On not drinking the kool-aid… (or resisting olympic research)


The above passage is an extract from Helen Lenskyj’s excellent book “Resisting the Olympic Industry” which I finished a few months ago. Please read it – and I’ll elaborate why I’ve chosen to share it below.

Lenskyj (2008) is a rare – but prominent critical voice of the Olympics. Both activist and academic, she can be seen talking (amongst others) about the Vancouver Games on the Five Ring Circus documentary (available for free here) and has wrote several books about the notion of the Olympic industry (not movement), its politics, activism and social movements of resistance that arise against olympic bids, candidature cities and the host cities. 

This particular paragraph stood out for me when I first read it back in June. It was contained within the introductionary section, that detailed the political and personal reasons for writing the book – the relationship between activism and academia and the numberous issues with the media and  academic research conducted in the field of ‘Olympic studies.’ I return to this paragraph – because although I couldn’t/didn’t want to image it ever happening to me (despite attending some pretty dodgy conferences) – I couldn’t believe today that I quite blantently had everyone of my questions sideswipped during today’s lectures on the ‘bidding process’ and the legacy for london 2012. 

The above happened during session that was presented as a ‘talking shop’ with an invitation to stop the speaker whenever we had a question or a point to make. The first question I asked was in response to the definiton of legacy presented by the DCMS in 2008. It was clear once my response was avoided – and treated as if I had made a ‘wrong’ answer – that the government/LOCOG position was the ‘correct’ and ‘factual’ answer. The second question was the use of “we” when describing the need for government endorced ‘social change’ – I asked who the ‘we’ were – and the response was ‘we, the people of the world’ – which after a skeptic ‘hmm’ got reduced to ‘the people in power’ – and then a diatribe about the role of UK academics in the legacy discussion – that pulled me back into the fold as being part of the ‘we’. The third point – and the point that caused me to walk out of the lecture was when, after being shown a picture of the crowd after London won the games on the 6th July 2005 – the declaration that the 7th of July 2005 was a great day for sports decisions. Dare I mention 7/7? Was that too political. Yes, I did, because it was an international audience and it was an important social context not to miss out – which wasn’t considered appropriate for this talking shop and was met with a ‘shush.’ 


Anyway. I’m really starting to feel like I’m part of the club now. 

Lenskyj, H. (2008) Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda. SUNY Press: New York.