Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda
Lenskyj, Helen Jefferson
Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA
9780791474792 (hb), 9780791474808 (pb)
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This book is a critique of the Olympic industry and the threats posed by it to the civil rights and freedoms of residents of cities bidding to host the games. Written by scholar and activist Helen Jefferson Lenskyj this is the author's third text to focus on the Olympics. The text is divided into eight chapters and two substantive sections. Chapter 1, Introduction and Background, provides an overview of the text where the author clearly states her own positioning and participation in Bread Not Circuses, a community-based coalition that had opposed the city of Toronto's (unsuccessful) 1996 Olympic bid. Lenskyj, whose other earlier contributions to the sociology of sport focused on gender issues, offers an interesting insight into the radical perspective that guides the research and reflects on how the personal is political (pp.5-9).
Part I of the text is entitled 'Olympic Impacts and Community Resistance'. Over the course of the ensuing three chapters the author highlights some of the most pressing issues to consider in relation to the impact that this global mega-event can have in a range of different places. Chapter 2 looks at rights and freedoms. The pressure upon the media to (re)present certain images of the Olympics is discussed as is the ways in which parts of the media actively collude in promoting selected images of the event. Chapter 3 looks at the recent bids of five different cities and powerfully conveys the impacts that bidding for, and/or hosting, the games can have on low-income and homeless people in particular. The last chapter in this section looks at the Canadian context and critiques Toronto's failed bid for the summer games and Vancouver's successful bid for the winter games. This section of the text shows the tensions inherent in the battle between groups who actively promote the benefits of hosting the event to a host city against those who are concerned about the negative impacts that staging the Olympics can have on a particular place.
Part II of the text, 'Olympic Education', provides insights into a range of issues including the perceived obesity epidemic, sport as a mode of social inclusion, and the gendered dynamics of the contemporary world of sport. Chapter 5 on education through Olympic sport is perhaps the most interesting chapter of this section in that it highlights the many ways that athletes are involved in promoting the Olympic ideal. Lenskyj's main critique is that in endorsing various Olympics related products and schemes the athlete's may 'risk entrenching the sexism, racism, and other discriminatory systems that they may be hoping to challenge' (p.77). Chapter 6 looks at how corporate sponsors of the Olympics use education initiatives as a means of establishing brand loyalty amongst children. Chapter 7 seems to move a little away from the earlier focus with a discussion of the nude calendar phenomenon and the sexualisation of the female athlete. The author's own interest and academic background in the area of gender issues in sport, and the feminist perspective that guides the research, are obviously significant here. The final chapter of the text (Chapter 8) considers social responsibility as a fourth pillar of the Olympic movement.
Overall this is an informative book and one that offers some interesting critiques of the Olympic movement and what it is supposed to stand for. Given the author's own personal biography, highlighted at the beginning of the text, there is a greater focus on Olympic protest in Canada than other parts of the world, although Lenskyj does draw upon a number of examples from across the globe. Drawing upon a range of scholarly works and numerous media sources the text is a most welcome addition to the literature on the place of the Olympics in contemporary society. At the very least it should make every reader consider just what the Olympics are meant to represent.
Kent State University