The Events City: Sport, Culture, and the Transformation of Inner Melbourne, 1977-2006

By O'Hanlon, Seamus | Urban History Review, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

The Events City: Sport, Culture, and the Transformation of Inner Melbourne, 1977-2006


O'Hanlon, Seamus, Urban History Review


In 2006 Melbourne, Australia, played host to an almost monthly lineup of major international sporting and cultural events: the Australian Open Tennis tournament, the Commonwealth Games and associated cultural festival, a Formula One Grand Prix, an International Flower and Garden Show, an arts festival, and what is billed as the third largest comedy festival in the world. Almost all of these events were staged primarily in a revitalized region within a five-kilometre radius of the city centre, and all--bar the Commonwealth Games--are annual events, part of a deliberate economic and tourism strategy that attempts to sell Melbourne as an "events city." This paper charts the emergence of this events strategy and argues that, rather than being a phenomenon of the 1990s as is often assumed, its origins lie in the early 1980s and was a deliberate response to deindustri-alization, urban decay, and "crisis" in the inner Melbourne economy in the 1070s. The paper recognizes the many successes of this economic policy but raises questions about a policy that adds to a growing economic gap between the now prosperous, genrified inner city and the increasingly marginalized zones of the metropolis.

En 2006, la ville deMetbourne en Australie a ete l'hote d'une serie d'evenements sportifs et culturels d'envergure internationale: le tournoi de tennis Open dAustralie, les Jeux du nonwealth auxquels etait associe un festival culturel, un Grand Prix de Formule I, un festival international d'horticulture et de jardins, un festival d'arts et un festival de l humour qui fut alors presente comme le plus grand au moude, Presque tous ces evenements se sont deroules dans une zone revitalisee se trouvant dans un rayon de cinq kilometres du centre de la ville. Tous, a l'expection des Jeux du Commonwealth, sont devenus des evenements annuels et ils s 'inscrivent dans une strategic deliberee de developpement economique et touristique visant a promouvoir Melbourne comme une ville de festivals et de grands evenements. Cet article reconstitue la mise en forme de cette strategic de revitalisation du centre, J'y argumente que cette strategic n'a pas ete ilaboree dans les annees 1990 comme ill'est souvent evoque. Visant relancer I'economic du centre de Melbourne, cette approche soutenue par les pouvoirs publics en partenariat avec les acteurs prives et civiques trouve plutot ses origines dans les annees 1980 alors que Melbourne traversait depuis une dizaine d'annees une phase de desindus-trialisation et de devitalisation urbaine. Tout en reconnaissant les retombees positives de cette strategic de developpement economique sur la vitalite du centre, cet article souleve aussi des enjeux relies a Vecart economiqueprevalant entre les zones prosperes etgentrtfiees du centre-ville et les secteurs excentri-ques de plus en plus marginalise's de la metropole.

Introduction: Sport, Culture, and Urban Regeneration

In 1977, Melbourne's then metropolitan planning authority, the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) issued two reports on the city's inner region. The first, Melbourne's Inner Area: A Position Statement, noted a recent rapid decline in blue-collar employment in the region and warned of the potential for "serious problems of chronic unemployment" among unskilled workers and others, unless efforts were made to generate alternative employment strategies for people displaced by economic restructuring. (1) The second report, Socio-economic Implications of Urban Development, also voiced concerns about the effects of economic change on inner Melbourne, but was much more alarmist in tone, declaring that the region was experiencing a "crisis" in manufacturing that was rapidly leading to deindustrialization, economic stagnation, and rising unemployment. (2) This report predicted that if "the overseas pattern of the rundown of larger cities were repeated in Melbourne then the consequences for the inner areas would be very grave indeed. …

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