The strategic mobilization of images, visual metaphors, and other forms of graphical rhetoric has always been central in place promotion. Images of place have assumed even greater importance, however, with the rise of locational tournaments of cities bidding for the "right" to host high-stakes transnational spectacles. In this paper, we adapt Harvey Molotch's pioneering theory of the urban growth machine to illuminate the contemporary enterprise of city bids for the Olympic Games. Taking Vancouver's successful bid for the 2010 Winter Games as a case study, we use a visual methodology framework to analyze the manifest (explicit, surface) and latent (implicit, subtle) visual narrative strategies used to craft a carefully considered representation of the city. Our analysis of the official Bid Questionnaire and the video presentation to the International Olympic Committee documents the sophisticated process by which a city is constructed to embody pristine urban nature, multicultural social harmony, and vibrant local cultures of sport in keeping with the spirit of Olympism. Whether imagined cities like this are effective is irrelevant: cities understand that half of their advertising budget is wasted (they just don't know which half). The expanding symbolic economies of tourism, conventions, and hallmark events require that urban growth machines develop and operate a full suite of image creation machines, each attuned to the real and perceived desires of an elusive transnational audience in a perpetual movable feast of locational consumption.
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