The Olympics: Celebration Capitalism
The Olympics are perhaps the crown jewels of sports. The pomp and circumstance, the pageantry and international competition make the games special. They began over 2,700 years ago in Olympia, Greece. They were held in honor of Zeus, king of the gods. Today, the gods are fame, fortune, and national pride. The Olympics are a multi-billion dollar extravaganza. Behind the spectacle of athletic prowess and the patina of global harmony, brass-knuckle politics and brute economics reign. One hears of public-private partnerships in financing the games but it is often the public holding the bag when costs skyrocket, as they often do. The 2016 Summer Games will be in Rio. Brazilians are already protesting against the projected expense. But right now world media attention is on the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia where gold medals may place second to security issues.
Jules Boykoff is professor of political science at Pacific University. Before embarking on an academic career he represented the U.S. Olympic Soccer Team in international competition. His articles have appeared in The Guardian and The New York Times. He is the author of The Suppression of Dissent, Celebration Capitalism, and Activism and the Olympics.