Mass evictions have been increasingly linked to large international events, often called mega‐events, around the world. This article looks back at the residential redevelopment in Seoul that surged just prior to the 1988 Olympic Games there to better understand how large events bring about change in cities. When existing documentation of the new housing construction boom and a corresponding large‐scale dislocation of urban poor residents via aggressive evictions in the mid‐1980s are correlated with data from primary and secondary historical sources, there is incontrovertible evidence of a causal link between event hosting and forced evictions. However, the data goes on to reveal that large‐scale clearance, evictions and demolitions occurred in Seoul over an extended period before the Olympics as well as long afterwards, which suggests that the Olympics was in fact part of a broader process and practice of urban transformation in Seoul. Without discounting the effect of event hosting in this case, this raises the question of what motivates both event hosting and residential redevelopment, and whether the event offers an opportunity to refine and further institutionalize certain practices. The article proposes taking a longer historical view of the practice of clearance, evictions and demolitions in order to foresee the dynamics of event hosting in a specific city and to inform event‐related planning.