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The Spectacle of Security in Olympic Rio de Janeiro

As athletes strive for the Olympic Gold this summer in London, Anthropology News takes an anthropological look into the Games.

Erika Robb Larkins looks to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the spectacle that such mega-sports events bring to the city in her article The Spectacle of Security in Olympic Rio de Janeiro. Larkins particularly looks at the security aspect of these upcoming games, not of the games themselves but the state preparation of clearing the city, and particularly the favelas, of crime. Here is an excerpt:

Photo courtesy Levi Ricardo

John MacAloon (2006), discussing the relevance of the spectacle for an ethnographic analysis of the Olympics, argues for a more grounded, in-situ analysis. For MacAloon, if the spectacle works to mask a larger process of commodity production, the ethnography of the spectacle is necessarily a labor of defetishization, an examination of the way that locally situated social actors both reproduce and resist the spectacle. In light of this useful injunction, in this short piece, I trace the multilayered construction of Olympic Rio de Janeiro through an emphasis on the spectacle of security. More specifically, the city’s favelas (or slums) are a privileged stage for violence, profiteering, and the performance of state power in the lead up to the Games.

Read the entire article on Anthropology News.

Read more Olympic articles in the new online summer edition of Anthropology News.

The Olympics and Its Discontents

As athletes strive for the Olympic Gold this summer in London, Anthropology News takes an anthropological look into the Games.

Jules Boykoff and Thomas F. Carter identify the various dynamics host cities experience in preparation for and during the Olympic Games in their Anthropology News article The Olympics and Its Discontents. From economics and security to commercialization and relinquishment of sovereignty, complying with the needs and desires of the International Olympic Committee isn’t an easy task. Here is an excerpt:

Photo courtesy Playfair 2012

The Olympics bring together top athletes from around the world to compete on a global stage under the warm glow of the international media spotlight. Boosters not only hail the Games as the apex of sporting prowess, but also as a vehicle for urban regeneration, economic development, and international goodwill. Yet historically the evidence for such claims is circumstantial at best. Throughout the history of the Games, critics continuously question the logic of the Olympic movement, with all its attendant promises and spectacular practices. Activists regularly challenge the economics of Olympic funding and how that ties to security issues, the increasingly hyper-commercialized nature of the Games, and the role of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a sovereign power. The London 2012 Olympics provide a useful lens for understanding these dynamics.

Read the entire article on Anthropology News.

Read more Olympic articles in the new online summer edition of Anthropology News.

Faster athletes, slower spectators and the Olympic marathon

Photo by Dave Catchpole

In the lead-up to the Olympics, AAA member Greg Downey wrote a piece on the Huffington Post, asking whether the Olympic movement has really succeeded in promoting “sport for all,” or has instead become an increasingly professional offering for a passive spectatorship. The marathon, in particular, is a telling case study, as it was run for the first time in the 1896 Olympics in Greece, the inaugural games of the modern Olymiad. He writes about the winner of that first marathon, Greek water carrier, Spyridon Louis:

And yet, at the same time that the margins between Olympic finishers may be a hair’s breadth, the gap between the athletes and the spectator public is growing. Spyridon Louis was a true amateur. His first ‘marathon’ was his qualifying race, about two weeks prior to his Olympic performance. Today’s Olympic contenders are dedicated professionals, physiologically worlds’ apart from most of the spectators, who are growing increasingly sedentary.
Sure, the number of amateur participants at marathons is swelling, but on average, marathon runners are going slower. It’s very hard to imagine today, especially in the Western world, that someone could run a sub-three-hour marathon in their second attempt, two weeks after their first marathon.

Read the entire piece on the Huffington Post. Downey also expands on his blog post over on his blog, Neuroanthropology.

Anthropology News Gets Olympic Fever

Photo by David Poultney for LOCOG

Calling all sports fans! This summer Anthropology News has Olympic fever. In Anthropology News’ very first electronic summer issue, readers get an anthropological vista of the Olympic Games.

Over the course of the Games, we’ll highlight this AN Olympic series which includes articles about the professional athletes, paralympians, gender verification, spectators and security preparations to pull of such a spectacular international event.

Don’t want to wait to read it on the AAA Blog? Head over to the Anthropology News website now to read this summer’s issue!

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