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Jules BoykoffActivism and the Olympics: Dissent at the Games in Vancouver and London

Rutgers University Press, 2014

by Bruce Berglund on December 22, 2014

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A new chapter in the history of the Olympic Games appears to be opening. As one city after another has dropped out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, the International Olympic Committee has been faced with the prospect that no one might be willing to host its wonderful, expensive party. Meanwhile, American cities have been submitting bids to the USOC for the opportunity to be the nation’s one candidate for the 2024 Summer Olympics. In an unusual twist, USOC members received letters from a group called No Boston Olympics that asked the committee to NOT name their city as the candidate for the 2024 Games. The opposition group’s website features counter-evidence to the Boston organizing committee’s claims about the Games’ benefits, including papers by academic economists that show the lack of financial gains in host cities.

Anti-Olympic dissent is rising, as ordinary citizens and activist groups have pointed out the misuse of public funds for the Games, the heavy-handed actions of the IOC in host cities, the construction of athletics facilities without long-term viability, and the high costs of hosting an Olympics (costs that are not recouped by promised economic gains). Political scientist Jules Boykoff interviewed activists at the Games in Vancouver in 2010 and London in 2012, and he’s researched the history of activism surrounding the Olympics back to the 1960s.  His book, Activism and the Olympics: Dissent at the Games in Vancouver and London (Rutgers University Press, 2014), looks at the various groups that have protested at recent Olympics, their arguments and strategies, and the attention they’ve received from the press. As Jules acknowledges, there is not a sustained Olympics protest movement. But the work of activists has been successful, as fans and potential organizers are gaining the awareness that the cost of the Games doesn’t outweigh the gains.

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