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Observatory for Human Rights and Major Events

Critically examining human and community rights issues in the planning, staging and legacy of major events, related visitor economy and tourism development. HaRM is affiliated to the Centre for Well-Being and Sustainability in the Visitor Economy (SWELL) and is the UK’s only academic ‘Olympic Studies Centre’ endorsed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Research aims

We work closely with policy makers, industry leaders and advocacy groups with a stake in the planning, delivery and legacy of major events to 1) identify and amplify human rights issues, 2) take a solutions-focused approach to tackling abuses and violations, 3) act as a critical friend to global sports and cultural event owners and organisers to stimulate positive change. 

HaRM’s work primarily focuses on three pillars:

Pillar 1: Human exploitation and trafficking.
Investigating how we can educate visitors to – and local workforces in – host cities, to raise awareness, spot the signs and tackle trafficking and exploitation in real-time during the live staging periods.

Pillar 2: Urban regeneration and development: Community disruption and displacement.
Investigating how host communities are disrupted and both directly and indirectly displaced in the lead up, live staging, and legacy periods.

Pillar 3: Visitor economies and experiences: Organisational and behavioural barriers to community leveraging.
Investigating the structural ways host communities can be excluded from accessing temporary event visitor economies, and how we can encourage greater interaction between hosts and guests particularly during the intense live staging periods.

Digital and technological innovation offers a new to tackle human rights challenges. Through our collaboration with the Centre for Digital Transformation in the Digital Economy (DIGMY), our work across Pillars 1, 2 and 3 includes a digital thread to explore these opportunities.

All three pillars 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’, and more broadly the United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner list of human rights issues.

Research projects and activities



Social entrepreneurship has evolved globally as an important route to address societal issues through entrepreneurship. Those founding and running social ventures are driven by their social mission, with entrepreneurship providing the means for their sustainability. Can the Olympics act as a driver to foster enterprise and social entrepreneurship?

This report examines research funded thanks to the International Olympic Committee, exploring the experience of two host cities, Rio de Janeiro and London, through the lived experience of 25 individuals in social ventures and surveys and interviews with 100 others working in or supporting entrepreneurship, identifying critical factors which might encourage social entrepreneurship as a strong legacy of the Olympics.

Similarities emerged in their need for skills enhancement and their ‘reach’ in accessing information, advice, finance and physical resources. Engagement was an issue with both groups identifying their capacity gaps in understanding how to lever advantage from wider networks.

Through literature review and primary research, an entrepreneurship legacy framework emerged, likely to support for profit and social enterprise. The Entrepreneurship (4 Es) Legacy Framework was developed with 4 core stages as follows:

  1. Engage, 2. Enable, 3. Empower. 4. Extend.

To support entrepreneurship, long-term relationships with deprived neighbourhoods are suggested with monitoring and measurement of actions taken during preparation, staging and post Games periods, with public publishing points 3, 5 and 10 years after events.

View project website.

post-covid events, two people elbow bumping in stadium



Covid-19 has brought unprecedented disruptions to societies in numerous ways, one not to neglect is on event attendees and leisure opportunities for local communities. Drs Yanning Li, Bora Kim and Tracy Xu are investigating how sport fans and local communities can be better (re)engaged via reimagining visitors’ experience in sport matches post-Covid align with research group HaRM’s pillars. Primarily, their project is examining spectators’ motivations to attend a game and potential apprehensions post-Covid. A Covid-19 recovery strategy will be developed for sport clubs to engineer a safe, diverse and inclusive sport event experience for visitors. This project is funded by the Research England SME Innovation Voucher Scheme, in collaboration with Coventry United Ladies Football Club.


Industry partner 



The conversation around diversity at UK events has recently heightened, adding to recent global movements such as #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, #HeForShe. The shift to virtual events since the Covid pandemic has meant that access to a diverse range of speakers and audiences, should be better than ever and yet events, which do not take diversity into account proliferate. This project will map the landscape and scale of diversity and inclusivity in the UK events industry, and make recommendations to event organisers and policy influencers, on how UK events and the industry can become more diverse and inclusive.



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 (https://itsapenalty.org/).

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). Introduction.
IOC. (2020). IOC moves forward with its human rights approach.
It’s a Penalty. (2021). Introduction.
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.

Find an expert


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

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

Darina Svobodova profile image

Darina Svobodova

PhD Researcher


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.

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  • Fax: +44 (0)1483 686346

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School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
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University of Surrey