Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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From Ephemeral Planning to Permanent Urbanism: An Urban Planning Theory of Mega-Events

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Abstract:  Mega-events like the Olympic Games are powerful forces that shape cities. In the wake of mega-events, a variety of positive and negative legacies have remained in host cities. In order to bring some theoretical clarity to debates about legacy creation, I introduce the concepts of the mega-event utopia, dystopia and heterotopia. A mega-event utopia is ideal and imaginary urbanism embracing abstract concepts about economies, socio-political systems, spaces, and societies in the host during events. The mega-event utopia (in contrast to other utopian visions other stakeholders may hold) is dictated by the desires of the mega-event owners irrespective of the realities in the event host. In short, a mega-event utopia is the perfect event host from the owner’s perspective. Mega-event utopias are suggested as a theoretical model for the systematic transformation of their host cities. As large-scale events progress as ever more powerful transformers into this century, mega-event dystopias have emerged as negatives of these idealistic utopias. As hybrid post-event landscapes, mega-event heterotopias manifest the temporary mega-event utopia as legacy imprints into the long-term realities in hosting cities. Using the Olympic utopia as an example of a mega-event utopia, I theorize utopian visions around four urban traits: economy, image, infrastructure and society. Through the concept of the mega-event legacy utopia, I also provide some insight toward the operationalization of the four urban traits for a city’s economic development, local place marketing, urban development, and public participation.

Keywords:  heterotopia; legacy; mega-event; Olympic; place; planning theory; society; transformation; urban theory; utopia



© Eva Kassens-Noor. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.