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City Events 2016

City Events 2016

Last week, I was in Paris for another City Events conference, at which the focus was on the social responsibility of mega events. While the buzz word around events for the last 20 years has been 'legacy', we tried to unpack this idea a bit and explore further what events can do to make a meaningful contribution to society. I chaired a session which brought together expertise in development, social science, anthropology, officiating, and playing sports. 

Some of the interesting ideas were around the role of other role models in sport - such as referees and officials who provide a crucial educative role for young people in understanding the value of rule-keeping. Also, we talked about how sports can contribute to promoting individual rights, especially the rights of the child. 

In my summary, I talked about the importance of event organizers looking at the community, talking with it, and understanding what are the most urgent and pressing social issues, so that events can be a vehicle for addressing areas of most need. In the absence of other ideas, this seems a useful process through which to begin any such journey.



This week, I was due to take part in an event in Paris, which was all about how to make cities places of greater intercultural connectedness. However, on Friday, the terrorist attacks in Paris led to my event being cancelled.

For a while, the organizers and the ministry felt that we would go ahead, but the severity of the attacks, coupled with the 3 days of mourning announced by President Hollande led, finally, to it being postponed until the spring. We were only told about this less than 24 hours before I was due to take my flight and, along with other participants and organizers, I felt I still strongly wanted to go. So I did. The event was still cancelled, nobody met, but I wanted to go.

I wanted to go because to not go would have seemed to give in to the terrorists, to accept their disruption to our lives, and to even cease to go about our business for fear of further incidents. To me, it also seemed like the most important time to visit Paris, to show support.

Arriving on the Monday, the city was mostly quietly going about its business. The key sites of the attacks were full of citizens paying their respects, and the media with 24 hour coverage of what was going on. Away from these locations, people were getting on with their Monday, so that's what I did.

I met a wonderful, intelligent French Professor, Bertrand Pullan, with whom I was due to have a conversation within the conference about cities, events, and social change. Instead, we had a lovely lunch in a restaurant he has been visiting for 30 years. We found more common ground in our pursuits, research interests, and way of life than I could ever imagined. His interests were as far reaching as mine and we have led similar lives through academia, good lives.  It was a most wonderfully, typical trip to Paris, one of many I have enjoyed over the years.

Strangely enough, I happened to be in Paris on 9/11; I had forgotten about that. It seems I am destined to be with this city in tough times. I'm fine with that. It is a place that shines through all weathers.