Vida Bajc (ed.): Surveilling and Securing the Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 and Beyond. 2016 Palgrave.
von Minas Samatas von Kreta/Griechenland
Modern Olympic Games are evolved as a very complex global mega-event. Since the Munich 1972 Games and especially because of 9/11 terrorist attacks, all subsequent Games imply draconian security and surveillance measures. Hence, surveilling and securing the Olympics has attracted a growing multi-disciplinary research, especially by the novel surveillance studies, producing an increasingly interesting bibliography. Such an important collective publication is the “Surveilling and Securing the Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 and Beyond” edited by Vida Bajc.
A brief summary
In the prologue, Don Handelman focuses upon “endoskeletal surveillance” of the athletes, a neglected surveillance study, vis a vis the exoskeleton securitization against miscreant athletes and rapacious corporate interests, corrupting the Olympic values. In the introduction, the editor Vida Baic explains her ethnographic research method, based upon the concept of security meta-ritual as a new form of social control, designed to create an undisturbed organization and actual performance of global planned events, especially the Olympics. Then, Richard W. Pound, a long time member of International Olympic Committee (IOC), explains the difficult decisions of IOC, as the “owner” of the Games, albeit without any reference to frequent IOC corruption incidents. The second section, which in our judgment is the most interesting part of this book, includes 15 Olympic case studies in historical progression, from 1964 Tokyo Winter Games up to 2012 London Summer Games. Each one represents a very well empirically grounded study that can be read independently. Naturally, it does not include all 26 summer and winter Games of this period, but what is really missing is a security study for the Atlanta 1996 Summer Games marked not only by the tragedy of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, but also by a profitable commercialization of the Olympics, since US corporations paid 60% of their total expenses. Nevertheless, most of the included case studies are excellent, approaching with a socio-historical and critical way significant security and surveillance aspects.
Some critical observations
The editor of a collective volume usually opens and closes the book based upon the edited contributions. This is not the case with this book, where the editor Vida Bajc provides a summary of all contribution in the Preface only. It seems she has written her extended introductory chapter before the submission of the case studies, because she does not consider them at all. For example, several issues and questions raised in her introduction about the Athens 2004 Olympics are answered by Anastassia Tsoukala’s thorough case study and references.
The primary goal of the editor’s chapters are to substantiate Bajc’s aforementioned concepts of security meta-ritual and security meta-framing as social control forms to reduce dynamic complexity and uncertainty of the Olympics in order to ensure their successful performance. Although these meta-concepts in the frame of ethnographic methodology are useful to analyze the actual Olympic organization and specific performance in every particular case and location, they seem to be limited and yet teleological; their aim is to emphasize only those factors and policies which contribute to the success of the Games. Hence, the “security-surveillance nexus” is empirically observed and recorded mainly during the Games, without any consideration of the significant political economy of the Olympic security industry, the ‘glocal’ economic and geo-strategic interests of the so called “Surveillance Industrial Complex” (SIC) and those of the hosting city and regime.
Another factor, seriously downgraded in the editor’s analysis, is the serious impact of 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the Olympic security and surveillance. To support this argument, she even quotes David Lyon! (p.24). Lyon however, underlines in all of his surveillance studies (2003, 2007), how emblematic 9/11 attacks were at the turn of 21st century offering opportunities and pretexts for the massive expansion of security-surveillance capacities around an insecure and vulnerable “post-9/11 world”; this tremendous impact was vivid on the first post-9/11 Salt Lake and especially on Athens 2004 Olympics, as Tsoukala substantiates in this volume. Ever since, the Olympic security cost of all post-9/11 Games is skyrocketing. In a similar manner, the editor quotes David L. Andrews and Michael L. Silk to argue that Olympics as transnational collectivity reflects positively “the ethos of free market liberalism…” (p.385), although these scholars are clearly disdainful for neoliberalism, criticizing it as having poisoned modern sports and Olympics. Furthermore, Bajc emphasizes the enthusiasm and excitement for the Olympics during recent decades reporting “a recent surge of interest to host the Olympics”!!!(p.37), completely ignoring the real facts. Post-9/11 Olympics dominated by a neoliberal securitization have become extremely costly, threatening national economy and democracy; therefore, many cities like Stockholm, Krakow, Lviv, Oslo, Hamburg and Boston and others have withdrawn from being candidates for the future Olympics. Bajc concludes by underlining an “enduring interest in the Olympics” of billions of TV avid fans around the world, in contrast with a cartoon’s patient, who is asking a physician for a miracle cure to heal his Olympics ennui, (pp383-4). Reiterating her theoretical meta-ritual, Bajc in her CODA finally makes a short hint of two Olympic “meta-framing dynamics”, i.e., neoliberal economics and the war on terror.
Obviously, this volume is not produced to analyze the actual impact of security and surveillance on modern Olympics and society. The editor, apparently a fan of the neoliberal ethos, cares less of the neoliberal “Olympic Divide” that is an over-inflated security budget in favour of corporate profits, frequently entailing corruption, at the expense of social spending (Molnar 2012). In brief, the editor actually disregards that the Olympic “five ring circus” (Shaw 2008) are associated with nationalism, militarism, doping, urban destruction and commercialism; in the post-9/11 era Olympics have been transformed into “security and surveillance Games” (Bennet and Haggerty 2011) and also into a neoliberal business Games, restricting social spending, human rights and civil liberties, before, during and long after the actual Games time. All these problems have destroyed true Olympic ideals and call for purified, alternative Olympics against militarization and McDonaldization of current Olympics (Samatas 2014).
These critical comments by no means downgrade Vida Bjc’s important collective volume, which mainly by its interesting Olympic case studies is enriching the bibliography of the Olympic security and surveillance.
Minas Samatas, University of Crete, Greece
- Andrews, D. L. and M.L. Silk (Eds). (2012) Sport and Neoliberalism: Politics, Consumption and Culture, Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.
- Ball, K. and Snider L. (eds) (2013) The Surveillance-Industrial Complex: A political economy of surveillance . Oxon: Routledge.
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- Clift, B.C. and Manley, A.(2016) “Five reasons why your city won’t want to host the Olympic Game”. Available at http://theconversation.com/five-reasons-why-your-city-wont-want-to-host-the-olympic-games-52289 .
- Lenskyj, H.J. (2008) Olympic Industry Resistance, NY: SUNY Press
- Lyon, D. (2003) Surveillance After September 11. London: Polity.
- Lyon, D. (2007)Surveillance Studies: An Overview, London: Polity.
- Molnar, A. and Snider, L. (2011) “Mega-events and mega-profits:unravelling the Vancouver 2010 security –development nexus” in: Bennett C. J. and K. D. Haggerty (Eds) Security Games. Oxon: Routledge,: 150-168.
- Raghu, T.N. (2012) “McDonaldization of Olympics” Deccan Chronicle, July 11, available at : http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/sport/others/mcdonaldization- olympics-620, ( accessed July, 2014).
- Samatas, M. (2014) The ‘Super-Panopticon’ Scandal of the Athens 2004 Olympics and its Legacy, New York: Pella.
- Shaw, Chr. (2008) Five Ring Circus: Muths and Realities of the Olympic Games. New Society Publishers.
- Silk, M. (2011) “Towards a Sociological Analysis of London 2012”, Sociology, 2011, 45(5) : 733-748.
- Wilson, St. (2014) “Wanted: Cities interested in hosting 2024 Olympics,” A.P. Oct. 20, 2014. Available at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/68d5bd9d738d489fb296d4f201f09317/wanted-cities-interested-hosting-2024-olympics