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International Journal of Cultural

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Beatriz Garca
Online Publication Date: 01 March 2004
To cite this Article: Garca, Beatriz , (2004) 'URBAN REGENERATION, ARTS
PROGRAMMING AND MAJOR EVENTS', International Journal of Cultural Policy,
10:1, 103 - 118
To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/1028663042000212355


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Taylor and Francis 2007

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Glasgow 1990, Sydney 2000 and
Barcelona 2004
Beatriz Garca
a 2004
for Cultural
of Culture
PolicyPolicy Research, Gilmorehill CentreUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK+44 (0) 141 330 2447

The potential of arts activity as a tool for urban regeneration has been widely discussed since the early
1980s. In parallel, notions of cultural/urban tourism and arts/city marketing have gained great
popularity among marketers, city planners and cultural policy-makers alike. Major events are seen as
effective catalysts for city regeneration processes as they are able to merge tourism strategies with
urban planning and can boost the confidence of local communities. However, arts programming has
yet to achieve a position that allows it to be perceived as a relevant contributor to the success and
legacy of large-scale urban events. This article explores the contradiction between the celebrated
potential of the arts in urban regeneration processes and their poor position within major events. In
so doing, it compares the experiences of three cities, each host to major events with strong arts and
cultural components: Glasgow 1990 European City of Culture; Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and
Olympic Arts Festivals, and Barcelona 2004 Universal Forum for Cultures.

city marketing; urban regeneration; cultural tourism; arts programming; events;

This article argues that most urban regeneration processes linked to major events,
even with significant arts elements, do not provide a proper basis for the development of
sustainable arts programming. Despite the wide acceptance that the arts can be useful tools
for city renewal, in the context of hallmark investments, they tend to be present in a tokenistic manner, as a mechanism to attract media attention and external visitors rather than as
a vehicle for local representation and empowerment. By highlighting and providing
evidence of these failures, this article seeks to stimulate debate and influence city regeneration policies so that they better address and enhance the legacy of major events through
more balanced and locally owned arts programming.

Discussion of the uses and potentials of arts activity to accelerate urban regeneration
emerged in the early 1980s and has consistently grown throughout the 1990s. In Bianchini &
International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2004
ISSN 1028-6632 print/ISSN 1477-2833 online /04/010103-16
2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/1028663042000212355

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Parkinson (1993), a range of Western European cities is studied to identify variations in the
uses of cultural policy in the context of urban regeneration. The book concludes by pointing
out key dilemmas in urban cultural policy development, which keep their relevance today.
These include spatial dilemmas such as tensions between city centre and periphery and
the risk of gentrification; economic development dilemmas such as consumption versus
production; and cultural funding dilemmas in the choice to support ephemeral activity
such as events, festivals, and so on or permanent activity, primarily in infrastructures
(Bianchini & Parkinson 1993, pp. 201204).
In parallel to theories linking arts and urban regeneration (Landry et al. 1996), notions
such as cultural/urban tourism and arts/city marketing have gained wide popularity
among marketers, city planners and cultural policy-makers alike (see Ashworth & Voogd
1995; Smyth 1994). Roche (1994) adds the dimension of event research to discussions about
urban policy, marketing and regeneration. Major events are seen as a particularly effective
catalyst for city regeneration processes because they are able to merge tourism strategies
with urban planning and can boost the confidence and pride of the local community (Roche
1994). A significant body of literature exists on this topic, including work by Getz (1991) and
Hall (1996), who analyse the relationship of events with tourism.
Interestingly, however, arts programming has yet to achieve a position that allows it to
be perceived as a relevant contributor to the success of major events and their potential
regeneration legacy. A review of average bidding processes by cities for major events in
the last twenty years, and an analysis of current national and local event strategies (see
Ackermann 2002; Scottish Executive 2002), reveals that most large-scale events on the
agenda for cities in search of a regeneration boost are focused on either sports (Olympics,
World Cups) or technological showcases (Expos, World Fairs). Moreover, the rationale for
these events and their production processes tends to delegate arts activity to a secondary
role, despite the proven success of long-established arts festivals such as Edinburgh,
Avignon, Salzburg and Adelaide, to name but a few. This argument is confirmed when
comparing the amount of literature covering linkages between major events, sport and tourism in leisure and tourism management journals with literature exploring the potentials of
arts programming within events in the same sources.
This article studies the relationship between arts programming, urban regeneration
and major events, and offers an enquiry into the challenges that a common approach may
bring to each of these elements and their possible mutual enhancement. The main aim is to
explore the existing contradiction between the celebrated potential of the arts as a tool for
urban regeneration and their poor position within major events. With this purpose, the
article will examine how the rationale and formats of different large-scale events affect the
position, potential impacts and city regeneration legacies of arts activity. In addressing this
objective, it reviews the case of three cities that have hosted or are planning to host major
events incorporating arts programmes.

Case Studies
We will look at Glasgow, Sydney and Barcelona, three cities that claim to have undergone a remarkable process of urban regeneration and gained wide public recognition
through hosting major events with strong arts components. The research focuses on outlining and analysing the points in common between the legacy of an event with an arts focus
in Glasgow 1990 European City of Culture; the legacy of arts programming within a

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major sporting event in Sydney Arts Festivals of the 2000 Olympic Games; and the potential
of a new event format emphasising intellectual debate supported by arts expressions in
Barcelona 2004 Universal Forum for Cultures.
Despite the evident differences between these cities, the events considered and their
context, it is the similarities that bridge these differences that are noticeable and revealing.
As outlined in the following sections, in all the cases studied, the arts programme was
prominent at the bidding stage and was used to position the event as inclusive, countering
possible perceptions of elitism or a focus on economic rather than social returns. For
instance, the Sydney arts programme ran over a 4-year period and promised the participation of grassroots groups contrasting with the tight boundaries of two weeks of elite sport
competition. In Glasgow, the programme transformed the nature of the European City of
Culture title by incorporating popular and community arts to an event that until then had
focused almost exclusively on traditional high arts. Finally, in Barcelona, the arts programme
promises to incorporate activist groups from different city neighbourhoods as a complement to the conferences and seminars reserved to top intellectuals and world leaders.
As such, the basis for comparing the three cases lays in the premise that the arts
programmes were used to complement and/or extend the resonance of a major event with
a strong international and economic agenda. Linked to this premise are claims about the
relevance of arts programming for the local community in terms of representation and direct
participation (Landry et al. 1996). This argument is found in the bidding documents of the
three cities and features prominently in subsequent materials produced by the event
organisers (Forum Barcelona 2004 2000; Glasgow City Council 1992; SOCOG 19972000).
Another claim common to the three cases is that the programme was to explore the arts in a
broad sense and link to a larger cultural agenda, thus advancing a social discourse. In
addition, all reviewed documents incorporate references to the potential of the arts
programme to improve city images and enhance the chances of attracting urban tourism
(Forum Barcelona 2004 2000; Glasgow City Council 1992; SOCOG 19972000) thus supporting arguments about the economic dimension of the arts (see Bianchini 1990; Basset 1993;
Landry et al. 1996).
In exploring the points in common between this varied range of events, we will
consider the following issues for each case: Why do cities bid for an event and what value do
they give to its arts components? How is the event and its arts programme defined, funded,
produced and promoted? Can the event contribute to and sustain an urban regeneration
process? What role do the arts play in this regeneration?

Glasgow 1990, European City of Culture

Glasgow City Councils website (2003) celebrates the international reputation gained
by the city thanks to its successful regeneration from depressed post-industrial city in the
late 1960s to the attractive cultural and service-orientated city that it is today. The Council is
not alone in this description and congratulation. Since hosting the European City of Culture
title in 1990, Glasgow has been considered a hallmark of city regeneration through arts activity (see Bianchini & Parkinson 1993; Sayer 1992) and has been the most celebrated point of
reference of recent United Kingdom bids to host the 2008 European Capital of Culture title.
These discourses of success have led to a practically unquestioned mythology developing
about Glasgows ability to tackle its many social and economic problems through arts
programming. However, voices of dissent were present prior to, during and after the event,


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particularly within left-wing intellectual groups and some artistic circles. Their central criticism was that the 1990 cultural programme was a cosmetic exercise rather than a committed
attempt to explore the realities of the city and give its citizens a voice in ways that would
survive the year (McLay 1990).

Context for Bidding

Both the celebratory and critical views about the 1990 title must be understood
within a broader context that spans over twenty years before the event as Glasgow was
undergoing an ambitious plan for regeneration since the late 1970s. Bianchini (1990, pp.
224225) explains that a turning point in this process was the McKinsey Report in 1983. This
report offered recommendations on how to maximise the potential of the city centre
following the entrepreneuralist model already developed in cities in the United States such
as Baltimore, Denver and Minneapolis. The priority was to offer an appealing and lively
urban centre attractive both for work and leisure (McKinsey & Co. 1983). To address this, the
city invested in cleaning and lighting its many Victorian heritage buildings; it funded a
promotional campaign aimed at communicating its progress to external parties and boosting the pride and confidence of the local community the very successful Miles Better
campaign; it created the first official city tourism board; and, importantly, it invested in the
The city had engaged in arts developments prior to the McKinsey Report with its
support to the popular Mayfest festival and the opening of the Burrell Collection in 1983
(Bianchini 1990). By the mid-1980s, interested in furthering its regeneration process, the
city authorities bid and won the right to host the 1988 Garden Festival, agreed on creating a
Jazz Festival in 1986 and decided to bid for the title of European City of Culture.
Bidding for a major arts event was seen as an ideal catalyst for the city centre revitalisation plans. The director of Glasgow Action, a special agency created on McKinseys Report
recommendation, asserts that the agency was among the first to spot this opportunity,
which soon received the backing of the Greater Glasgow Tourism Board (GGTB) (David
Macdonald, interview with the author, 2003). The bid proposal was prepared at very short
notice under the auspices of Glasgow District Council and brought together for the first time
all key cultural institutions in the city, local authorities and business development agencies.
Macdonald (interview with the author, 2003) argues that the main driver for bidding was an
economic rather than an arts strategy. This is arguably a key factor to understand the final
shape of the programme and its limitations, as discussed below.

Definitions and Design

The programme for 1990 was defined in broad terms, claiming that it was to be an
inclusive celebration of culture, including not only the arts but other elements relevant to
Glasgow such as history, design, engineering, education, architecture, shipbuilding, religion
and sport (Glasgow City Council 1992, p. 8). Basset (1993, p. 1775) claims that this was an
innovative approach to a cultural celebration at the time, as the common trend was to focus
on arts activity alone and high arts in particular. Moreover the GGTB Executive Director has
suggested that prior title holders such as Athens, Florence and Paris were considered Cities
of Culture in their own right and did not do anything special for [the title] nor were they
transformed by it (Eddie Friel, interview with the author, 2002). In Glasgow, the approach

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was different. Local authorities and event organisers had to demonstrate that the city
deserved the title, and this resulted in a commitment towards securing substantial funding
and producing a large programme of activity that was unprecedented in size and diversity
(Eddie Friel, interview with the author, 2002).

Production and Promotions

David Macdonald (interview with the author, 2003) emphasises that becoming City of
Culture led to new collaborations and the willingness to pull resources together from all
levels of local administration and, progressively, the private sector. Public funding for City of
Culture programming and promotions totalled 32.7 million, mainly provided by the
Glasgow District Council and the Strathclyde Regional Council. This was the first time District
and Region collaborated on such a scale. It was also the first time that the Regional Council
embarked on supporting arts activity as part of its social work programme and saw a marked
increase of cultural provision within its education programme (David Macdonald, interview
with the author, 2003).
The joint involvement of regional and district councils was supposed to insure the
geographical and thematic balance of the arts programme. However, out of a total of 26.87
million dedicated to programming, only 5 million was spent on community events/celebrations including the Big Day (a day-long event offering free rock and pop concerts with
well-known British bands throughout the city centre) and 3.74 million on social work/
education (Myerscough 1991, p. 26). The remaining 18 million was dedicated to funding
international work by well-known arts figures and supporting British and Scottish flagship
companies in city centre venues. Moreover, up to 43 million was spent on capital projects
in the city centre such as the Royal Concert Hall (29.4 million) and the McLellan Galleries
(5.8 million) (Myerscough 1991, p. 19). The latter was also the main emphasis for the promotional strategy developed by the GGTB and the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, which
produced the slogan There is a lot Glasgowing on. The GGTB Executive Director has
acknowledged that the main ambition was to attract external visitors tourists and potential corporate investors and the main message was that Glasgow is a cultural capital
comparable to other major cities in Europe (Eddie Friel, interview with the author, 2002).
Arguably, this emphasis diminished the role and visibility of the community regional
programme and may explain the limited recognition of its legacy.

Regeneration Legacies
The experience of Glasgow is perceived as a successful example of urban regeneration through arts activity. A key legacy is the radical transformation of the citys image from
old stereotypes such as razor gangs, unemployment and alcoholism to the celebration of
Glasgow as a shopping destination, city of design and architecture, an attractive placement
for business activity and conferences, and a cultural centre in the widest sense (GGCVTB
2002; Ryan 2002). Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley Tourism Board claims that there has
been a 88% increase in British visitors and a 25% increase in foreign visitors to the city
between 1991 and 1998 (GGCVTB 2002). Glasgows image improvement has also led to the
belief that local artists and business groups have re-gained their self-esteem and confidence in the city (Cameron, quoted in Ryan 2002). Similarly, against recurrent academic
criticisms, Liz Gardiner (interview with the author, 2003) insists that the expansion of


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community arts organisations such as Fablevision has been the direct result of the 1990
In terms of physical legacy, the 1990 event was used as a catalyst to accelerate and
provide a common deadline to many of the plans for city centre development that had
started in the 1980s, including the new Glasgow Concert Hall and McLellan Galleries. Furthermore, hosting the title helped securing additional funding for refurbishing old derelict
buildings and transforming them into avant-garde arts venues such as the Arches and the
These factors suggest that hosting a major event with an arts focus provided a great
opportunity for urban regeneration and secured long-term legacies both at a symbolic and
a physical level. However, two aspects widely criticised were the failure of the event to assist
widening the access and involvement of geographical peripheral and socially deprived
communities in arts activity, and its inability to act as a platform for representing local
cultures. Despite the investment of the region in an extensive community programme,
academics and activist groups have argued that this activity was marginal to the main
programme and poorly promoted (Booth & Boyle 1993; Sayer 1992). Moreover, claims that
the event programme overlooked local cultures and disregarded any effort towards true
representation of the city are core to the critique of 1990 opposition group Workers City. In
the view of this group, the Year of Culture acted as a superficial make-over of the city, celebrating flagship national and international companies for the benefit of the privileged few,
and covering up the real concerns of the working-class majority in Glasgow (McLay 1990).
These criticisms suggest that the economic drive behind the event biased the artistic
programme and its promotion in particular. While it is true that most peripheral states
hosted some form of arts activity and some grassroots organisations got support to develop
new work and networks that survive to this day, the review of documents produced at the
time reveals a lack of clarity about long-term policy objectives (Booth 1996, p. 9).
However, this is not so much a failure of the 1990 event as an evidence of lack of forward
planning and artistic policies. In Glasgow, as in most cities aspiring to host a major event, the
key objective was to improve the international profile of the city and accelerate inward
investment, which the city public agencies claim was fully achieved (Glasgow City Council
2003; GGCVTB 2002). However, issues of ownership and representation were, then as now, a
pending agenda in the urban regeneration process. This article is trying to bring arguments
to redress the balance.

Sydney 2000, Olympic Arts Festivals

The city of Sydney was host of the 2000 Olympic Summer Games to the acclaim of the
International Olympic Committee, the international media, major sponsors, governing
authorities in Australia and a majority of the general public, including nationals and foreign
visitors. In contrast, a significant section of the arts community in Sydney and throughout
Australia showed disbelief and subsequently disappointment about the Olympic arts
programme. The main criticism was that it failed to address the many expectations raised at
the bidding stage, when it was seen as a mark of distinction from other candidate cities and
a potential catalyst for advancing on the debate on the treatment of Aboriginal and migrant
communities (Stevenson 1998). As in the case of Glasgow, many Sydney critics focused on
describing what they saw as cosmetic about the event, created to benefit the privileged and
promote a safe and flat view of Australia that excluded the often difficult and controversial

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voices from marginal communities (Justo Daz, interview with the author, 2000; Frankland
2000; Tatz 1999).

Context for Bidding

The citys bidding process in 1992 had proven very challenging. Sydney was the third
consecutive Olympic bid by an Australian city after Brisbane and Melbourne, and the hopes
for winning this time were running low among some groups. In addition, the candidature for
year 2000 had Beijing as a strong competitor. Interestingly, despite being the favourite bids,
both Sydney and Beijing had a challenge in overcoming the perception of poor human rights
records. To address this, Sydney used its candidature to emphasise Australias commitment
to improving the treatment of its Aboriginal population, and made the cultural and educational aspects of the Olympic plan become focal points of the bid (Garca 2002). The promotion of Aboriginal reconciliation was combined with the interest in showcasing Sydneys
attractions as a destination for urban tourism, which involved an added emphasis on its
multicultural gastronomy and cultural life (Garca 2002). This led to the design of an
extremely ambitious programme of Olympic Arts Festivals.

Definitions and Design (Arts Programme)

Following the example of the Barcelona 1992 Olympics, Sydney organised a 4-year
programme of arts activity starting at the end of the prior Summer Games in Atlanta. Four
festivals were defined, one for each year, with a different theme and emphasis to reflect
Australias diverse cultural character (SOCOG 19972000). The first festival in 1997 was a
celebration of indigenous cultures, in particular, those of Australian Aborigines and Torres
Strait Islanders. This initiative was broadly celebrated in the country. It was the first time
that contemporary Aboriginal art and culture was brought to mainstream venues such as
the Sydney Opera House, and the first time Aboriginal artwork was at the core of a major
festival with high levels of funding and promotional support (Jo Dyer, interview with the
author, 1999). In 1998, the Olympic Arts Festival was to focus on immigrant cultures and
multiculturalism. The plan was to celebrate it throughout the country and to make it last
the whole year. The year 1999 was to bring Australia to the world by funding local groups
to tour each of the five continents (SOCOG 19972000). Finally, 2000 was to present an
arts programme to match the grandeur of the sporting competitions and put an emphasis on internationally recognised artists and flagship Australian companies and individuals
(SOCOG, 19972000).

Production and Promotions

In their study of the Sydney bid and its factors for success, McGeogh and Korporaal
(1994) assert that the ambitious purpose of the arts programme helped distinguishing the
Sydney bid from its competitors. However, at the time of implementing the design, funding
cuts and a marginal position within the Sydney Organising Committee for the Games
(SOCOG) brought increasing challenges to the achievement of objectives (see Garca 2001;
Stevenson 1998). The Arts Festivals budget dropped from AUS$50 to AUS$21 in the first year
of implementation and the Arts Festivals placement within the SOCOG structure prevented
integration within the games core promotional strategy (Garca 2001).


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The study of SOCOGs operational structure reveals that the team in charge of the Arts
Festivals was integrated within the organisations Marketing and Image Division but had no
direct links with any of the specialised programmes for marketing, sponsor relations, media
and community relations, and so on. Instead, the programme had its own marketing and
publicity specialists who focused on promoting the festival within standard arts channels
and was thus dissociated from the mainstream Olympic communication strategy. Garca
(2001) argues that the separation of Olympic Arts promotions from mainstream Olympic
messages which included not only the sporting competitions, but also opening and closing
ceremonies, the torch relay and the main programme for free street entertainment,
LiveSites! meant that the Arts Festivals were practically excluded from Olympic media
coverage and were almost invisible to the average Olympic visitor, spectator and audiences
at large. As such, despite the broad ambitions of the arts programme, its impact on the
general public and potential for post-event recognition were minimal.1

Regeneration Legacies
The Sydney experience provides an interesting example of environmental regeneration through event hosting. This was the case in Homebush Bay, a derelict space since the
late 1970s that was to become Olympic Park, a state-of-the-art urban space hosting the
major venues for sporting competition. At another level, despite their poor recognition and
image achievements, the Olympic Arts Festivals brought some legacies to Sydney and
Australia at large. The programme acted as a catalyst for bringing a selection of Aboriginal
artists and arts groups to the mainstream Australian scene, demonstrated the attractiveness
of contemporary indigenous work and contributed to the establishment of new artistic
collaborations. The programme also acted as a backdrop for the rest of Olympic activity and,
according to the media relations officer at Sydneys Opera House, it provided valuable
evidence of the current abilities and further potential of Sydney as a world-class city offering a strong cultural experience (Ghyliane Coste-Paul, interview with the author, 2000).
However, local arts groups representing cultural minorities assert that the Arts Festivals failed to offer a vision of contemporary Australia and represent the real diversity of the
city and country. Representatives from Carnivale, Sydneys multicultural arts festival, regretted the minimal funding provided during 1998 for the supposed celebration of Australias
migrant cultures. For Carnivale Music Coordinator, rather than supporting new work the
festival relied on already existing initiatives and became a confusing mixture of activities
without any clear focus or message (Justo Daz, interview with the author, 2000). Furthermore, due to the minimal investment in promotional activity, the average Australian and the
international community were unaware of the existence of a year-long festival happening
around the country (Garca 2002).
The ambition of the Arts Festivals to help in paving the way towards Aboriginal reconciliation was also criticised by representatives of indigenous groups. In a speech at the
Sydney Media Centre, film director Richard Frankland (2000) denounced the tokenism
surrounding most Aboriginal arts activity showcased within the frame of the Games. This is
supported by Tatz (1999), when arguing that Aboriginal work had been presented within a
white sense of aesthetics and no real attempt had been made to challenge mainstream
views and advocating for an approach truer to Aboriginal values. These claims suggest that
the Olympic Arts Festivals were not able to provide authentic cultural experiences, but rather
exotic commodities for the enjoyment of visitors and white locals.

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In terms of activity distribution, during the year 2000, the arts programme was concentrated in a handful of visual arts venues in the city centre and, notably, performances took
place in the Sydney Opera House exclusively. The street celebrations were also mostly
concentrated in Sydneys business district as a crowd management strategy. In contrast,
the neighbourhoods of Auburn, whose Council incorporates Homebush, and Parramatta
adjacent to Homebush and a demographic centre of Sydney were deprived of any official
cultural activity. With the exception of Parramatta, whose authorities organised a collectors
fair and placed some giant screens in public spaces on their own initiative, these areas were
practically empty of visitors during the Games (Purchase 2000). Arguably, the only recorded
activity was that of moving in an out of the train stations to access the ticket-only boundaries
of Olympic Park. Owen (2002) goes further to argue that the Auburn community was not only
displaced during Games time, but has been negatively impacted in the short term. Despite
the potential long-term benefits of recovering derelict space and gaining new world-class
facilities, the accessibility of these expensive facilities to the many socio-economically
disadvantaged of the Auburn community may be limited (Owen 2002, p. 329). Furthermore,
the strong financial commitments to the Park have obliged Auburn Council to postpone the
provisions of other youth, education and cultural programmes (Owen 2002, p. 329).
These failures reveal a lack of understanding of the needs of the locals and by extension, as already noted by Stevenson (1998) a lack of consultation with them. Despite its
attempt at happening in every State and Territory and representing every cultural group
(SOCOG, 19972000), the Olympic Arts programme was not able to address the issue of
sociospatial divisions within Sydney. As argued by Owen (2002), this is a problem common
to most major event hosting processes and in a different manner, can also be perceived in
the cases of Glasgow and Barcelona. A broad approach to arts programming within major
events was supposed to tackle this issue, but this article shows that it is difficult to find
successful examples. This is further discussed in the analysis and conclusion sections.

Barcelona 2004, Universal Forum of Cultures

Barcelona was brought to the worlds spotlight on occasion of the 1992 Olympic
Games. A random review of international press coverage since 1992 indicates that the image
of success of this event has survived up to present times and has played a significant role in
the establishment of the city as a major tourism and business destination in Europe (Kerevan
2002). In 1997, Pascual Maragall, then city Mayor, indicated that it was time for Barcelona to
host another major event and demonstrate its continued leadership as a cultural centre.
Following his initiative, the city is now working towards the creation of a new event model,
the Universal Forum of Cultures, to be hosted from May to September 2004.

Context and Event Rationale

The proposal for this new event model was presented to the United Nations
Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and endorsed by it in 1998. The
main principle behind it was that the world needed major events with a focus on culture,
education and the long-term viability of the experience. Arguably, a sideline to this was that
existing world events such as the Olympic Games and Universal Expos are out of reach for
most cities as they require massive investments in infrastructures that are often unsustainable and non-beneficial for the host communities (see Roche 2000).


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Beyond the interest in exploring a new event model suited to the needs of a contemporary city, the Barcelona authorities were interested in replicating the hype surrounding the
Olympic experience to attract inward investment for the regeneration of a wide coastal area
(see Merino 2002). This was to be a continuation of the process started with the opening of
the city to the sea in 1992 and the creation of the Olympic Village, a high-income neighbourhood and leisure area displacing a previously deprived community and derelict post-industrial zone.

Definitions and Design

The Universal Forum of Cultures claims that its mission is to encourage an open debate
on themes universally relevant in current times. These are defined as cultural diversity,
conditions for peace and environmental sustainability (Forum Barcelona 2004 2000). The
new event model was to be developed around this thematic trilogy, using a range of
formats that include exhibitions, conferences, street events and a large arts festival. In order
to maximise the event role as a forum, an ambitious website has been created to allow a
dialogue and interaction with the wider community through electronic discussion groups
and notice boards (Forum Barcelona 2004 2000). At another level, preparations for the event
involve extensive urban planning to redevelop a coastal area of the city and recover derelict
space, which has been key to attracting inward investment.
A report outlining the initial plans for the Forum indicates that the event was to focus
on generating dialogue on its main themes rather than presenting spectacular shows and
festivals (Forum Barcelona 2004 2000). This was to be the distinguishing point between the
Forum and other popular events, including the Olympics. However, the need to engage with
the general public, be appealing to sponsors and attract the attention of national and international media seems to have influenced the final shape of the event, which, according to an
announcement made in March 2003, will incorporate ambitious opening and closing
ceremonies by La Fura dels Baus2 and will invest heavily on other popular and spectacular
activities such as open-air street entertainment (Forum Barcelona 2004 2000).

Production and Promotion

The organisation of the Forum has followed a model similar to that of the 1992
Olympic Games involving the cooperation between city, region and central government in
terms of funding and institutional support. This has resulted in a confirmed budget of 310
million for the cultural programme of which 60% will be publicly funded and 40% financed
by private organisations and sponsors. In addition, there will be a public-private investment
of 2,000 million in infrastructure (Merino 2002).
In terms of communication and promotions, the organisers face the difficulty of introducing a new sort of event and explaining its purpose. While gaining the right to host the
Olympic Games was widely understood and celebrated, the creation of a self-awarded and
never-heard of event has found much reticence in the city. The major problem of the Forum
has been its unclear definition and the lack of credibility of its mission statement. The national
press has reported that the themes of diversity, peace and sustainability are deemed too
broad, lacking content and a clear purpose (Moix 2003). In addition, there is the apparent
conflict between the relevance of these intangible matters and the very tangible urban transformation surrounding them. The latter, it is argued, seems to respond to the interests of


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private speculators rather than the wider community and may endanger the sustainability of
existing neighbourhoods in the area, which include low-income cultural minority groups
(FAVB 2001). This is a key reason for the bad image of the Forum among influential community
groups in the city such as the Federation of Barcelona Neighbourhoods and the most relevant
aspect to consider in studying the events regeneration legacies.

Regeneration Legacies?
At this stage, we can only speculate about the legacies of the event. Arguably, a core
regeneration legacy will be the physical restructuring of a wide area in the city, including the
recovery of a large section of its coastline, and the substitution of derelict buildings with new
conference centres, hotels, shopping malls and public parks. It can also be argued that the
event will bring a symbolic legacy in terms of city image, acting as a platform to demonstrate
the cultural vitality of the city and its ability to attract visitors from around the world.
For the locals, a relevant question is whether the event and its arts components in
particular will provide a chance to present their own case and encourage debate on their
views about the Forum main themes. A further question is whether this event format may
survive the Barcelona experience and in what form. Will the principle of debate and dialogue
about universal themes prevail as the leitmotif of future major events? Or will it rather be the
example of yet another way of using a cultural event as a vehicle for major physical urban
The latter points at one of the unsolved problems of major event hosting that of
addressing the needs of the locals and securing a fair distribution of benefits both from an
spatial and social perspective (Bianchini 1990; Hall 1996; Roche 1994). In responding to this
point, the Forum Director of Solidarity claims that extensive consultations have taken place
with representatives from La Mina (Eric Hauck, interview with the author, 2002). This is a large
gypsy community strongly established in the area, holding a very unique cultural tradition
and statistically one of the poorest in Barcelona. This may have smoothed the process to
delineate the uses of space and brought some sort of financial benefit to the community.
However, looking at the event programme and format, it does not seem that the negotiations have addressed issues of accessibility and representation. As in the case of Auburn in
Sydney (Owen 2002), the venues and activities on offer within the ticket-only premises of the
Forum where all core arts programming and conferences will take place will probably feel
out of reach for La Minas low-income inhabitants. In terms of ownership and representation,
there is no indication as yet that the arts nor the broader conference and exhibition
programmes will incorporate the voices of La Mina or any other specific neighbourhood in
Barcelona. As in the case of Glasgow, it seems that international perspectives are given priority over local authorship, which may seem fit for an event with universal aspirations but
leaves the question of direct representation and local empowerment unanswered.

These case studies examine the production of major events arts programmes under
very different conditions but a common rationale. This mixture of contexts provides an
opportunity to compare them and identify strengths and challenges in their contributions
towards urban regeneration. Table 1 summarises some of the key points argued for
each case.


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Case studies: summary of points
Key factors
Arts focus
Context for bid
Production and

Glasgow 1990

Sydney 2000

Barcelona 2004

Regeneration through arts
Cultural excellence
Major investment

Tourism attraction
Limited resources

A new sort of event
Major world themes
Major investment

Image, confidence

Aboriginal art in
mainstream venues


Strengths common to the experiences in Glasgow, Sydney and Barcelona can be

summarised in three wide areas. First, an arts discourse can mark a difference at the bidding
stage, improving the appeal of the proposal for external evaluators and gaining the interest
and support of the local community. Arts programming also provides a good platform
for developing new or strengthening existing collaborations. This was remarkable in
Glasgow with the unprecedented partnership of city and regional authorities. In Sydney and
Barcelona, the nature of the event arts programme encouraged first-time relationships
between grassroots groups and mainstream organisations. Third, this article confirms the
view that arts programming is a critical factor within city image strategies, improving perceptions of the place and attracting tourists and corporate visitors in the medium to long terms
(Bianchini 1990; Landry et al. 1996; Smyth 1994).
On the opposite end, the case studies also demonstrate some difficult challenges. Arts
programmes tend to have a marginal position within the event general organisation and are
often not linked to other popular event activity. These programmes are frequently excluded
from the events mainstream promotions and receive insufficient funding to address defined
objectives. Under these conditions, they tend to overlook open negotiations with local
communities, fail to represent them by simplifying core messages and/or fail to properly
address sociospatial divisions in the event host city. The marginal position of arts
programmes within the management, funding and promotion of major events seems to
be linked to the view that they are not strong contenders to attract private funding. As
Stevenson (1998, p. 131) puts it, referring to the Sydney Olympic Arts Festivals: The problem
of sponsorship is underpinned by the subordinate position of art in relation to sport within
the sphere of leisure and culture.
Glasgow is perhaps a key exception as the event was entirely arts driven and the reason
to host it in the first place had a strong economic rationale, which appealed to corporate sponsors. However, in Glasgow as much as Sydney and Barcelona, event promoters emphasised
the most spectacular side of their arts programme, often at the expense of more innovative
and locally representative work. This meant that figures like Pavarotti and rock concerts in
1990, the Sydney Opera House and street entertainment in year 2000, and La Fura dels Baus
in the lead up to 2004 were at the core of the arts promotion. Organisers claim that it makes
sense to prioritise mainstream work because it is easier to understand across cultures and
more media- and sponsor-friendly. Glasgows tourism chief has justified this by stressing that
you cannot address social problems if you cannot generate the wealth (Eddie Friel, interview
with the author, 2002). Nevertheless, Bianchini (1990, p. 240) notes that this approach prevents
the recognition of the critical role of the arts in questioning the status quo. Accordingly,

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there is a risk that the incorporation of the arts into urban growth coalitions will reduce
the freedom which is necessary to perform this essential critical role. The hegemonic status
of the belief that whats good for business is good for the city could seriously weaken the
ability of the arts to point at alternative notions of the good for both the individual and
the community. (Bianchini 1990, p. 240)

The three cases also evidence limitations in addressing citys sociospatial divides either
through the lack of promotion and long-term viability of community arts programming in
Glasgow, inadequate or non-existing peripheral arts provisions in Sydney, or questionable
consultations and inclusion in Barcelona. This confirms the view that major events arts
programming tends to concentrate in the city centre and provide mostly for privileged
groups (Bianchini 1990; Booth & Boyle 1993; Hall 1996). Glasgow 1990 is nevertheless the
case that gets closer to offering a successful example of fair sociospatial arts distribution. This
was thanks to the close collaboration between city/district and periphery/regional authorities, an aspect that should gain greater consideration within event hosting processes if the
centre-periphery dilemma is to be solved.

Concluding Remarks
Arts programming can greatly contribute to urban regeneration in the context of a
major event hosting process. This has been demonstrated by the experience in Glasgow and,
to varying degrees, it was a relevant factor in the successful city image campaigns of Sydney
in 2000 and Barcelona from 1992 onwards. However, in these and parallel cases, this contribution has not yet realised its full potential. Current limitations in this process are a lack of
coordination among event organisers, tourism bodies, city planners and the arts community.
This is partially the result of a tradition of unexplored synergies between popular event activities including sports competitions and crowd entertainment and the implementation of
arts activities. The latter also implies that mainstream media and the general public are
generally unaware of, or do not see, an interest in the arts component of major events. To
solve this, cultural policy-makers should encourage the exploration of commonalities
between arts, sports and other entertainment activity as forms of cultural expression.
Olympic opening and closing ceremonies offer an opportunity to link arts discourses with
the format of spectacular media entertainment. Interesting examples can be found in the
opening of the Albertville Winter Olympics and Barcelona 1992 (MacAloon 1995). Also, yearlong celebrations such as the European Capital of Culture title provide a challenging platform for combining a wide spectrum of arts activities and broadening the concept of culture
to the limit. Indeed, the difficulty is that a core value of the arts is their cutting-edge and
thought-provoking dimension (Bianchini 1990, pp. 239240), which may not sit well within
mass-media spectacles. However, a way around it could be using the spectacle as a calling
card for other more intimate, alternative experiences. This is precisely the role that festivals
have traditionally been called to fulfil (Getz 1991) and should not lose sight of attracting
audiences to their first-time arts or other cultural experience and encouraging them to
search for more outside of the festival environment.
A further difficulty of arts programming within major events is the balancing of local
community needs with the interests of external visitors and media viewers/readers. The
tight demands of international event hosting processes are a threat to flexible and open
negotiations with local communities, which require generous leading times and tend to
result in contradictory demands. The tendency to prioritise the spectacular over more


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complex and rooted messages might facilitate managing the event and achieving immediate economic impacts. However, it also tends to compromise the possibility for achieving
long-term social and cultural legacies. To prevent this, economic indicators should not be
the only guiding rationale in an event hosting process. Examples of the potentially negative
effect of prioritising economic over sociocultural discourses are the growing community
cynicism about the lasting benefit of Glasgow 1990; accusations of tokenism in Sydney 2000;
and the current confusion and disbelief about the purpose of yet another major event in
Barcelona 2004.
As already claimed by Stevenson (1998), major events cannot be organised at the
expense of the local community nor should they be planned without proper grassroots
consultations. The argument that local groups are to benefit through tourism, inward investment and short-term job creations is not sufficient. Satisfying tourism interests may be in
direct contradiction to the traditions of the place and may affect its natural environment
(Hall 1996). Inward investment is good as long as it protects the interests and rights of the
community, which requires a careful balance between corporate competitiveness and the
survival of public provisions (Owen 2002). Also, the creation of jobs is positive, but only
sustainable if it involves a degree of skill development and improved access to future
employment (Basset 1993, p. 1785; Bianchini 1990, p. 237).
A committed dedication towards arts programming in major events can assist in keeping the balance and provide a complementary dimension to the economic discourse that is
sustainable in the long term. This should imply an understanding that arts activity can
succeed within events without needing to become a purely economic factor, but rather a
facilitator for local participation and ownership that is, at the same time, attractive for visitors
and media. To achieve this, arts programming should be seen as a factor within a broader
cultural agenda and fully integrated within it rather than just treated as an attractive but
dispensable component.
I wish to thank my colleague Matthew Reason for a thorough read of the paper in its early
stages and his many insighful suggestions. Also thanks to the editors and reviewers for their
many constructive comments.



The analysis of Australian press coverage on the Olympic Arts Festivals from 1997 to year
2000 reveals that 87% of the stories were placed within the arts sections of the papers
rather than the Olympic sections. Only 20% indicate explicitly that the event was part of the
Olympic Games, and 25% do not make any mention of their official Olympic denomination
(Garca 2002). Furthermore, 41% of stories were presented in the standard format of arts
reviews and highlights, and were thus indistinguishable from other articles about nonOlympic programme events (Garca 2002).
La Fura dels Baus was one of the most acclaimed arts groups contributing to the Olympic
opening ceremony in 1992 and have gained wide international recognition ever since.


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Beatriz Garca, Research Fellow, Centre for Cultural Policy Research, Gilmorehill Centre,
University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 141 330 2447; Fax: +44 (0) 141 330
4142; Email:; Website: