Conclusions from the International Olympic Academy, Postgraduate Session

For the last four weeks I was in Ancient Olympia studying at the International Olympic Academy as part of their 18th Postgraduate Session. The sessions were split by weekly topics (week 1: Ancient Greece/Olympics; week 2: Revival of the modern games/social, economic and sports management; week 3: Philosophy and Ethics; week 4: Conclusions) and at the end were asked as groups of 6-8 to prepare conclusions that would be presented during the final ‘closing ceremony’ and would be published, and eventually shared with the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Although my work is closer to topics presented in week 2/week 3 (Philosophy and Social Sciences), I was included in Group 1 on Ancient Greece – so far removed from new media and social technology. However, one of the main things that I took away from the IOA was home much I enjoyed the lectures on the classics and ancient Greece, a subject area that I have never been exposed to or would have had any access to as a student in my field. The link between *being there* – walking around the ruins & seeing the artefacts first hand, as well as being in conversation with international professors was really inspiring. So much so, that I found that the most valuable session for me was definitely the one that I had the least amount of experience with.
During the closing ceremony, I created and presented the presentation below on behalf of the group, which was organised around the topics that were shared as part of the participant’s subject area papers (gender studies, nutrition, art history, media studies, linguistics, history etc.) We drew out three common themes – the links between the ancient and modern games, ideology and representation of ideology in history  and the important of space and place – and framed our conclusions around these core findings. We concluded that there was much to learn from seeing and living closely to ancient sites of Olympia, Nemea and Delphi – but we shouldn’t lose sight of the spectacle and observing such ideas through a modern capitalist lens.
Below is the prezi used – and the preliminary document that contains more details and descriptions of the week’s work.



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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.

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Accepted at the International Olympic Academy (2nd-30th September, 2011)

Below is the abstract that I submitted to the International Olympic Academy Postgraduate Session committee back in March. I recently found out that had been accepted and I would be representing the United Kingdom this September. Stoked. The Postgraduate Session is a four week seminar space (a bit like a summer school) that is dedicated to varies aspects of the Olympic movement and Olympism. It is located in Greece, nearby to the ancient Olympia (where the first games were held) – of course, when I told my mum that I had been given this prestigious opportunity, she said that firstly, I need to work out what to wear (because I am essentially the typical pale and translucent blogger, not used to the sunshine of Greece) and secondly, to behave. Of course I’ll behave! Because it is a good opportunity, new media is rarely explored but very important for the future of the Games and I can’t wait to spend 4 weeks geeking out over my research interests. Having attended the alumni meet up of the IOA participants, it was really nice to be within the small and dedicated group of people who conduct research in this area and to share discussions about all things Olympics. I have heard good things and I am well excited by this opportunity.

So there you go. Roll on September.

18th International Seminar on Olympic Studies for Postgraduate Students

Harnessing the ‘Twitter Olympics’:
The Use of New Media from Vancouver 2010 to London 2012
by Jennifer M. Jones

Recent transformations in media production and delivery demonstrates a model of communication which is seen to shift consumption from a ‘one-to-many’ mass audience paradigm, to a ‘many-to-many’ multi-niche experience. This is characterised by the convergence of broadcast media such as television and newspaper journalism, emerging internet technologies such as access to low-cost computing and mobile equipment and wider adoption of broadband, and trends towards participatory media cultures, signified by user generated content and multiple platform audience experiences (Jenkins, 2006: 2) By creating new kinds of interaction between people, via augmented reality devices and pervasive mobile culture, changes in media participation are allowing audiences to become part of the production process, giving rise to a proposed new power relationship between audiences, broadcasters and journalists.

It is widely understood that the financial implications of the Olympic infrastructure is heavily reliant on the revenue negotiated through the sponsorship from the Olympic program (TOP) and the broadcasting rights of event (IOC Marketing Factfile, 2010: 6). This has remained the case since the IOC’s financial crisis in the 1980s, allowing for corporations carry the bulk of the cost of delivery. Nevertheless, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have taken confident steps towards embracing digital media within their existing communication and media strategies, demonstrated in October 2009, when one of their core themes at the 13th Olympic Congress being devoted to the “Digital Revolution.” Previously, innovation in such areas had been driven by the Olympic partners. For example Samsung’s “Wireless Olympic Works” 1 launched during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, showcasing early advances in mobile internet, designed to help ATHNOC officials and Games organisers to access important, digital information on the move. Similarly, Beijing 2008 was billed as being the first truly digital games, thanks to media partners such as the BBC and NBC, who introduced full online and high definition coverage of the games, revolutionising the way in which the sport was experienced by their audiences. Indeed, it is reasonable to claim that, from Games to Games, sponsors aspire to achieve greater ‘personal bests’, as do the athletes. Yet, the IOC Congress brought the IOC’s work in this area to the foreground. Martin Sorrell’s recommendations towards a digital revolution spoke about the power of improved broadcast quality and reached out to the potential of utilising participatory media (such as social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter) and actively encouraging Olympic fans to recount their experiences of previous games by advising the release of archival clips on video-sharing platforms on YouTube to encourage fan-generated content through remixing and responding.

With the proposed transformation of communication technologies, the media population during games time has diversified. For example, since Sydney 2000, there has been the emergence of host city sponsored, non-accredited media centre providing facilities and access to visiting journalists/bloggers without IOC media accreditation. (Miah, Garcia & Zhihui, 2008: 453) More recently during the Vancouver Winter Olympics, as well as a British Columbia government hosted centre, there were at least three declared independent centres that were acknowledged and formalised prior to the Games, to report stories from within Vancouver and the surrounding region. The space each organisation occupied had differing access to media production facilities, from providing physical space for work and discussions to existing purely online, choosing not to subscribe to physical representation of their institution.

This paper discusses this case and looks specifically at this substantial and online media presence, I use examples of past Games media outputs and combine them with ethnographic stories from Vancouver 2010, along with analysis of the online platforms from several case study groups working as new media collectives during games time. The focus will be on four key organisations, who provided a form of media accreditation throughout the games period: The Vancouver Organising Committee (accredited), The British Columbia Media Centre (non-accredited), W2 Arts and Culture House (independent media centre) and True North Media House (online only, self-accreditation).

I consider two major dimensions of this phenomena. Firstly, it is necessary to explore how those within the case networks identity themselves and with each other, either through the content that they have produced for an online audience or the ways in which they use media rhetoric to strengthen the authority of their reporting and of their position. Second, it is important to assess what opportunities arise through participation as an organised citizen media network, and how this may have an effect on their ability to analysis or critique narratives and events.

Together, this data provides preliminary theoretical assessment of citizen media in the context of media events, which will be used to inform future embedded research toward the coordination of #media2012, a citizen media network for London 2012. Through analysis, questions remain about whether such transference of media power is actually occurring, or whether these stories simply become part of a new cycle that gives them currency. Indeed, it is unclear whether the new communities of ‘citizen reporters’ who are beginning to occupy the privileged position that accredited Olympic media has within the central broadcasts are genuinely transformative of media culture.

IOC (2009) XIII Olympic Congress Theme 5: The Digital Revolution (September 2009) Available at: [Accessed 14th of March, 2011]
IOC (2010) Olympic Marketing Fact File. Available at [Accessed 14th of March, 2011]

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where New Media and Old Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.

Miah, A., Gracia, B., & Zhihui, T. (2008) We are the Media: Non-Acredited Media Centres in Price, E M. & Dayan, P. (2008) Owning the Olympics: Narratives of the New China. University of Michigan Press: USA: pp 452-488

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