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The Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro 2007: Consequences of a Sport Mega-event on a BRIC Country

Sport mega-events were very important for Brazil in 2007. The 15th Pan American Games took place in Rio de Janeiro. It was the largest international tournament held in Brazil since the 1950 World Cup and the 1963 Pan American Games. The latter were held in São Paulo. In 2007, 5000 athletes and 60,000 tourists were expected from the 42 participating countries. Despite being a developing country, Brazil does have a sizable middle class, but in Rio de Janeiro there are also lots of favelas (slums), where millions of poor people live. Despite vast differences in wealth, power and social status, these socially and culturally distinct groups nonetheless utilize common public spaces. We see this social confrontation as a major question for the analysis of sport mega-events and we would like to demonstrate its consequences on a local level. This social tension was such that the Organizing Committee actually constructed a ‘big wall’ around the stadiums which turned them into islands of excellence to be shown on television, thus hiding the unsightly parts of the city, that is, poor neighborhoods and favelas. This wall could be seen as the BRIC-way of organizing mega-events.