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Maximiliano E. Korstanje:The Winter Olympics require policymakers to protect athletes and participan

Maximiliano E. Korstanje, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Palermo

In this issue, the Center is joined by Dr. Maximiliano E. Korstanje, a senior research fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Palermo. His research interests focus on mobility, tourism and terrorism. His recent research includes strategic Tools and methods for Promoting Hospitality and tourism services and Virtual Trauma Landscapes and Exploring the Roots of Dark Tourism.

The Beijing Winter Olympic Games will be held soon, attracting the world's attention. The Olympics is a global event, and its management and security considerations are also important issues. Will terrorism have an impact on the Hosting of the Olympic Games, especially against the backdrop of the still severe COVID-19 pandemic? What efforts should the Chinese government make before and after the Olympic Games? The Center conducted a special interview with Dr. Maximiliano E. Korstanje, seeking her insights on the issues of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The Winter Olympics require policymakers to protect both athletes and participants

Beijing will host the 24th Winter Olympic Games next year. At that time, tourists from all over the world may go to Beijing to watch the Olympic events. In your opinion, in addition to the prevention and control of COVID-19 pneumonia, what other issues should the Beijing authorities pay attention to to ensure public safety in the whole process of the Winter Olympic Games?

Well, as you know Olympic Games are media events, which mean that a wider audience in the global is expectant how they progress. Olympic Games not only attract the attention of the entire globe but also situate temporarily the hosting cities as the centre-piece of the planet. This represents a unique moment that makes all us equal. Even though the COVID19 remains a potential risk for this event, no less true is that the games are a fertile target for international terrorism. Like in Rio, Brazil and other global cities, Beijing today faces a serious dilemma in managing the Olympic Games. The Munich massacre in 1972 mainly marked a set of attacks perpetrated in the Israeli Olympic team laying the foundations towards a new insight to understand the logic of terrorism. Why do the Olympic teams be safe?

The Olympic Games are a temporarily-based contract (among nations) to preserve human understanding and durable peace. In ancient Greece, the Olympic Games denoted a durable period of peace among nations. The Games not only prevented the war and its devastating effects but also enhanced the reciprocities among Greek leagues. During the Games, all cities agree on a pact of no aggression, similarly to the hospitality today. The Games has a semiotic function. To remind how important the human character bear the suffering. In fact, ancient mythologies are fraught of stories where heroes suffer uncountable pain to sublimate them in favour of humankind. The sociology of sports speaks us of the games as sacred spaces of agony where the athlete show the human character cannot be destroyed even by Gods. The games are important not only for athletes or their nations but also for the hosting city too. For that reason, the security and safety of Olympic teams are very important for the hosting country as well as its authorities.

The credibility of Chinese authorities is given by their efficacy in protecting the athletes and the attendants. Having said this, the Olympic Games are not only the main target of terrorist groups. Like in Rio, Brazil many discontents or marginalized groups interfered in the streets with banners against Dilma Rousseff´s administration. Social discontent and frustration take place in these types of events. These protesters claimed for the invested money to build stadiums for the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup to be held in Brazil. Of course, the COVID19 pandemic has changed everything. Today, Western visitors remain unfamiliar with the possibility to travel to China, or what is more important; some anti-Chinese discourses have sparked in the Western social imaginary. One of the characteristics of travel behaviour in a post COVID19 is determined by new travel bans, health passports and strict regulations to monitor foreign visitors. The geopolitical tensions among nations are another point of entry in this debate that needs further attention. The global world, at least as it was imagined in the pre-pandemic days, has set the pace to a feudalized (fractured) world where the foreign visitor is an undesired guest. This can be observed not only in the US or Europe but also in Latin America. Over years, tourists were seen as ambassadors of prosperous and democratic societies, strangers who captivated the local`s curiosity. The COVID19 closed the countries to the “Other” making of the outsiders who were potential carriers of a lethal virus. In the mid of this complex scenario, the Winter Olympic Games will take place in China. Whatever the case may be, Winter Olympic Games demand to authorities and policy-makers a double effort simply because not only athletes should be protected but attendants, some of them speaking different languages or having different customs. Digital technologies today offers an important instrument to monitor the Games as well as any disrupting issue that threatens the event. Doubtless, this represents a titanic and amazing task.

Interviewer: Hou Yunxi

Interview date: October 28, 2021

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