What I am working on: Four weeks in Greece, Blogging at IOA

Realised that I’ve been *really* busy on a couple of things but I haven’t blogged about anything in a while (the problem when you only seem to write up things that you’ve completed or attended) – I’m going to try and write some more “what I am working on” posts rather than simply waiting until the final product.

A few months ago, I wrote about how I had been given the opportunity to attend the International Olympic Academy for their 18th Postgraduate Session in Olympic Studies. The session is due to begin in just over a week’s time and I’ve been thinking about how I will go about documenting the trip and the lectures/activities on the schedule. Having done a bit of searching and realised that there is limited content from previous sessions, apart from the official proceedings of the events on the website, I’ve decided to try and capture it all in an attempt to raise awareness of what is actually being discussed in this space.

Of course, I wouldn’t exactly consider my work as being in the same arena as Olympic studies and education (there is a *whole* shadow thesis that can be written about this and its critique) but at least for the intense ‘four weeks’ of study and research, I can put it all somewhere its its ‘raw’ format to return to at a later date. I’ve found this has been useful in the past (such as when we were in Vancouver last year.) Finally, I’ll be giving a paper on new media and the Olympic industry – drawing attention to alternative backchannels and citizen media, which could be controversial in relation to the traditional ways of looking at the games.

In short, there is a dominant narrative of the study of the industry (I say industry because of the sheer nature of corporate interest and motivations), normally played out through televised coverage of sporting heros and uncritical descriptions of ‘what happened’ in the arena, limiting focus and blocking alternative/competing narratives that other institutions of its nature would be subjected to. Through blogging and capturing the lectures/seminars in the frame of my own thesis, being at IOA will be incredibly useful in terms of understanding the critical approaches to a mega-event that comes with its own philosophy and academic discipline.

I’m intrigued already to find out if there is a pressure to ‘champion’ the Olympic movement as the default political position at the IOA. From discussions, I believe that because it is a separate entity from (although supported by) the International Olympic Committee, there is still a level of autonomy in terms of what is discussed and who is invited to speak outside of the IOC’s dominant ideas of what those representing their ‘product’ should be. Nevertheless, the trip will be steeped in history and research, that I can’t really ignore in my writing, even if my position on mega events is more to the ‘anti’ than the pro (if it is as simple as a sliding scale – more inclined to question *everything*). This is the part where the struggle between activist and academic voice comes into play.

You’ve kind of got to be ‘in, against and beyond’ with these things – as I wouldn’t know about the Olympics in this way if I hadn’t agreed to undertake a PhD about it (in the context of new media), but in the same breath, I’ve learnt so much about the differing contexts that lies under a brand some globally and historically recognised symbol and infrastructure. I think it kind of helps that I don’t really like competitive sport at all – and something that can reduce the media to uncritical suspense can seriously open up the cracks in the system in terms of dominant ideologies at play.

I wonder how I will feel after four weeks.

I’ll blogging the entire things over at posterous from the 1st of September, Four Weeks in Greece.