Mega events as a pretext for infrastructural development: the case of the All African Games Athletes Village, Alexandra, Johannesburg

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Abstract

The hosting of mega events in the Global South has become a symbol of prestige and national pride. From the hosting of international mega events such as the world cup, to regional events like the Commonwealth Games, developing nations are hosting mega events frequently and on a massive scale. Often used as a justification for this escapade in hosting a mega event is the purposed infrastructural legacy that will remain after the event. From the bid documents of the London Olympics to the Delhi Common Wealth Games, the pretext of infrastructural legacy is cited as a legitimate reason for spending the billions of dollars needed for hosting the event. This paper looks at this justification in the context of the All Africa Games which was hosted in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1999. It examines how the legacy infrastructure from this event has been utilised as a social housing development and how the billions of dollars spent on the infrastructural legacy of the games has been used by local residence of the city. The vast majority of the current residence of the All Africa Games Athletes’ Village have little recollection of the Games and do not feel that the housing stock they have received is of significantly better quality than that of other social housing. This points to the contentious claim that developmental infrastructure built through hosting a mega event is of superior quality or brings greater benefit to the end users. That is not to say that hosting a mega event does not have benefits; however, the claim of development through hosting, in the case of Johannesburg, seems disingenuous.

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