Why the Olympics Aren't Good for Us

PDF EBook by Mark Perryman

EBook Description

There was something quite delightful about reading this is the context of the warm, fuzzy post- PDFOlympic glow that has settled across my part of southern England in the middle of this September. Why the Olympics Aren't Good for Us PDF EBook Amid this glow however it seems that many do not really notice that the centre of the Olympic extravaganza in East London is shutting up shop, the fate of the Olympic stadium remains unclear (although part of the local university’s performance sport programme will be occupying part of it, they do not need an 80,000 seater venue) while the security mechanisms trialed in the east are likely to begin their inexorable spread across the rest of the city and beyond. It is not hard to see how and why Perryman, one of the figures behind Philosophy Football – a sport loving critical icon maker producer of T-shirts, books and ephemera, thinks that the Olympics might just be bad for us.

In this short, engaging and provocative re-visioning of the Olympics, Perryman sees a shift in what this mega-event is take place in the 1984 Los Angeles Games – a consciously designed profit seeking mega-sports event. In this outlook he finds considerable support in the world of critical journalism and critical scholarship. Although this is not an anti-sport exegesis, it is extremely critical of the modern Olympics as elitist, commercialised, profit oriented and self-aggrandising. What marks this out from many of the other pieces of writing that make a similar case is that most of it is turned over the making a case for an alternative model of and for the Olympics. At the core of this model are five values – one for each ring – decentralization, participation, sport for free, sport for all, and sport as a value not a commodity. These are, as Perryman rightly notes, at odds with contemporary Olympic practice, although in its claims to want to develop a legacy of sports participation there is a slight sense that the second value has some resonance with current IOC-inspired myth making – try to avoid falling into this trap, Perryman’s idea of participation is very different from that proposed by the IOC’s elite.

The first two chapters set up the problem of the claims the modern Olympics make. There is a good outline of the politics of the games’ recent history as well as a debunking of the claims and promises made for London in both the bidding process and since, with the shameless fabrications associated with Olympics boosterism. The substance of the book is the outlining of what an Olympics based in the five new values might look like, and Perryman argues for five shifts in Olympic events:
1. that the games be decentralised to a host nation, not host city as a way to spread and minimise costs, disperse the games, encourage local links with specific sports and in this sense build a closer set of associations with a much wider part of the population; download;
2. related to this he then argues that this decentralization may then be linked to a ticketing regime that allows far more people into the games; part of this, of course, involves fewer tickets to IOC networks and sponsors, but also in staging the games across one (or several) nations building a system that allows more people to get tickets, not just those in or who can afford to travel to the host city;
3. then he proposes shifting more events outside the stadia and making them free – and it is here that there are some of the most important and cogent critiques of London, such as of the decision to relocate the marathon from the host boroughs to a loop though London’s well known tourist sites – Parliament, The Mall and so forth – and therefore away from the location we have been told the event is all about ‘regenerating’;
4. the fourth ‘step’ emerges as a consequence of the previous three, and this is to ensure that the sports of the Olympics are those that are more universally accessible and crucially where there is a greater possibility for success by athletes outside the North; and
5. finally he calls for a reconceptualization of the Olympics away from service of sponsors to “values rooted in popular participation and equal access” (p 105).

To his credit, he suggests that this should be a contribution to a debate and not a charter to be adopted uncritically, and there is much here that is useful, productive and informative and therefore that should be taken up as a way to further debate about what an Olympics might look like if it were not the playground of a tight, elite, wealthy international coterie. Central to Perryman’s argument, although implicit, is a profound shift away from the Olympics as a glossy, media-centric spectacle alongside an explicit rejection of the class, gender and racial elitism of the earlier Olympic outings; that is, he effectively avoids nostalgia. He is, however, wilfully utopian (something that the reviewer in the usually very good Red Pepper fails to recognise, see http://www.redpepper.org.uk/alternati... – there may not be a groundswell in favour of another way of doing the Olympics, but that is more likely that there is no meaningful alternative presented beyond the corporate glitz).

I am less convinced by Perryman’s reimagined ‘Olympism’, which reads in large part like a series of vague suggestions of how sport might be different, rather than a specific remodelling of the self-proclaimed (by the IOC) philosophy of Olympic sport. For the most part the book is good and fairly rigorous critical journalism but this chapter needs more than that, it needs more demanding intellectual and theoretical rigour where argument by example is not enough.

All in all then, a useful and sharp contribution to wider debates about what sport might look like if it was unshackled from commercialization and spectacle – but as Perryman notes, not a “book to bury the Olympics … [but one] to [help] revive them”, one that is designed to “provoke a discussion that can produce change”. (p 19) That is to say, this is a flawed manifesto, but one that we should take care to pay attention to, treat seriously, and consider the arguments as part of our discussions with and around Perryman about what sport can be like and whom it could and should serve. Like this book? Read online this: Olympics, Olympics.

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