HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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13 December 2012

something for the weekend calumet


1) There is no way to separate the social and cultural phenomenon of sports mega-events, the production of elite sport and the consumption of spectacle, from the circulation and accumulation of four types of capital: political, symbolic, cultural and economic.

2) Sport is increasingly used as a mechanism for the accumulation of all these forms of capital because it is easily detached from the politics of urban life. The combined actions of government, media, finance capital and mega-event rights holders work to differentiate the social and economic costs of mega-events from the provision of housing, transportation, education, sanitation, health care and human rights. This separation is facilitated by the emotional and historical milieus of sports competitions which frame the hosting of events within the non-rational, the patriotic or the intangible. The invention, production, marketing, and consumption of sports mega-events rarely includes complete information regarding the scope, scale and cost of urban and social interventions thereby constructing and maintaining a public veil of ignorance regarding the event.

3) The accelerated cycles of exceptional events has diluted their unique character, increased the scale of intervention and created a permanent and revolving “state of exception” (Agamben  2005). The global peregrinations of “celebration capital” (Boykoff 2013) have created trans-national knowledge sharing networks that continually evolve to meet the logistical, political and infrastructural challenges posed by hosts. These networks articulate with local, vested interests to extract maximum capital (in all its forms) within the event`s temporal horizon (seven years in the case of the Olympics and World Cup).  

4) In order for a maximum of accumulation to occur in the event horizon a specific mode of production needs to be imported and implemented. This mode of production can be considered a “Mega-event industrial complex” that is highly mobile and highly flexible, using metropolitan, state, national and international actors to transform the political, economic and socio-spatial dynamics of hosts. The mode of production requires extensive political, urban and social interventions in order to stimulate flows and circulations to the maximum degree possible. However, these flows are heavily directed and controlled, are of a certain type and have enduring effects on the exercise of power.

5) The general tendency of the mega-event mode of production is to limit the “right to the city” through the installation of a new form of governmentality (Foucault 2004, 108) that uses apparatuses of security as its essential technical element.  The mode of production can also be understood as a series of techniques, deployments, and tactics that restructures urban space through the mechanisms of discipline and security. This apparatus is meant to transform the use value of the city for local residents into exchange value for more mobile agents, thus transferring economic capital to higher circuits while allowing for the unfettered accumulation of political and symbolic capital by local and national politicians.  No informed population with a strong civil society would consensually submit to this outlandish proposal, thus the security apparatus functions to establish and guarantee these new circulations through the exercise of violence.

Agambem, Giorgio.2005. States of Exception. . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Boykoff, Jules. 2013. Celebration Capitalism. Forthcoming.
Foucault, Michel. 2004. Security, Territory, Population. Editions du Seuil/Gallimard. New York: Picador.

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