Politics In The Olympic Games

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Politics in the Olympic Games


Media plays an important role in the understanding of modern issues and events. To fulfill this function, the media selects, and sometimes excludes, relevant information that relates to its target audience. This information is presented through different sources of media and provides versions of reality to varying audiences. An example of this can be seen through the media coverage of the largest media event in the world; the Olympic Games. Arguably, the media are the Olympic Games. Most of us cannot go to the games. Instead, the games are portrayed to us through various media formats. To understand the Olympics as a media event, and to discuss the politics of representation, we need to explore the three media processes defined by Dayan and Katz (1992); production, content and audience.

Politics in Olympic Games

Economic development has long dominated the agendas and politics of urban governments. Where the pursuit of production activities, such as manufacturing, was once dominant, however, cities have turned toward attracting consumption activities in leisure, entertainment, tourism, and sports. The cutting edge of this type of economic development can be seen in cities that pioneered arts and entertainment services in their downtown areas, such as New York (Zukin, 1982) and San Francisco (Wolfe, 1999). Most cities, however, have adopted the corporate-center strategy favored by growth regimes of building convention centers, sports facilities, museums, shopping malls, and entertainment and gambling complexes alongside the typical government, professional, and retail space developments.

Zukin (1991) describes several different types of consumption-based landscapes, including gentrified downtowns and postmodern resort colonies. In the former, exemplified by New York, Boston, and Chicago, what was originally touted as a way of reasserting local identity instead turned out to be the product of an international market culture, providing advantages to middle-class consumers over low-income residents. The postmodern resorts in Miami, Orlando, and Los Angeles present the urban landscape in fragments to heighten the visitor's fantasy or dream, thereby hiding the growth of service sector jobs that enhance the profits of the creators of these landscapes. Hannigan's (1998) analysis of the emergent Fantasy City assesses six salient features of consumption-based development: it is theme-centered, aggressively branded, in constant operation, modular in design, separate from existing neighborhoods, and postmodern. He argues that these new urban spaces provide middle class users with an authentic urban experience free from the unpredictability of city life. Furthermore, the organization of these new urban entertainment spaces includes a role for the public sector, often in public-private partnerships that facilitate a business-oriented approach to the development and use of urban space.

Judd (1999) uses the concept of a "tourist bubble" to illustrate some of the more problematic effects of this approach to development. In many cities there is a well-defined boundary separating tourist spaces from the rest of the city, creating tourist reservations that are "secured, protected, and normalized environments" (Judd, 1999, p. 36). While land use is contested in most cities, and the physical environment includes areas of poverty and decay, the tourist ...
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