China’s leading city-region governments have actively pursued momentary economic growth and spectacular spatial development by hosting mega-events. The cases of the Beijing and Guangzhou show that mega-events have functioned as instruments (ab)used by municipal governments to expedite land sales, relocate old state-owned industries, and drive migrant workers and the urban underclass out of the city centre. Improved environmental quality was found to be short lived. Hosting mega-events was a temporary stimulus prolonging the cycle of regional economic growth (and decline). The competitive edge of the central city was further enhanced at the expense of thedisadvantaged and marginalized periphery. The findings of this research call for a critical reevaluation of perceptions of space and place in studies of urban and regional development.