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Olympism in Action, Olympic hosting and the politics of ‘Sport for Development and Peace’: investigating the development discourses of Rio 2016.

This paper offers an overview, and critical, comparative reading, of the discourses of international development championed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) versus those ascribed through media and corporate communications to the 2016 Summer Olympics, awarded in 2009 to the city of Rio de Janeiro. The first Olympics bestowed to a South American host, the Rio 2016 Games continue the trend of (a) sports mega-events moving to the Global South and (b) the positioning of such events within a broader development policy agenda that advocates for a focus on sport and physical culture. Based on the data analysed, although the IOC now champions ‘Sport for Development and Peace’ (SDP) in ways that ostensibly and progressively challenge traditional development orthodoxy, there remains a tension between this vision of SDP on the one hand, and, on the other, the hegemony of new-liberal development philosophy as it underpins the hosting of global sports mega-events. These competing discourses of development suggest the need for the ongoing critical analysis into the ability, or the likelihood, of the Rio 2016 Games to contribute to sustainable and equitable change for the people of Rio, and cautious consideration of the extent to which the IOC’s ethos of SDP has made inroads within the broader cultural and political economy.