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Cultural Diversity as a consideration in the planning, development and execution of the London 2012 Olympic Games examined using UNESCO’s stated Principles of Diversity.

Cultural Diversity as a consideration in the planning, development and execution of the London 2012 Olympic Games examined using UNESCO’s stated Principles of Diversity.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Susan Kennelly. Originally submitted for Cultural Policy at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology, with lecturer Paraic McQuaid in the category of Modern Cultural Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Susan Kennelly. Originally submitted for Cultural Policy at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology, with lecturer Paraic McQuaid in the category of Modern Cultural Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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05/13/2014

 
Cultural Diversity as a consideration in the planning, development and execution of the London 2012 Olympic Games examined using UNESCO’s stated Principles of Diversity.
Cultural Diversity is the means of maintaining indigenous, native and localised cultures,expressions and traditions alive in the face of mounting pressure from globalised systems becoming integral to the way modern developed society functions. The real threat is todeveloping societies where in the blind rush to establish independence, autonomy andeconomic clout these societies are pay no mind to the inherent threats to culture fromsuch rapid growth (UNESCO, Office of Cultural Diversity Moscow). Nor are theyimplementing comprehensive cultural policies to combat inherent threat of development.Societies such as Cuba which any day now will be reached by fibre optic cable being laidin the sea by Venezuelan authorities will soon be confronted with an informationexplosion by the grace of broadband internet and the Castro dictatorship unsurprisingly isanticipated to exercise state control over access to the internet for Cubans such is their fear of the resulting effect on its people (Carroll, 2011). With the recent Egyptian revoltreports were that access to Facebook was being restricted in an attempt to stem the tide of anti-government feeling (Diab, 2010). Such is the power and threat of these globalisedcommunications mechanism and such is the difficulty of striking the correct balance between protecting culture and local level while allowing the free flow of culturalexpression at a global level. UNESCO is one of the foremost policymakers in the fieldtrying to advocate such a balance.Cultural Diversity has been used as a political argument since the 1960’s and its period of de-colonisation. The concept has evolved from ‘cultural exception’ a policy tool viewedas disguising ulterior protectionist motives to the more positive policy position of ‘cultural diversity’ in the 1990’s stemming from the acknowledgement of thestrengthening connection between culture and development (Graber, 2006). In 1995 theWorld Commission on Culture and Development published a report entitled ‘Our Creative Diversity’. This report introduced the concept of ‘cultural diversity’ as a global public good of utmost importance and considered a pre-condition for the proper functioning of democratic societies. The report also highlighted the threat of homogenisation of traditional cultures under the pressure of globalising media markets(Graber, 2006). Cultural Diversity was first employed by UNESCO as a ‘structuringconcept to guide the development of artistic production in member states’. Following theratification of the Council of Europe’s Declaration of Cultural Diversity by UNESCOmember states in 2005 ‘cultural diversity’ came to represent, as described in Article 4,
‘the manifold ways in which the cultures of groups and societies find expression’ 
.Cultural Diversity in UNESCO terms became synonymous with this diversity of ‘culturalexpressions’ with the conditions for diversity to be considered an asset, not a threat.There are some critical issues associated with this concept of ‘cultural diversity’. Inaddition to the protectionism already detailed there are also issues relating to potentialabuses of such policy instruments as violating citizens’ rights to free expression andinformation. To combat such issues the Convention explicitly subjects the protection and
 
 promotion of cultural diversity to the human rights and fundamental freedoms standards(Graber, 2006). Article 5 of the Convention on the Protection of Cultural Diversityreaffirms the sovereign right of governments to formulate and implement cultural policiesand to adopt measures to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions. Assuch the Convention aims to be interpreted in the sense of a contribution to rather than alimitation of freedom and expression and information (Graber, 2006). The importance of such policy directives without bearing great responsibility or commitment on member states is, with increasing trade agreements and the free market coupled with theglobalisation of mass media, the concentration of commerce and capital gives a preferential dominance to commoditised culture thus damaging the variety of expressionsin the world (La Porte Alfaro et al, 2001). Cultural Diversity and Multiculturalism as policy issues are difficult to navigate as evidenced by it’s becoming a thorny issue inBritish politics. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, in a recent speech to Europeanleaders declared Britain’s policy of multiculturalism a failure, the policy of “passivetolerance” had only succeeded in encouraging “Islamic extremism” in Britain. Whileanti-Islamic feeling in British society is on the rise as demonstrated by the recent marchin Luton organised by the hard-right English Defence League (Batty, 2011).There is extensive literature on the issue of ‘cultural diversity’ stemming from Europeanlevel and UNESCO itself with the key documents being: The Universal Declaration onCultural Diversity, 2001 (see Appendix I) and The Convention on the Protection andPromotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, 2005 (see Appendix II). Culturaldiversity is a policy concern because
‘Respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance,dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among thebest guarantees of international peace and security’ 
but also because UNESCO has beenentrusted a specific mandate by the UN for ensuring the preservation and promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures, considering that the process of globalisation facilitated by the rapid development of new information and communication technologies, thoughrepresenting a challenge for cultural diversity, creates the conditions for reneweddialogue among cultures and civilisations (Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 2001).The guiding principles outlined in the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 2005 are orientated towards upholdingfundamental rights and freedoms as well as the sovereign rights of individual member states. Having satiated these intricacies the principles provide for respect and equality of cultures as individuals and as larger groups and whole nations. An explicit tie betweenculture and development is also drawn in addition to sustainable development and thenotions of access, openness and balance (see Appendix II). UNESCO advocates placingculture at the heart of development policy as it constitutes an essential investment in theworld’s future likening the necessity of cultural diversity to the sustainability of humankind to that of biodiversity for nature.In terms of development on a global level, global events such as the World Cup and theOlympics, given the level of investment and planning attributed to each event are primeexamples of how the policy UNESCO is advocating could be applied to its greatest benefit, but is it? Are such events venturing to protect diversity of cultural expression at
 
local level while promoting the culture of the event worldwide thus reducing the risks and benefitting from the advantages of a globalised society? (La Porte Alfaro, 2001)The transformative power of sport recognised and increasingly evidenced both by mega-events themselves and also by those driving policy at a variety of levels. The emergenceof sport as a significant policy area, although often as part of a wider cultural remit, withattempts made by Governments to modernise the state and ensure policy-making is moreeffective and efficient, in its own right and as a regeneration catalyst (Coaffee, 2008).
 
Inthe face of development in communications networks and trade links global events haveevolved dramatically to a phenomenal scale. This can be attributed more particularly tomassive revenues generated from television rights and the marketing potential afforded by the internet to the point where despite the phenomenal level of investment events suchas the Olympics are now profit-making ventures. The attraction and appeal of masscultural expressions such as music and the potential to connect with audiences worldwideis now a relatively simple matter of build it (big enough) and they (millions) will come,as is perfectly exemplified by the London 2012 Olympic Games.These worldwide events now, due to the sheer size of its audience now have strong tieswith investment, development, infrastructure and other policy areas such as urbanregeneration. This is similar to how on a smaller scale, the European Capital of Culturetitle has attracted investment and rejuvenated such cities as Liverpool making them notonly tourist destinations but cultural destinations (Langen, Garcia et al, 2009). Thecapacity for change that accompanies these events in political, economic, social andcultural terms has been well acknowledge and is being continually advanced upon. Thefirst real instance of this was the Sydney Olympics in 2000 which set itself the goal of  being the first ‘green’ Olympics, to stage a sustainable event. Whether this was achievedand to what measure of success is to be debated elsewhere. There are inherentcontradictions between a one-off large scale event and the principles derived fromsustainable development policies (OGGI, 2002).From the beginning the London bid ascandidate city to host the Olympics was promoted a ‘One Planet Olympics’. This means‘respecting ecological limits, its cultural diversity and creating a legacy for sport, theenvironment and the local and global community.’ This goal is driven by the associationOne Planet Living which is a joint venture between the WWF and BioRegional and has been incorporation into the master plan of London 2012.Yet to be executed, the London 2012 Games have already made a substantial impact notonly in the Exchequer but also in the collective conscious of British society, the Olympicaudience and beyond. With the planning for the upcoming London 2012 Olympicshaving begun before the bid was even won in 2005 it has already changed the face of East London and the 5 boroughs it occupies (Greenwich, Hackney, New ham, Tower Hamlet and Waltham Forest) but remains to be seen the full impact the actualisation of the games and the intended legacy of the development with have on London and the UK as a whole as planned by the games stakeholders and partners (see Appendix III).

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