Sport-related urban development and dynamics of environmental policy

Por: Kimberly Schimmel.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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With the important exception of scholarship focusing on the Olympic Games movement, sociologists of sport who are interested in urban development have been slow to explore how sport articulates with urban environmental politics. The research presented in this paper, therefore, examines a link between sport-related urban development and ("local") environmental politics including how problems are named and framed, and how various actors shape environmental policy within a set of broader structural constraints.


Research presented in this paper is drawn from an analytical case study, focusing on the city of Cleveland, Ohio (USA), encompassing the years 1969-2003. Data are drawn from semi-structured interviews with local political actors and from public records including Ohio Environmental Protection Agency reports, city government/planning documents, consultants’ and task force groups’ analyses, minutes from public hearings, media accounts, and other miscellaneous texts.


Galvanized in 1969 by a local-level environmental catastrophe, environmental politics in Cleveland throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s was characterized by conflict and opposition with environmental groups engaged in anti-capitalist and anti-statist discourses. The early 1990’s, in contrast, saw the emergence of an all-embracing consensus discourse which included sport and in which environmental policy was presented as a cooperative venture between the state and a range of environmental advocacy groups.


Results of this research are interpreted within a broader theoretical perspective that acknowledges tensions between the dominant practices in the global urban political economy [1] and the more recent discourse of urban environmental governance and sustainability [2], [3]. The local agenda was supported by a "city-as-a-whole" ideology and the suggestion that it could be pursued in ways that were good for the environment. Urban "environmental policy" appears to be playing a supporting role to market-driven competitive growth.


[1] Low, N., Gleeson, B., Elander, I. & Lidskog, R (eds.) (2000). Consuming Cities. London, Routledge.
[2] van Tatenhove, J., Arts, B. & Leroy, P. (eds.) (2000). Political Modernization and the Environment, London, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
[3] Dryzek, J. (1997). The Politics of the Earth, Oxford, Oxford University Press.






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