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Activism and the Olympics

Activism and the Olympics: Dissent at the Games in Vancouver and London

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Activism and the Olympics
    Book Description:

    The Olympics have developed into the world's premier sporting event. They are simultaneously a competitive exhibition and a grand display of cooperation that bring together global cultures on ski slopes, shooting ranges, swimming pools, and track ovals. Given their scale in the modern era, the Games are a useful window for better comprehending larger cultural, social, and historical processes, argues Jules Boykoff, an academic social scientist and a former Olympic athlete.InActivism and the Olympics, Boykoff provides a critical overview of the Olympic industry and its political opponents in the modern era. After presenting a brief history of Olympic activism, he turns his attention to on-the-ground activism through the lens of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Here we see how anti-Olympic activists deploy a range of approaches to challenge the Olympic machine, from direct action and the seizure of public space to humor-based and online tactics. Drawing on primary evidence from myriad personal interviews with activists, journalists, civil libertarians, and Olympics organizers, Boykoff angles in on the Games from numerous vantages and viewpoints.Although modern Olympic authorities have strived-even through the Cold War era-to appear apolitical, Boykoff notes, the Games have always been the site of hotly contested political actions and competing interests. During the last thirty years, as the Olympics became an economic juggernaut, they also generated numerous reactions from groups that have sought to challenge the event's triumphalism and pageantry. The 21st century has seen an increased level of activism across the world, from the Occupy Movement in the United States to the Arab Spring in the Middle East. What does this spike in dissent mean for Olympic activists as they prepare for future Games?

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6203-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: The Olympics and Me
    (pp. 1-20)

    In his detective-fiction thrillerAn Olympic Death,Manuel Vásquez Montalbán captured what it was like to be in Barcelona as the city prepared to host the 1992 Summer Olympics. The acclaimed Spanish novelist and leftist columnist forEl Paíspresented one character in the book, a former Spanish revolutionary turned suit-sporting banker, to highlight the power of the Games to turn political beliefs into ideological jelly designed to sweeten capital accumulation. Underscoring the importance of international investment flows, the fictitious flip-flopper pivoted professionally to rivet his attention on profiteering from the Barcelona Games, audaciously declaiming, “Do you know how many...

  6. 1 Understanding the Olympic Games
    (pp. 21-57)

    The Olympic Games are shrouded in an apoliticism that is in fact eminently political. The notion that the Olympics can sidestep politics is one of the guiding fictions of our times, and one propped up by major players in the Olympic movement. Avery Brundage, who headed the International Olympic Committee from 1952 to 1972, chanted the mantra that politics and Olympics shouldn’t mix. For instance, in a 1969 letter he wrote, “we actively combat the introduction of politics into the Olympic movement and are adamant against the use of the Olympic Games as a tool or as a weapon by...

  7. 2 Space Matters: The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics
    (pp. 58-90)

    Walking along West Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, one crisp January morning in 2010, I came across a perplexing set of white panels on the outer flank of the refurbished Woodward’s building. The panels featured a verbal explosion of repudiation: simple black-lettered phrases like “Hell no,” “I said no,” “No bloody way,” and “No way José.” Four placards simply read “No.” It was only later I learned this was a site-specific installation by Vancouver artist Ken Lum for Simon Fraser University’s Audain Gallery that was challenging a “2010 Winter Games By-law” passed by the City...

  8. 3 London Calling: Activism and the 2012 Summer Olympics
    (pp. 91-128)

    In late February 2012, the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks began releasing “The Global Intelligence Files,” a trove of more than five million internal e-mails from Stratfor Global Intelligence, a private intelligence firm headquartered in Texas.¹ Stratfor gathers and analyzes information under contract with private corporations like Goldman Sachs and Lockheed Martin, as well as numerous government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security. The documents contained some politically explosive information, including speculation that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would soon be indicted by the US Justice Department. The e-mails also revealed that Stratfor client and “Worldwide Olympic Partner” Coca-Cola was concerned...

  9. 4 Media and the Olympics
    (pp. 129-158)

    The Olympics have become one of the glitziest global media extravaganzas. Over the years, the fees for media rights to cover the Games have ballooned as have the sheer number of journalists from around the globe who attend the Games to cover them. Merely 11 reporters covered the 1896 Olympics in Athens, whereas approximately 20,000 journalists descended on the international media center in London for the 2012 Summer Games.¹ The BBC alone allocated 765 journalists to cover the event full-time, surpassing the number of athletes on Team GB by more than 200. It justified its immense output of journalistic humanpower...

  10. 5 Looking Ahead through the Rearview Mirror
    (pp. 159-174)

    In 2011Timemagazine proclaimed “The Protester” as its “Person of the Year,” writing, “‘Massive and effective street protest’ was a global oxymoron until—suddenly, shockingly—starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.”¹Time’s quick glossing over of the South African antiapartheid movement and the Global Justice Movement’s “Battle in Seattle” is questionable. But one thing the magazine gets right is that there has been a recent resurgence in militant public-space protest around the globe and that this activism is ricocheting in transnational fashion...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 175-206)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-218)
  13. Index
    (pp. 219-226)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-228)