Department of Social Anthropology
bsas seminar

Department seminar: Christopher Gaffney

The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen is happy to announce the upcoming seminar with Doctor Christopher Gaffney (University of Zurich). The title of the paper is "Rendering the Games: the essence of the mega-event accumulation regime".

The day prior to the seminar there will be a premiere of a documentary that is closely related to the seminar: "Dirty Games: Olympic Evictions in Rio de Janeiro". The film is co-directed by Margit Ystanes and José Alejandro Huidobro Goya, University of Bergen.

7 September, 19:00, at Café Sanaa in Kaigaten 22. Read more about the film here: Dirty Games

At the film there will be a panel discussion headed by Cecilie Ødegaard (Anthropology, University of Bergen) where Christopher Gaffney will speak. The conversation will be held in English.

Seminar paper 

Title: Rendering the Games: the essence of the mega-event accumulation regime

This talk will examine the specific ways in which sports mega-events function to extract monopoly rents from their hosts. I use the concept of rendering, which can mean "to boil down", "to represent", "to capture", "to pay rent", and “to result in”. Each of these instances show the specific ways in which mega-events are specific and pernicious mechanisms of accumulation that operate within the global sports industrial complex. The ten year cycle of bidding for and hosting a mega-event is predicated upon a business model that allows FIFA and the IOC to extract monopoly rents from prospective hosts. During the bidding phase cities and countries compete against each other, raising the stakes in a zero-sum competition where the winner is obliged to sign a hosting contract that gives extraordinary privileges to these Swiss-based, non-profit NGOs.

The financial benefits that accrue from the monopoly condition of the Olympics and World Cup are accentuated by the conditions under which the events are realized. While the processes through which this process unfolds are complicated, involving thousands of independent actors across the globe, the essence of the business model can be distilled down to a few essential practices all predicated upon the concept of render. The rendition of the mega-event city proceeds in four stages. First, a prospective mega-event host is rendered through urban planning documents and architectural drawings as they are presented in the bid book (Lauermann 2015; Hiller 2000). Secondly, the prospective host city needs to render (produce) the event in the physical space of the city through the construction of new stadia, transportation, security, communication, tourism and hospitality infrastructure (Gaffney 2014; Luque-Ayala and Marvin 2016). Third, during the event itself the infrastructure of the city needs to be “extraordinarily rendered”, that is extra-judicially captured, for the specific use of the event (Müller 2015). Fourth, the profits realized during the event are given over to the monopoly rights holders through a specific form of financial seizure (from the French rendere) consecrated in hosting contracts (International Olympic Committee 2015). Fifth, rendering is a conditional descriptor that we can apply to hosts once the events have passed (legacy). By exploring the processes and mechanisms under which these processes are realized in urban space, I will show how the rendering of mega-event host cities functions to produce ever higher profits for FIFA and the IOC within a very specific accumulation regime that fuels the global sports-industrial complex.

About the speaker

Dr. Christopher Gaffney is an independent scholar and the editor of the Journal of Latin American Geography. His research focuses on the intersection of sport and the city, specifically looking at the ways in which the political economy of the global industrial sports complex intersects with the political economy of host cities. He has examined the conflicts of contradictions of these processes in a number of different contexts, but has maintained a strong focus on Rio de Janeiro and the unfortunate outcomes there after a decade of mega-events.