Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inside the Olympic Industry

The opening ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympics are Friday night, and Olympic fever is spreading quickly. Vancouver's online source, Straight, is featuring four of the best books on the Olympics—and one of them is Inside the Olympic Industry: Power, Politics, and Activism, by Helen Jefferson Lenskyj. Here's their take on the book:

There are other solid critiques of the Olympics, such as Andrew Jennings’s two Lords of the Rings books and Helen Lenskyj’s more recent Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda, which was published in 2008. 
But this penetrating analysis by Lenskyj, released in 2000, remains a classic for how thoroughly it exposes the secrecy, elitism, hypocrisy, corruption, and lack of accountability of what she calls the “Olympic industry”. Lenskyj, a Toronto sociologist and activist, wrote the book at the height of a scandal over the Salt Lake City bid committee’s unethical gift-giving to International Olympic Committee delegates. 
It’s worth noting that the Vancouver bid committee never released an itemized list of its expenditures to suppliers of goods and services, so there’s no way of telling if our city won the Games through similar means. Lenskyj’s book points out that bid and organizing committees have never been covered by freedom-of-information legislation, furthering the lack of transparency—though that will change for the London Games in 2012. 
Lenskyj also shows how the Olympic Charter’s ban on “political, religious or racial propaganda” near venues is designed to stifle dissent in host cities. In addition, Inside the Olympic Industry shines a light on how the media and universities have been complicit in suppressing public debate. “A beautified, gentrified city with state-of-the-art professional sport facilities has no value to men, women, and children whose basic needs are not being met,” Lenskyj writes.

If you want to know why there will be so many protesters on the streets of Vancouver on Friday (February 12), this book provides the answer.

Read the rest of the list here, and check out Helen's other books on the Olympics.