When the Games Come to Town: Neoliberalism, Mega‐Events and Social Inclusion in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games


Vancouver’s successful bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games took place at a transformational moment for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In the first decade of this century, the IOC began to require host cities to address a much wider range of local impacts of the ‘global Games’, and to undertake planning initiatives to ensure maximum local social inclusion. In this article, we present a case study of the policies and principles of social inclusion used by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) in preparing for the 2010 Games. We use key informant interviews, document analysis and participant observation to study a specific programme — Building Opportunities with Business (BOB) — that was showcased as one of VANOC’s prominent demonstrations of social inclusion. Our evidence suggests that Games planning processes have become even more powerful instruments for the promotion of liberal philosophies through neoliberal local governance regimes; social inclusion is promised through the proliferation of ever more institutionally diffused public–private partnerships. With the neoliberal shift from public service provision to private sector entrepreneurialism, individual employability becomes the primary goal of, and normative justification for, social inclusion policies. Heavily circumscribed VANOC efforts at specific types of social inclusion have met with limited success, but it appears clear that the fusion of transnationally mobile mega‐events and prevailing doctrines of neoliberal entrepreneurialism has become a significant new framework for local urban social policy.