The rapid growth of cultural, sports and business events has focussed attention on the impact of events, and in particular their economic significance for cities and regions. There is increasing interest, however, in the less tangible social impacts of events – in terms of building social capital, fostering social cohesion and forging social identities. Few major events are now without programmes for community engagement, education or cultural development. Appeals to the social significance of events are often an important part of the legitimisation of public subsidy and commercial sponsorship.
Although most people seem convinced that events have an important social role in local and global communities, there is relatively little empirical evidence to back up assertions that events build social capital or social cohesion. The newly-formed ATLAS Events Special Interest Group is organising an expert meeting to try and address this crucial issue. How important is the social dimension of events? Are the social impacts of events really important to local communities, or just window dressing for consumption-based cultural and sports policies? Which groups in the community actually benefit from the organisation of events?