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Sport and Art at the Olympics

Sport and Art at the Olympics

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Published by Professor Andy Miah

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Published by: Professor Andy Miah on Feb 21, 2008
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Culture @ the Olympics
, 2001: vol. 3, issue 3, pp. 9-13
Culture @ the Olympics
issues, trends and perspectives
Sport vs arts in the struggle for visibility
Addressing culture and education in Olympicdocumentation and information systems
 Beatriz García
From the mid 1980s, therehas been an increasing amount of media coverageand academic publicationsrelated to the OlympicGames. This hasrevolutionised the amountof information anddocuments availableworldwide.
However, there are manydimensions of Olympism and theGames celebrations that are stillhardly known and poorlydocumented around the world.This is the case for many Olympiceducation programs and othercultural projects directly run bythe IOC. It is also true for manyof the non-sport programs, suchas the Cultural Olympiad, YouthCamps and school activityprojects, which accompany thestaging of sporting competitionsin each Olympic host city.This lack of visibility isinconsistent with the IOCCharter, which states that, whatmakes Olympic sport unique isits intrinsic relation to culture andeducation (IOC, 2000: 8). Assuch, any information systemintending to diffuse an accurateportrait of the principles ofOlympism or a representativeview of the Games and theirlegacies, should cover these threeareas on an equal basis and worktowards their complete fusionfrom the perspective of publicperception.
Olympic education andinformation
Olympic education encompassesmany dimensions. Itsfundamental aim is to use sportas a vehicle to promote humanvalues and the appreciation ofdistinct cultural backgrounds.However, issues of a non-sporting nature have a sparsepresence in current Olympicinformation networks.The limited profile of non-sporting Olympic activities seemsto be partly a result of the waythe media have traditionally
www.culturalolympics.org.ukGarcia, 2001:
Olympic information
approached their coverage of theGames. Typically, the Gameshave been treated as a sportsspectacle rather than as theexpression of a humanistmovement engaged in aneducational project.Furthermore, establishedinformation and research centresabout the Olympic Games tend tooverlook those aspects of theGames that are not directlyassociated with their sportsdimensions, be it in economic,social or political terms.Centres distributing specialisedinformation on the OlympicMovement range from OlympicStudy Centres to OlympicAcademies, Olympic Museums,specialised libraries attached touniversities or privatefoundations, municipal archivesin past Olympic host cities,documentation networks such asthe International Association ofSports Information (IASI), and anever growing amount of websitesand E-mail listings.These centres have differinglevels of specialisation andinfluence on scholars, researchersand journalists. However, they alltend to share a focus on sportinformation that is oftenidentified with their dedication toOlympic research. Such focus hasresulted in an emphasis on sportsactivities to the expense of thenon-sporting dimensions ofOlympism.The IOC has taken some action tochange this trend and encouragediscussions about culture andeducation to make them morewidely acknowledged bothwithin and outside Olympiccircles. An important year in thisprocess was 1993 with thefoundation of the OlympicMuseum in Lausanne and thededication of both the 100
IOCSession and the 33
InternationalOlympic Academy (IOA) Sessionto discussions about Olympismand culture (see IOC CultureCommission, 1997: 38).Following these initiatives were aForum on Culture and Sport in1997, the establishment of an Artsand Sport Contest in 1998 and aForum on the IOC Cultural Policyin March 2000. Nevertheless,these enterprises have not led toan increased awareness ofOlympic cultural activities duringthe staging of the Games.This is significant consideringthat, from a mass communicationperspective, the sixteen days ofsporting competition could
www.culturalolympics.org.ukGarcia, 2001:
Olympic information
deliver the message of Olympismand Olympic education to aglobal audience.
Information on Olympiceducation at Games time.The case of Sydney 2000
There are a number of reasons forthe limited appreciation ofeducational and cultural activitiesat Games time. One importantexplanation is the tendency ofOrganising Committees (OCOGs)to relegate them to a secondaryposition and rarely integratethem within the abundantpromotion of Olympic sport(García, 2000). Müller andMessing (1997) offer evidenceabout the poor awareness thatGerman tourists, Olympicspectators and athletes had aboutthe cultural program (CulturalOlympiad) set up for theBarcelona’92 Games, and havereinforced these findings bysignalling the remarkable lack ofpromotion and impact of theAtlanta Olympic Arts Festival.Research undertaken on occasionof the Sydney 2000 Games hasstrongly corroborated theseimpressions.Following existing IOC mediaguidelines, Sydney created aMain Press Centre (MPC) for allaccredited media and anInternational Broadcasting Centre(IBC) for television and radioright holders. The centres wereset up to distribute informationabout sporting competitionsschedules, sports results,competition venues and athletesbiographies amongst other issues.The IBC was exclusivelydedicated to assisting in thecoverage of sport, while the MPCincluded an office to informabout the Sydney Olympiccultural program and an officerun by the Centre for OlympicStudies at University of NewSouth Wales to providebackground information onOlympism, Games history andOlympic education initiatives.Interestingly, interviews withthose in charge of the officessuggest that most accredited journalists were unaware oruninterested in the informationtheir offices had to provide(Couttie, 2000; Hughes, 2000,pers. Comm.) and an analysis ofconsequent press coverage byaccredited media has revealedthat references to non-sportingactivities taking place during theOlympic period were almost non-existent (García, 2000).In an attempt to encourage mediaattention on non-sportingactivities, a non-accredited mediacentre was also created topromote Australian culture,tourism, technology andbusiness. However, this centrewas not related to any Olympicinstitution and as such, was notdevoted to inform on Olympicvalues, principles or initiatives. Inthat sense, although including anoffice to promote Sydney’sOlympic cultural program and

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