Sunday, March 6, 2011

Boykoff on 2010 Vancouver Winter Games in NLR

In a new article in New Left Review, Jules Boykoff traces the genesis of the relations between Olympic sport and Capital.  Detailing the political economic contexts of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where disproportionate long and short term public expenditures are made and short term profits privatized, Boykoff notes how this leads to government deficits and severe cuts to social programmes.  The masquerade (in the form of an economic boomlet) lasts only until the games end, and Vancouver is left with a nasty hangover that won't go away.

Similar to the recent US financial crisis, the Olympic Games create a finance bubble for the sporting facilities, housing, and over-the-top pomp that the IOC demands.  The developers and local powers-that-be would have residents of the city believe that this massive overspending is really a stimulus package, betting among other things on the future value of the "world class city" brand allegedly attained via hosting the games.

But more importantly here, Boykoff reports on the resistance to the games in Vancouver, cataloguing the actions taken by an impressively diverse list of groups, and describing the remarkable rapport created in this context.  Boykoff describes the anti-Olympics resistance as an "event coalition" quoting Tom Mertes' organizing concept from the global justice movement: "an ongoing series of alliances and coalitions, whose convergences remain contingent."

I need to think this through but it is interesting that the "convergences" achieved and the "fun" felt by those in resistance might very well echo what spectators in a sporting audience feel.  There is an affective joy in the action of joining a multiple and/or in the feelings of belonging or identification.  If you own it, it will own you.  Political sport as dialogic, or sport as a dialogical politics? 

There also may be something to say here about Isabelle Stengers' notion of an ecology of practices, particularly where she resists general terms which "look for illustrations, for cases that are not causes but refer instead to their potential unity.  Unity always means mobilisation, what was asked from armies having to follow orders in a faithful and immediate way."  I think Boykoff is more attuned to Stengers, in that he is detailing situated concerns of diverse groups, and more interested in generic than general terms [via Stengers, "generic terms such as cause, obligation or risk... aim at conferring to a situation the power to matter in its particular way..."].

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