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Characteristics Of Mega Events Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 4145 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Mega-events, such as the Olympics, are highly prized by national and civic planners, and simultaneously hold political, economic and cultural happenings Boyle and Haggerty, 2009. They are global spectacles, used by nations to impact directly on urban generation and international standing (Alhert, 2006). Their nature is one that is non-routine, and of limited duration, requiring management of large movements of visitors, co-coordinators, and athletes.

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Characteristics of mega-events makes them exceptional (Fussey and Coaffee, 2012), demanding organisation and planning that requires significant alteration to the governance of the host city or country. This, and the vulnerability that follows from this, makes them a key target for security practices. The pressures faced by host nations from international committees, such as the International Olympics Committee (hereafter the IOC) plays a significant role on the domestic security arrangements (quote)

The appeal of hosting the Olympics is one that invokes inspirational images of athletes competing in idyllic settings (Burbank et al, year). The Summer Olympic Games have been called “sport mega-events”, because of their scale (Roche, 2009). London 2012 alone saw an extra 260,000 visitors to the capital (The Week, 2012). They are highly visible, “deeply symbolic” occasions that take place in large cities, combining intensive media coverage with astringent security and surveillance strategies (Boyle and Haggerty, 2009: 257).

The exceptional nature of these events requires examination of the threats they face, the world’s counter-terror measures, extensive surveillance technologies, and how these intensified measures are often legitimized in perpetuity as part of the “legacy” of the games (Coaffee etl, 2011:3314). Further to this, the essay will go on to show how surveillance technologies are subsequently deployed across large swathes of populations, highlighting the prominent point of the public and private sector surveillance. (THIS IS HOW I HAVE ARRANGED THIS ESSAY! WHEN YOU FINISH READING CAN YOU LET ME KNOW IF YOU THINK I SHOULD TALK ABOUT HOW I USED DIFFERENT PHILOSPHER’S THEORIES, OR SHALL I JUST KEEP THAT IN THE MAIN BODY?)

Traditional Risk

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a shift in national and international threats. Where national borders were considered then to be the primary area to be secured (Quote!), more recently, ballistic missiles have taken a side line to more topical city threats, such as dangerous backpacks on the London Undeground, high-jacked aircrafts and attacks on subways. The way cities are demonised in terrorist rhetoric, for example, means mega-events intersect with a range of complex global processes. ( am I making sense??? So theres a link between the threats to these cities and then going on to them hosting mega events!)

The scale of the Olympics makes them susceptible to these inherent complexities, most notably seen in the terrorist attack on the Israeli national team in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Such events demonstrate to the extremes of societal risks that are observed in their duration. With this said, traditional hazards, such as the adaptation and logistics of mega-events through infrastructure – seen in the construction of venues, present external risks, as they alter the urban environment, and have ecological impacts. (Bubank et al, 2002). These risks have moved away from natural hazards towards man-made risks (Beck, 1992), and are ever-present, regardless of political context.

New types of Risk

Deterritorialization contributes to the global development of the Olympics, which in turn, gives way to global telecommunication, international travel and the migration and passage of goods across borders (Jennings, 2012), all elements that lead to the contagion of risk. This Olympic globalisation has produced a global industry of risk assessment and risk management. In 1996 the Atlanta Olympics saw the Clinton Administration along with his counter-terror team anticipate a plan for a hijacked plane being flown into the main stadium (Clarke, 2004). Post 9/11, the “climate of insecurity” (Yu et al. 2009: 392) has affected security planning further, and games that are perceived to display a high-risk naturally leads to an advanced security posture, with the planning of London 2012 being the most recent instalment.

Some scenarios may seem “bizarre and outlandish to a non-security expert” (Peter Ryan, 2002), and would be considered “unthinkable”, for example, “UFO invasion on the Olympic Park” (Kawash, 1997). For the security officials, considering all scenarios, (check commas please!) however absurd, has now become common practice. The extremity of these scenarios is displayed in the U.S, where most military arguments about the future are an obsession with sci-fi, and a ruined future of a cityscape (Graham, 2010). New innovations, like the Boston Dynamics-built AlphaDog LS ( Rundle, 2012), a robot able to cope with all types of landscapes, reinforce these concerns. The attitude of thinking the unthinkable means even the more extreme precautions are permitted in light of perceived threats. All precautions are seemingly accepted by the public.

As technology advances, host nations face growing pressure to meet the challenges presented to them by new forms of security “vulnerabilities” (Corer, 2012). Cyber-terrorism is one such example of new and growing threats. The 2008 Beijing Olympics was faced with 12 million cyber-attacks per day (Ormsby, 2010). This type of threat to the Olympics illustrates the change in both security and globalisation risks very clearly. Taking note of the 2008 Olympic cyber-attacks, the UK government took on an initiative to introduce new cyber-security plans for the London 2012 games, through IT networks, to help prevent internet crime (Home-Office, 2010). In terms of security risk, there was a conscience effort made to ensure the UK government would not over-regulate and restrict the internet. Further to this, the proliferation of real-time risk management technology, an innovation developed from previous games in Athens and Salt Lake City (Quote) into the 2012 Olympics, demonstrated how the UK consciously put international efforts in the heart of strategies improving cyber security (Ashford, 2012), which is evidence of a consideration of the globalisation risks and effects.

Foucault’s position on governance, one ‘generated from the governed rather than imposed by the government’ ( year)) was seen to reconceptualise the role of government. The Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude (2012) quoted that “the internet has flourished because it has been shaped by its users, not by governments,” with this said, focus should be mainly on the network structure of the internet, where the information-sharing groups collectively form a basis for governance (Beresford, 2003). Conceptually, management of these network structures and sharing-groups which lead to cyber terrorism should focus on deterrence, rather than punishment; once the attack has occurred, no legal punishment will suffice. In short, punishment achieves little, and the impacts of cyber terrorist attacks are much worse, due to the difficulty in stopping viruses spreading around the globe. Again, this is a risk born from the effects of globalisation.

Counter Terrorism

Threats to mega-events are present in different forms, seen in a diverse range of groups that target them. Right-wing extremists were charged with the intent to cause explosions around the Olympic site in Sydney 2000, and ethno-nationalists who attacked the power supply to the opening ceremony in Barcelona 1992 (Fussey and Coaffe, 2012) are just two examples of threats to mega-events that embody an atypical nature.

The threat of international terrorism at a mega-event was first seen with a series of aircraft hijackings and continuing onto the 1972 Munich Olympics when Palestinian Militants Killed 11 Israeli athletes, as previously mentioned. This was the first instance where Olympics and Terrorism were linked in popular consciousness (Cottrell, 2009). It was symbolic, in its demonstration of how terrorism is an eminent threat to all major events internationally.

Cities’ bids for the Olympics have had to demonstrate how well they are able to deal with international terrorism in its many forms. Most recently, the bidding team for London 2012 had to project the city’s anti-terrorist resilience before the IOC and international audiences. This practice acts also as insurance in gaining support for large security budgets, estimated to be around US$1.7 billion, in addition to new powers of surveillance and social control. In light of London 2012, UK police and local authorities referred to the hosting of the event as “the greatest security challenge that the UK has faced since the Second World War” (Graham, 2009).

Since 9/11, the “war on terror” has taken front stage and formed a shadow around the world. The security steps that were taken forward to the London Olympics from Athens 2004 and Bejing 2008 promised to be on an unprecedented scale. Several contextual issues were highlighted about the risk of London 2012 being the site of major terrorist incidents. The recognition of London as a world city has bought it to the forefront of tourism, drawing in visitors and terrorists alike, granted for differing reasons (Ghaffur, 2007) (PLEASE CHECK THIS LINE!).

The threat of terrorism to London, and the need for Olympic security, was exhibited in a very short space of time; the debate of security for London 2012 began on July 7th 2005, following the London suicide bombings, just a day after London won the Olympic bid. London’s transport system was overcome by four suicide bombers in an attack that killed 52 people (Guardian, 2010). These events were significant in illustrating the vulnerabilities of London and the Olympics to external threats and contingencies. Further to this, the attacks showed the spatial and temporal displacement of terrorism, where attacks do not need to necessarily take place at the time of the event to cause an impact.

One of the more unusual aspects of the international side of sport mega-events is that rather than the more well known “international terrorism”, many groups that do target events have more local socio-political motives, for example the Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (Reference ETA, year), contrasting to the more evident international element of the games. Such acts cause instability to the usual global security models used to police these events, (Fussey and Coaffee, 2012). The ‘home-grown’ radicalism that was blamed for the 7/7 bombings in London can be seen as an example of an act with a local socio-political motive, caused by global issues – another effect of globalisation – which came to global attention, and had a profound effect on the 2012 Games.

Security coming home.

The Olympic Games of 2004 were an example of the interaction between surveillance and social control. There was intense monitoring in Athens, which saw interconnected networks of electronic surveillance gadgetry that were web-like, in that it spanned out and was able to expand into the whole city, for example through vehicle tracking devices and motion detectors ( Samatas, 2007)THIS IS MY EXAMPLE TO CLARIFY!These forms of control reflect the idea of Panoptican, from the political philosopher Jeremy Bentham (year) which was later advanced conceptually by Foucault (1997), where he stated that in the contemporary service of social control, the state takes on an all-seeing observation role, probing and monitoring the activities of all citizens.

Given the existing level of public and private surveillance in the UK, the “superpanoptic approach” that was piloted in Athens 2004 was easily integrated into the heart of the 2012 Olympics. London has more public and private CCTV cameras than any other city in the world, and through this, the idea of total surveillance became realistic (Reenie, 2008:4). The 2012 mega-event was a stimulus to the process of totalitarian intrusiveness. (SOUND OK?)

Policing has the general role of dealing with disorderly conditions in neighbourhoods, and is present in myriad police strategies, ranging from “order maintenance” to “zero tolerance” strategies (Eck & Maguire, 2006). The work of the police today is very much influenced by the private sectors and cooperations (Boyle paper) and total-security now becomes part of the spectacle of mega-events. London 2012 saw the Metropolitan Police take conscious measures in ensuring their first steps would be to put “technological footprints across London”. Advancements in CCTV saw new software that was able to integrate all of London’s CCTV cameras, all able to follow individuals around the city (quote.), putting forward this idea of a “surveillance ring” (Coaffee, 2004) to allow tracking of the movements of traffic and people.

Further to new measures being implemented, such as advanced facial and iris recognition software, able to identify suspects and connect multiple crime scenes (Quote), many public transport vehicles, along with the VIP buses that were used in the London games, had been equipped for the authorities to recognise if drivers were acting erratically, a trend often seen in hijacking. Here, however, lay a fundamental question in what act could be deemed as erratic, and what qualifications personnel should have to make such decisions, and control it. All of this fits well with Foucalt’s early work on governmentality, and how power ‘only exists when put into action’ (219) and that it is ‘belonging’ to institutions rather than the ‘individuals’ that allow the institutions to function. Put simply, measure to prevent certain behaviour leads to the control of individuals.

These technologies (can you tell the ones above?) have been used as a medium to exercise the “big-brother state”. New machinery that is used allows the incorporation of the police/military apparatus in London, under the pretense of keeping the country safe from terrorism” (Morgan, 2008).

In keeping with public reassurance, it now does matter too much as to whether or not the security systems actually work, but rather what their proclaimed standards are. Work from Oscar Rays (year) has shown that a large amount of money was spent on equipment in Athens, which did not work. What did work, however, was the aftermath of it being used for surveillance in Greek society. These notions were once again observed in 2012, where governments and security-related interest groups often magnified in the public mind the “terrorist threat” and “climate of fear”, all in aid of justifying the use of these control strategies that are used to counter anti-social behaviour and danger from other public spaces, and gain support to introduce identity cards that link citizens to a state held database (Coaffe and Murakmi Wood, 2006: 565).

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As the Olympics are for a limited period, it is assumed that they are only a temporary security zone, lasting for the duration of the games. This, however, is not the case. As these events are now a recognised target for security threats, society now gives leeway to governments, even if these protections transgress from the constraints that are normally accepted by the citizens, as a result of securtization (Waever, 1995). The London Olympics and its security did not exist in isolation, but in a continuum of the increasing state of security and surveillance. Extra powers the state may acquire are often met with scepticism by citizens, in fear they may become permanent. However, these security measures can be concealed in an object that is seen as the norm for such prestigious events, for example the stadium. IS THIS OK?? LINKS WITH THE NEXT POINT!

The architectural methods of “Secure by Design” (quote) . They also extend to the outer surrounding areas, where explosives may be hidden; litter boxes and drains (Coaffee, 2010). These methods are far from temporary, but this reconfiguration spreads beyond the time of the event under the title of “legacy”, where counter-terrorism design features are used to embed security in community areas, thus “legacy” is often used to legitimate broader and more long-term goals.

The advantage of many of these regeneration progammes is that they become a catalyst for the transformations of parts of the city, as was seen in London. The official Olympics website (2012) stated that neglected sections of East London would be redesigned into the East Village, a complex designed to be converted into thousands of affordable homes, a community centre, and grounds for local residents to enjoy sports. THIS BIT IS NOT FINISHED! BUT SO FAR IS IT OK? I AM GOING TO GO ON TO EXPLAIN ABOUT ETHNIC CLEANSING PROGRAMMES. – IT’S GOOD SO FAR, YEAH.

These sort of modifications are not temporary…..

Military Urbanism- Security

Sports have often been linked to the wide discourse of urban growth and regeneration (Schimmel, year!), aiding in a new form of Foucault’s Boomerang effect, which has been fuelled by the extending neoliberal globalisation. A form of this affect is the way military and security complexes now try and apply defence-style technologies to the domestic sites of the city. This is mirrored well in light of the Olympics, where high tech security surveillance technology, originally from the battle-field, is now used in mega-events.

Military-security complex works in two ways. The first is by implementing direct military-type approaches to security. The failed work of the contractor G4S for London 2012, and the mobilisation of British troops, demonstrated how traditional military approaches will always remain necessary. In this instance, the military were asked to provide an extra 3, 500 troops to guard the London Olympics. These games show that despite new technologies, the Olympic Games continue to appear over-reliant on the armed forces. (Guardian, 2012)

The second way is by using the forces of existing military personnel. Working with these approaches does not necessarily mean that one is moving away from the past, ignoring the strength of military practices, but rather adding a “contemporary twist” to the traditional militaristic and urban transformations (Graham, 2010). These contemporary security strategies work through the blurring of boundaries between military and civilian spheres. With this, there is the entry of military technologies, strategies and logics for the surveillance and control of populations in and around the stadium. London 2012 saw the RAF use drones, carrying laser-guided bombs and missiles, including the Hellfire air-to ground weapons.

Urban Militrisation/New Military Urbanism- GLOBALISATION BIT this is keeping with the same subject but globalisation bit.

This growing interaction between sports mega events and the military-industry complex also allows analysis to be viewed through the window of globalisation, and marketing. The use of security technologies in mega-events is a multi-billion dollar industry. Lobby groups work hard to convince state leaders into becoming booming homeland security markets, because these markets of technology are growing very rapidly in times of economic decline. These practices allow security companies to pilot and display their exemplary security technologies, in the hope that it will lead to them being transferred into a more routine social environment. This trend was recognised by an analyst for the US-based Security Industry Association: “the Olympics not only showcase world-class athletes, they showcase world class security technologies and services from our industry” (Bristow, 2008). Israel is one such example. Recognised as the world’s leading participant in the “security and surveillance industrial complex” (Brzezinski, 2004), the country’s long history in dealing with suicide bombers, along with its highly developed and hi-tech economy, gives it the capacity to exploit the climate of fear that surrounds today’s major sporting events. With this said, Israel’s representatives are heavily involved in the planning and facilitation of mega-event security. London 2012 was an example of this as Israeli initiaitves saw aircrafts being used for crowd surveillance, an expertise often used by the Middle Eastern country for population control (Kosmas, 2012).

Security companies are not the only organisations that benefit from the Olympics. More international impact is in the form of commercial sponsors, the world’s largest growing form of marketing (IEG Network, 2001). Sponsers are very willing to invest in the games, as they believe the “spirit of the spectacle” means that spectators are regularly exposed to promotional messages under favourable conditions, where the “customers” can be relaxed and absorb corporate messages. (Abratt et al, 1987). A by-product of being a sponsor is the ability to temporarily relocate some of the staff to the host nation and allow investments to be made. This is a clear example of globalisation. The paradox here, however, is that once a hallmark is made between the cooperate sponsors and the games, their worldwide officers and staff become targets, which could lead to reluctance to participate. Further to this, the host nation’s terrorism threat level provides another reason why sponsors may refuse to participate in the events. This causes a massive crossover with countries looking like safe havens of security for a world-wide spectacle. In short, sponsors will be reluctant to participate in events happening anywhere that does not have a high counter-terrorism mechanism. IS THIS ALL OK?? SO MAYBE SOMEWHERE IN HERE I SHOULD ALSO ADD THAT IS IS THE PRIVATE SECTOR TAKING OVER? WHAT DO YOU THINK?! SO IM TALKING ABOUT SPONSERS HERE AND THE FACT THAT THEY WILL NOT BE WILLING TO PARTICIPATE IN ANYWHERE THEY THINK DOESN’T HAVE A HIGH COUNTER TERRORISM MECHANISM!


Mega-events present a special case for understanding the relationship between large-scale security practices and globalisation. It is an illustration of threats related not only to terrorism, but also to organised crime and political protest (Giuillanotti and Klauser, 2012). Securing the spectacle goes beyond the infrastructure, and into the economic sector, national reputation, and the impact of humans (Coaffee and Johnston, 2007). Cities that host mega-events are now expected to show a strong form of “anti-terrorist” resilience before international audiences (Boyle and Haggerty, 2009).

Long after the event has left, surveillance technologies, urban redevelopment, and other transformations, may all remain in place as security enforced measures that structure, frame, and film everyday social life. Mega-events foster a legacy of knowledge, networks, and habits that have a bearing on the lives of not just those who attend, but the citizens of the city, long after the event. These events also display the “invisible” and “visible” security all in one, where the likes of infrastructure have an outward projection of security, through embedded electronic devices, hiding the other form of….cleansing programmes! I ASSUME THIS BIT NEEDS TO BE FINISHED, HAHA.

The line between free speech and human rights.

Policing the police might take on a role of citizen duty. If the average citizen can be filmed why can the police not?

While CCTV is now an every day norm of British society, what is becoming more common is the use of camera phones and social networking. AND THIS BIT!

Each mega-event is part of an extensive process, where by the institutions and officials learn and advice on security lessons to their successors. The new hosts hope to improve on their predecessors and each hope to deliver “spectacular security” (Boyle and Haggerty, 2009), with this comes militarization and coordination that is needed to extend into time and place.


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