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Observatory for Human Rights and Major Events

We work with those involved in the planning and staging of major events to advance inclusivity, sustainability and human rights-based agendas related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We take a human-centred, critical and solutions-focused approach that balances social outcomes, pro-environmental objectives, and economic performance.

HaRM is the UK’s official academic ‘Olympic Studies Centre’ endorsed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and British Olympic Association (Team GB). The observatory is affiliated with the Centre for Well-Being and Sustainability in the Visitor Economy (SWELL) and is part of the Department of Events, ranked 1st in UK and Europe and third globally in our field (Shanghai Global Ranking, 2021).

Research focus

HaRM’s research, policy and industry work focuses on the following ‘Projects’:

  • Analysing, exposing and resolving human exploitation and trafficking in the context of events, specifically major events
  • Engaging and educating visitors and stakeholders across the visitor economy about human exploitation and trafficking.

  • Providing in-depth analytical insights and 360-degree impact evaluation and strategic planning
  • Host community leveraging and capacity building to optimise local and national benefits of events
  • Utilising traditional and innovative data analysis techniques to examine visitor behaviours and experiences.

  • Identifying ways to induce pro-environmental behaviours at events
  • Creating tangible ways to facilitate environmentally friendly behaviour at events
  • Examining how events are utilised as a field configuring event to influence international and domestic policy and industry agendas.

A key part of our work is to understand how digital and technological innovation can be used to evaluate events and offer new ways to tackle human rights challenges. Through our collaboration with the Centre for Digital Transformation in the Digital Economy (DIGMY), our work across Project 1, 2 and 3 includes a digital thread to explore these opportunities.

All three projects sit at the heart of the Institute for Business and Human Rights’ issues detailed across the Mega Sport Event Lifecycle, the ‘Recommendations for an IOC Human Rights Strategy’ (PDF), and more broadly the United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner list of human rights issues.





The Olympics, mega- and major- events have a long history of human rights abuse (Amnesty International, 2021a). An increasing body of work over the last two decades have advanced a rights-based agenda in the context of large-scale events (e.g. Caudwell and McGee’s (2017) Special Issue on ‘Human Rights and Events, Leisure and Sport’ and more recently the European Funded ‘Event Rights’ (2020) project). Specific case study works have too have sought to frame stakeholder exclusion as a human rights issue as numerous social groups find have been identified to be exploited in one way or another in the melee of planning, delivery, and in the post-event legacy periods (e.g. Talbot and Carter, 2018; Duignan, Pappalepore and Everett, 2019). Indeed, large scale events too act as a platform for amplifying human rights abuses already existing in the host city and/or country context, as well as those produced as a direct and indirect result of hosting. For example, the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup not only exposed limited national legislation protecting labour rights in Qatar, but this was also evidenced by poor working and living conditions as well as delayed salaries for those working on the Khalifa Stadium (Amnesty International, 2021b). Occurring over protracted time-periods and geographical boundaries, the host country and/city provides a unique incubator to examine human rights issues.

Owners and organisers of large-scale events acutely recognises human rights abuses as a problematic that warrants new policy interventions and closer practical relations with host cities and countries, whether that be the Commonwealth Games Foundation’s (2017): ‘Transformation 2022 Strategy – A Human Rights Commitment’ through to the “International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) human rights strategy and policy commitment” (…) looking at “further embedding human rights in the good governance principles, and the establishment of the previously announced Human Rights Advisory Committee.” (IOC, 2020). This is part of a wider movement of large events mandating hosts to consider embedding principles and objectives aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (2021). Furthermore, local organising committees increasingly work with human rights organisations to tackle abuses. For example, It’s a Penalty, an international charity dedicated to raising awareness of human trafficking in host cities, works directly with Olympic venues to screen campaign videos to warn fans of the signs and how to report potential abuses.

This CFP on Human Rights and the Olympics, Mega- and Major-Events hopes to 1) expose significant human rights abuses that have not been adequately amplified to date; 2) bring together a disparate body of work looking at human rights; 3) publish existing and on-going work evaluating the legacy of previous events or looking forward to events in the year of 2021 and beyond; 4) identify good practice, like It’s a Penalty’s work, that illustrates the power of large-scale events for exposing and tackling human rights abuses too; 5) encourage scholars to act as a critical friend and work with policy makers and/or industry to help stimulate positive change.

We are looking for:

  • Multidisciplinary research papers that draw on a range of different ideas, concepts, theories and traditions appropriate to explain the human rights issue under investigation.
  • Scholars may wish to take a global perspective (i.e. by drawing on a range of event examples and cases to illustrate the ubiquity of the human rights abuse), or for example may present a specific human right issue in a specific event case study.
  • All papers must provide a set of policy and/or industry recommendations centred around the following themes:
    • EDUCATE – educating stakeholders and raising awareness of the chosen human rights issue.
    • EQUIP – equipping stakeholders and those affected to help tackle chosen human rights issue.
    • ENCOURAGE – how to encourage stakeholders and those affected to come forward to report chosen human rights issue.

N.B. Clarify how educate, equip, and encourage recommendations have transferability beyond the context you are speaking about to have more universal and/or value across numerous events.

Though this list in not exhaustive, below are examples of human rights issues found across major events:

  • Human trafficking
  • Freedom of speech
  • Labour rights and worker exploitation
  • Lack of personal safety
  • Poverty and socio-economic deprivation
  • Athlete abuse
  • LGBTQ+ rights
  • Torture and execution
  • Police brutality
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Forced evictions and displacement
  • Host community disruption
  • Gentrification and indirect displacement
  • Racism
  • Sexism.

For those looking for a deeper understanding regarding the types of human rights issues and the ways these can be analysed and tackled across the entire lifecycle of major events, we have provided two documents below.


Amnesty International UK. (2021a). Sports and Human Rights.
Amnesty International UK. (2021b). Qatar World Cup: The ugly side to the beautiful game.
Commonwealth Games Foundation. (2017). Transformation 2022 Strategy – A Human Rights Commitment.
Duignan, M.B., Pappalepore, I., & Everett, S. (2019). The ‘summer of discontent’: Exclusion and communal resistance at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Tourism Management, 70, 355-367.
EventRights (2021)
IOC. (2020). IOC moves forward with its human rights approach.
It’s a Penalty (2021)
Raco, M., & Tunney, E. (2010). Visibilities and invisibilities in urban development: Small business communities and the London Olympics 2012. Urban Studies, 47(2), 2069–2091.
Talbot, A., & Carter, T. (2018). Human rights abuses at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Leisure Studies, 37(1), 77–88.


  • Deadline for extended abstracts of max 500 words by 12 March 2021.

Note: send your abstract to: M.Duignan@surrey.ac.uk.

  • Confirmations of acceptance/rejection by 19 March 2021.
  • Deadline to submit full paper by 31 August 2021.

If you have any questions, please email: M.Duignan@surrey.ac.uk.

Keynote by Mike Duignan on ‘Concluding thoughts: What next for the field?’.

InsideEvents is a new research-informed teaching podcast series for hybrid learning, talking with authors of high quality research papers and projects about the detail and significance of their work.

We have a range of critical and human rights focused podcasts, a few of these include:

  • Displacement of favelas in the lead up to Rio 2016
  • Disability legacies and the Paralympic Games
  • Impact and legacy of London 2012 on local creative organisations
  • Gendered violence at international festivals
  • Paris 2024 plans for urban and tourism development
  • The link between overtourism and residents’ support to host a mega-events at Innsbruck 2026 Winter Olympics.

Contact Mike Duignant for further details, if you have any questions, or would like to take part in a podcast.

Due to be published in January 2022.


  • Dr Mike Duignan, University of Surrey
  • Prof David McGillivray, University of the West of Scotland


This special issue seeks to critically examine the relationship between events, urban spaces and mobility. Specifically, it seeks to explore how and why events enable and/or produce new spatial (re)configurations as a result of hosting and how these changes influence mobility, exploration, engagement and/or consumption across host environments – whether that be at an international, national, regional, city and/or community level.

Events, irrespective of their size and composition, influence the way people move, explore, engage and/or consume across host environments (Giulianotti et al, 2015; Mhanna et al, 2017). They are often managed in private venues, yet are increasingly staged in public spaces (Smith, 2015). Utilising urban public spaces to house events, whether a beach, park or plaza, often requires temporary rearrangements, producing what is sometimes referred to as ‘Host Event Zones’ (HEZs) - designated areas where real-time activities take place (McGillivray et al, 2019). Sometimes HEZs are public and open, other times they are private and closed, requiring a ticket to access. Beyond the demarcated boundaries of HEZs, events also extend their territorial presence and reach in a number of creative ways, including the emergence of ‘fringe spaces’. For example, food festivals have sought to engage peripherally located restaurants as a way to move visitors out of central urban areas (Duignan et al, 2017).

In contrast, mega sport event organisers create strategically-located ‘live sites’ and ‘fan parks’ to house non-sporting cultural and commercial activity, deploying tactics to circulate visitors to and contain them within global spaces of consumption (Armstrong et al, 2017). Relatedly, a nascent body of critical research has illustrated how new spatial conditions have the power to include and exclude particular social groups across the event’s lifecycle (Walters and Jepson, 2019; Duignan et al, 2019). It is with one or more of these issues in mind that we invite contributions that either conceptually, methodologically and/or empirically examine these relationships, inclusive of but not limited to:

  • Event mobilities (how actors move around host environments);
  • Events and accessibility (physical, social, psychological);
  • Events and the visitor experience
  • Event and (re)imagined spatial configurations
  • Event activism and preserving rights to the city
  • Events and inclusive public space
  • Methodologies for exploring event mobilities
  • Governance, regulation and festivalisation
  • Events and entrepreneurial activity.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, National Centre for Research Methods, we produced a three-part video series on ‘Walking methods in Olympic cities’.


Walsh, L., Down, S., and Duignan, M.B. (2021). Regulatory Informality Across Olympic Event Zones. Event Management, forthcoming.

Duignan, M.B., and Pappalepore, I. (2021). How do Olympic cities strategically leverage New Urban Tourism? Evidence from Tokyo. Tourism Geographies, forthcoming.

Duignan, M.B., Pappalepore, I., Smith, A., and Ivanescu, Y. (2021). Tourists’ Experience of Mega-Event Cities: Rio’s Olympic Double Bubbles. Annals of Leisure Research, forthcoming.

Duignan, M.B. (2021). Leveraging Tokyo 2020 to Re-Image Japan and the Olympic City, Post-Fukushima. Journal of Destination Marketing and Management, forthcoming.

Duignan, M.B. (2021). Utilising Field Theory to Examine Mega-Event Led Development. Event Management, forthcoming.

Duignan, M.B., and Chalip, L. (2021). Guest Editorial: Special Issue on “Human Rights at the Olympics, Mega- and Major-Events.Event Management, forthcoming.

Duignan, M.B., Down, S., and O’Brien, D. (2020). Entrepreneurial Leveraging in Liminoidal Olympic Transit Zones. Annals of Tourism Research.

Wu, S., Li, Y., Wood, E., Senaux, B. & Dai, G. (2020) Liminality and festivals—Insights from the East. Annals of Tourism Research, 80, 102810.

Duignan, M.B., and McGillivray. (2020). Guest Editorial: Special Issue on “Events, Public Spaces, and Mobility”. Annals of Leisure Research, forthcoming.

Duignan, M.B., Pappalepore, I., and Everett, S. (2019). The ‘Summer of Discontent’: Exclusion and Communal Resistance at the London 2012 Games. Tourism Management.

Sun, H., Wu, S., Li, Y. & Dai, G. (2019) Tourist-to-tourist interaction at festivals: A grounded theory approach. Sustainability, 11(15), 4030. doi:10.3390/su11154030

Duignan, M.B., and McGillivray, D. (2019). Disorganised host community touristic-event spaces: Revealing Rio’s fault lines at the 2016 Olympic Games. Leisure Studies.

Duignan, M.B., and McGillivray, D. (2019). Walking Methodologies, Digital Platforms and the Interrogation of Olympic Spaces: The ‘#RioZones-Approach’. Tourism Geographies.

Duignan, M.B., and Pappalepore, I. (2019). Visitor (Im)Mobility, Leisure Consumption and Mega-Event Impact: The Territorialisation of Greenwich and Small Business Exclusion at the London 2012 Olympics. Leisure Studies.

McGillivray, D., Duignan, M.B., and Mielke, E. (2019). Mega sport events and spatial management: Zoning space across Rio’s 2016 Olympic city. Annals of Leisure Research.

Cade, N., Everett, S., and Duignan, M.B. (2019). Leveraging Digital and Physical Spaces to ‘De-Risk’ and Access Rio’s Favela Communities. Tourism Geographies.

Duignan, M.B. (2019). London’s Olympic-Urban Legacy: Small Business Displacement, ‘Clone Town’ Effect and the Production of ‘Urban Blandscapes’. Journal of Place Management and Development.

Kirby, S., Duignan, M.B., and McGillivray, D (2018). Mega-Sport Events, Micro and Small Business Leveraging: Introducing the “MSE-MSB Leverage Model”. Event Management.

Duignan, M.B., Kirby, S., O’Brien, D., and Everett, S. (2018). From ‘Clone Towns’ to ‘Slow Towns’: Examining Festival Legacies. Journal of Place Management and Development.

Li, Y., Wood, E. H., & Thomas, R. (2017). Innovation implementation: Harmony and conflict in Chinese modern music festivals. Tourism Management, 63, 87-99.

Duignan, M.B., Everett, S., Walsh, L., and Cade, N (2017). Leveraging Physical and Digital Liminoidal Spaces: The Case of #EATCambridge festival. Tourism Geographies.

Upcoming events

The Surrey-UCF ‘Social Justice in Events Series’ will explore four specific human rights issues related to human trafficking, labour exploitation, diversity and inclusivity, and accessibility in events. The event series will take place in January 2022. Booking information coming soon. 

Find an expert


Giulia Berlusconi profile image

Dr Giulia Berlusconi

Lecturer, Department of Sociology

Emma Delaney profile image

Dr Emma Delaney

Senior Teaching Fellow

Xavier Font profile image

Professor Xavier Font

Professor of Sustainability Marketing

Christy Hehir profile image

Christy Hehir

Programme Leader and Lecturer in Events / PhD Researcher (Environmental Psychology & Travel)

Yanning Li profile image

Dr Yanning Li

Lecturer in Events Management

Nigel Morgan profile image

Professor Nigel Morgan

Head of School of Hospitality and Tourism Management

Jonathan Skinner profile image

Dr Jonathan Skinner

Reader in the Anthropology of Events

Nikolas Thomopoulos profile image

Dr Nikolas Thomopoulos

Senior Lecturer in Transport

Postgraduate research students

Abdullah Alnabati profile image

Abdullah Alnabati

Postgraduate Research Student

Elizabeth Ashcroft profile image

Elizabeth Ashcroft

PhD Researcher

Hoyoung (Rachel) Chang profile image

Rachel Chang

Postgraduate research student

Wanwisa Khampanya profile image

Wanwisa Khampanya

Postgraduate Research Student

Youngsoo Kim profile image

Youngsoo Kim

PhD student

Darina Svobodova profile image

Darina Svobodova

PhD Researcher

Visiting fellows

Placeholder image for staff profiles

Melvin Benn

Managing Director, Festival Republic

Chris Bryant profile image

Chris Bryant

Head of Tournament Delivery, The Football Association

Paul Bush profile image

Paul Bush

Director of Events, VisitScotland

Shona McCarthy profile image

Shona McCarthy

CEO, Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Placeholder image for staff profiles

Adam Moffat

Director of OSB Events, CSM Sports & Entertainment

Lucinda Spokes profile image

Lucinda Spokes

Head of Public Engagement, University of Cambridge

Rick Stainton profile image

Rick Stainton

Founder and Group Executive Director, Smyle

Sarah Louise de Carvalho MBE profile image

Sarah Louise de Carvalho MBE

CEO, It's a Penalty

Study a PhD with us

We are rapidly expanding our PhD community at HaRM. We are delighted to invite self-funded applications to join our PhD programme for the new 2021/2022 academic year, starting September 2021, for the 2022-23 onwards too.

The School of Hospitality and Tourism Management is globally recognized as one of the leading schools in its area with over 35 world-renowned faculty from over 17 countries. We run the largest PhD in Hospitality, Tourism, Events and/or Transport Management programme in the world. Our School is also the editorial home of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, previously Annals of Tourism Research and as of 2021-22 the leading journal in the study and analysis of events and festivals: Event Management.

We are looking for high quality applicants who seek to advance events research looking at the relationship between human rights and major events, from sporting to cultural to business events, across the following three projects and sub-project themes:

  • Analysing, exposing & resolving human exploitation & trafficking in context of events & specifically major events.
  • Engaging and educating visitors and stakeholders across the visitor economy about human exploitation and trafficking.

  • Providing in-depth analytical insights and 360-degree impact evaluation and strategic planning.
  • Host community leveraging and capacity building to optimise local and national benefits of events.
  • Utilising traditional and innovative data analysis techniques to examine visitor behaviours and experiences.

  • Identifying ways to induce pro-environmental behaviours at events.
  • Creating tangible ways to facilitate environmentally friendly behaviour at events.
  • Examining how events are utilised as a field configuring event to influence international and domestic policy and industry agendas.

N.B. we are happy to accept proposals that do not specifically apply to one of the projects, but it must be linked to one of the three projects or human rights and major events outlined above.


Please email Director of HaRM, Dr Mike Duignan for general enquiries and to have an informal conversation and discuss a potential application. Information about the Surrey Hospitality and Tourism Management PhD, entry requirements, as well as the application process is available on the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management PhD webpage.

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School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Austin Pearce Building (AP)
University of Surrey