case studies showed that the endeavour of cities to become distinctive, to regenerate the urban fabric and to create economic, social and cultural success by hosting mega-events is a very complex exercise and not as simple and direct as mediated. This just confirms the claim of Roche (2000) that mega-events are an admittedly complex but long-lasting popular cultural genre and an influential cultural movement that have been and continue to be important phenomena at many levels and in many respects. There is no single approach to be employed here, given a number of distinct and unrelated disciplines covering research on mega-events.

This work contends that all phases of event-led urban development (pre-event, event and post-event) should become an integral part of a broader development strategy of cities which need to reap the benefits of it generating wider cultural, social and economic benefits. As Richards and Palmer (2010) advocates cogently, eventfulness is intimately linked to the process of placemaking. However, eventfulness should not be an aim in itself, but a means of refining the city and making it continuously more inventive and liveable. The making and selling of post-event places should go far beyond the control of mediated visual images of cities used as an aggressive or seductive lure. This work calls to attention the importance of a strategic framework that needs to be locally informed to ensure that reinventing urban environments on the roots of provisional cities reinforces and celebrates the identity or culture of the places in which they happen without tending towards something homogenous and identical.

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1

Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger described this process as “the invention of tradition”.

2

Since the foundation, manifestations have been performed in places such as the Lovrjenac Fortress, the Old Town Port, Gradac Park, Sponza Palace, or the summer residence in Gruž.

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Placemaking in Practice Volume 1

Experiences and Approaches from a Pan-European Perspective

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