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5.2 The Olympic Games Should Happen Nowhere or Everywhere, pp.11-16

5.2 The Olympic Games Should Happen Nowhere or Everywhere, pp.11-16



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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
, 2003: vol. 5, issue 2, pp. 11-16
Culture @ the Olympics
issues, trends and perspectives
The Olympic Games Should HappenNowhere or Everywhere
Andy Miah & Beatriz García
‘The Olympics are hauntedby the inconvenient factthat they have to be heldsomewhere. Ideally theyshould be held nowhere,anywhere, and everywherealways’.
From Mike Weinstein (1993), thisquote is a pertinent reminder thatthe Olympic Games, mostrecently held in Salt Lake City,continues to be locked into amedium that is on the verge ofdisappearing. This paper citessome of the contradictions inOlympism and reveals how thedigitalisation of broadcasting canalleviate some of these concerns.The Opening Ceremony of theOlympic Games – for bothsummer and winter – generatesviewers in their billions and isargued by many as the largestscheduled media-event that hasever been and will ever be.Television culture hascommanded the attention ofaudiences throughout the worldfor many years. However, SaltLake is one of the last occasionswhere this will be the case. Now,the buzz-words are the media-net, digitalisation, convergence,and home-computing.The dot-com era may seem to bedissipating somewhat, thoughbroadcast media have yet reallyto start exploiting the net. This isnot surprising since band-widthhas made it near impossible toprovide quality feeds throughregular telephone lines.However, with increasedconnection speed and super-PCs,the opportunities are ripe forbroadcasters to re-package theirtv-treats and introduce a new eraof screen watching.Weinstein’s perspective on thelimitations of television forconveying the Olympic messageis premised upon what kind ofvalues the Olympic Movementclaims to uphold. He writes,
The "Olympic Idea" is a deadidealism, whose putrefying remainsare the host medium for thetumorous socio-cultural growthsthat make up the televisualOlympic event- scene.
Weinstein cites a number ofsimilar reasons for making this
www.culturalolympics.org.ukMiah and García, 2003:
The Olympics should happen nowhere…
conclusion. From one view, it is acriticism of the local/ national/global contradictions of theGames, which aspires to beuniversally appealing andapolitical, but which, by virtue ofbeing hosted somewhere isnecessarily political.Weinstein is frustrated with thelocatedness of the Games, which,he suggests, televisionendeavours to re-locateeverywhere. Along these lines,his frustration with location ismade more explicit through hiscontempt for the bidding process,by which host cities are decided.It is interesting to note thatWeinstein was quite prophetichere. The International OlympicCommittee (IOC) has beenbrought under internationalcriticism since the scandals of1999 related to the Salt Lake bidprocess, whereby IOC membersappeared to be receivingincentives to sway their votingdecisions. In 1993, at the time ofbidding for the 2000 OlympicSummer Games, Weinsteinreflects on some of thecandidates,
On the other side of virtuality aretro-fascist/pan-capitalist puke-ball war goes on for what countrygets the "honor" of "hosting" the"games." This time the bigcontenders are two great paragonsof internationalism: China andTurkey. Turkey thinks it's got thebetter chance (watch for the resultson September 23) because China's"human-rights" record is worse thanits own. Who would you rather be,a Tibetan or a Kurd? I wonder ifthere'll be a Kurdish team or aTibetan team in the 2000 Olympics.So much for the humanitarian-pacifist-moral-equivalent-of-warOlympic Idea. Choose yourterrorism. Choose your retro-empire.
China’s bid for the year 2000Olympic Games wasunsuccessful but the Games havesubsequently been awarded toBeijing for 2008. Ironically, the2008 bid seems to have raised noless concern about the humanrights record in China. Notsurprisingly, the media havefocused on the controversialdiscussion precisely because ofthis questionable human rightsrecord.Speculations about a closedChina in 2008 have beencontradicted with an aspirationthat the Games will open-upChina, which itself speaksvolumes about the socialsignificance of the Games andhow it is tied up with economicand political expectations.However, the pressing questioncan still be asked as to whetherawarding the Games to countries
www.culturalolympics.org.ukMiah and García, 2003:
The Olympics should happen nowhere…
that have questionable records issome expression ofcondemnation. For some, theOlympic Movement’s apoliticalaspirations are insufficient.Internationalism gives rise topoliticisation and to deny this issimply naïve.If one considers these criticismsalong with the involvement ofdeveloping countries (or lack of)in the Olympics, the basis forconcluding that the Olympics is,indeed, a festival for the richseems convincing. Certainly,there are many athletescompeting in the Olympic Gamesfrom developing countries,though this is not really the point.The Olympic Games continues tochampion an occidental way ofplaying sport (and doing culture).Competition reigns, the valuesare performance based, and evenmost of the sports originate fromWestern countries. Yet, thefanatic is expected to believe thatthe Olympics is a socialmovement as Jacques Rogge,President of the InternationalOlympic Committee, remindedviewers in the closing ceremonyof Salt Lake.These overtly political facets tothe Olympics make it problematicfor Weinstein to accept that theOlympics is inspiring, morally orotherwise. The territorialistnature of the Olympics is, heargues, entirely unsuitable.Indeed, after discussing somepossibilities, Weinstein evenconcludes that,
The Olympics really don't evenbelong in Olympia — they belongon the media-net: it's anembarrassment that actual,presenced bodies are needed asimage resource-bases. TheOlympics should all be done fromthe media archives.
Salt Lake is, perhaps, one of theclearest examples whereterritorialism has been challengedin the Olympics. The Gameswere the first major event held inthe US since the September 11thterrorist attacks and provided anopportunity for the US to make astatement of some kind inresponse. However, thisopportune moment to re-vitalisethe ‘humanitarianism’ ofOlympism was somewhat lost ina bid to promote Americanismand show the stiff-upper-lippedness of an injured America.A key demonstration of this wasthe use of the US flag that wasrecovered from the destroyedWorld Trade Center. Thissymbolic flag, remembered bymany around the world forhaving been placed among therubble of the tower, was held byUS citizens during the Openingceremony of the Salt Lake Games.For many of these people, it wasa touching moment, indeed, adesirable expectation. For somespectators, uncomfortable withthe US response to 9/11, it was anaffirmation of its egocentricmentality. For others, who have

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