This article reviews recent scholarship on the urban politics of mega-events. Mega-events have long been promoted as drivers of urban development, based on their potential to generate beneficial legacies for host cities. Yet the mega-event industry is increasingly struggling to find cities willing to host. Political arguments that promote mega-events to host cities include narratives about mega-event legacy—the potential for events to generate long-term benefits—and mega-event leveraging—the idea that cities can strategically link event planning to other policy agendas. In contrast, the apparent decline in interest among potential host cities stems from two political shifts: skepticism toward the promises made by boosters, and the emergence of new kinds of protest movements. The article analyzes an example of largely successful opposition to mega-events, and evaluates parallels between the politics of mega-events and those of other urban megaprojects.
Grand Promises Meet Local Resistance
Potel et Chabot and the Franco-Russian Alliance
Willa Z. Silverman
Between 1893 and 1901, the Parisian traiteur Potel et Chabot catered a series of gala meals celebrating the recent Franco-Russian alliance, which was heralded in France as ending its diplomatic isolation following the Franco-Prussian War. The firm was well adapted to the particularities of the unlikely alliance between Tsarist Russia and republican France. On the one hand, it represented a tradition of French luxury production, including haute cuisine, that the Third Republic was eager to promote. On the other, echoing the Republic’s championing of scientific and technological progress, it relied on innovative transportation and food conservation technologies, which it deployed spectacularly during a 1900 banquet for over twenty-two thousand French mayors, a modern “mega-event.” Culinary discourse therefore signaled, and palliated concerns about, the improbable nature of the alliance at the same time as it revealed important changes taking place in the catering profession.