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Iain Lindsay

As you said in "London 2012: securing urban Olympic delivery", the Olympic Games may promote the urbanization of the host country and its surrounding areas, but at the same time threat and disorder to Olympic implementation can come in many guises. As Beijing is going to host the 24th Winter Olympic Games next year,in your opinion, in addition to the prevention COVID-19 pneumonia, what other issues the Beijing authorities should pay attention to?

Beijing 2022: Olympic Hosting and the Management of Subjectivity

At the time of writing the Beijing Winter Olympics is a matter of weeks away. It is reasonable to consider, in this pandemic era, that there has never been a more precarious time to host a Sports Mega Event. Even before the Global Pandemic the cost-value implications of Olympic hosting faced ever-increasing scrutiny. The negative perceptions of the associated perilous economic realities of Olympic hosting negatively impacted the bidding process, and saw many potential hosts abandon their candidatures due to weight of public opinion,[1] a situation that is likely to cause the IOC significant concern in terms of future viability.

The impending Winter Olympiad was no exception to socio-economic hosting concerns. We observed numerous potential candidates withdraw from the hosting competition following the scandal ridden 2014 iteration in Sochi.[2] Irrespective of the overarching candidature landscape, Beijing won the bid and will soon host the Games, barring any Pandemic related adjustments. The extent to which this Olympiad will be considered a success will be dependent upon many factors and – as ever – heavily influenced by subjectivity. The focus of this short article will ignore the socio-economic concerns and the Pandemic – which have been explored elsewhere - to concentrate on the other battle of Olympic proportions – global perception and the management of subjectivity.

The motivations that underpin the pursuit of Olympic hosting are diverse and yet all have a thread of commonality – Narrative Control. Sport can be considered a catalyst par excellence for amplifying everything from broad-based, hyper-regeneration (Armstrong, Hobbs & Lindsay, 2011; Gold & Gold, 2007; Lindsay, 2014) to sport for diplomacy and International Relations (Jung, 2013; Esherick, Baker, Jackson & Sam, 2017) to the use of Sport for output legitimacy (Meier & Mutz, 2018) amongst many other forms of ‘legacy’. The unifying factors all seek from Mega Events are the amplification of selective messaging, generally around – ‘Renewal’, ‘Realignment’ and ‘Rebranding’ and this Olympiad was no different. However, the reality is that Mega Events cannot be selectively segregated from politics, rhetoric or ideology and the reality is ‘that a new broom does not necessarily sweep clean’ (Pardo, 1996, p.xii). In short, the Olympic narrative is one that is very difficult to control.

The conceptualisation that Mega-Event hosting provides the host with a ‘metaphorical empty flask’ within which diverse allegory can be imbued intended to support myriad socio-economic or political agendas can be applied here (Wamsley, 2004), but this is too simplistic. Olympic hosting and the associated narratives are fluid processes wherein various actors can attach various ‘fillings’ to the point where control of the narrative is extremely unpredictable. This, in my opinion, is a key issue that Beijing authorities should pay attention to.

As such we witness the descriptor ‘sports washing’ emerge with regularity into the mainstream vernacular (Roan, 2019; Zidan, 2019; Wigmore, 2018) and we now see it attached to the 2022 Winter Games. To add granularity to this we observe that the US announce a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics citing concerns about China’s human rights record.[3] It would seem foolish to believe that such resistance would not have been anticipated during the bidding process because, as we know, politicking goes hand-in-glove with every aspect of the Olympic hosting milieu.

Indeed any socio-economic or political growth strategy that incorporates the utility of a Mega Event as an amplifier, irrespective of whether the primary intent is for internal, regional or global resonance, the action necessitates all those involved to stick their heads above the parapet to be shot at. However, the complex political interplay will need to be appropriately navigated as both sides posture, prevaricate and politick in public and behind closed doors.

As the Games begin and the eyes of the World once again focus upon a Beijing for a Mega Event it is clear that the competition for the management of subjectivity will be one of the most significantly contested of this Olympiad with much political posturing to unfold.

侯云溪 2021年12月12日

References

Armstrong, G., Hobbs, R., & Lindsay, I. (2011). Calling the shots: The pre-2012

London Olympic contest. Urban Studies, 48(15), 3169-3184.

Esherick, C., Baker, R., E., Jackson, S., & Sam, M. (2017). Case

Studies in Sport Diplomacy. Eds. Fit Publishing.

Gold, J.R. & Gold, M.M. (Eds.). (2007). Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning, and

the World’s Games, 1896-2012. Oxon: Routledge.

Jung, G. (2013). Sport as a catalyst for cooperation: Why sport dialogue

between the two Koreas succeeds in some cases but not in others. International Area Studies Review, 16(3), 307-324.

Lindsay, I. (2014). Living with London’s Olympics. Palgrave Macmillan.

Meier, H, Erik; & Mutz, M. (2018). Political regimes and sport-related

national pride: a cross-national analysis. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 10(3), 525-548.

Pardo, I. (1996). Managing Existence in Naples: Morality, Action and Structure.

Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

Roan, D. (2019). Human rights & ‘sportswashing’: Why Joshua v Ruiz II in

Saudi Arabia is so controversial. Retrieved on 2/6/2020 at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/boxing/50683816

Wamsley, K.B. (2004). Laying Olympism to rest. In J. Bale & M. K. Christiansen

(Eds.), Post Olympism: Questioning sport in the twenty-first century (pp.

367-384). Oxford: Berg.

Wigmore, T. (2018). Want to know how successful sportswashing is? Just look

at the Manchester City fans who cheerlead for Abu Dhabi. Retrieved on 3/6/2020 at: https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/manchester-city-abu-dhabi-uae-sports-washing-229247

Zidan, K. (2019). Sportswashing: how Saudi Arabia lobbies the US’s largest

[1] See for example - https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/sports/olympics/boston-2024-summer-olympics-bid-terminated.html

[2] see - https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/explainer-beijing-olympics-81595185

[3] see - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-59556613


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