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  • Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda
  • Mark Broucek
Lenskyj, Helen Jefferson. Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Pp. 182. $18.95

While this book is divided into two main sections, activist Helen Lenskyj has added an introductory chapter to provide readers (who may or may not have read her previous two books on the Olympics) with an overview of the text. In this chapter, she also makes her own position on the Olympic Movement known by disclosing her participation in a community-based group called Bread Not Circuses. This coalition opposed Toronto's (ultimately unsuccessful) bids on both the 1996 and 2008 summer Olympics. She states that her "experiences as an activist in Toronto, as well as Vancouver and Sydney, form the basis for some of the following discussion" (p. 3).

In Part I, Olympic Impacts and Community Resistance, the author uses three chapters to shed light on issues relating to the impact that the Olympic games has on cities that bid and/or win the right to host this sporting event. Chapter 2 concerns the rights and freedoms of the residents of host cities, especially in the areas of the housing status of the homeless and the underhoused. She cites extensive literature that shows how an Olympic games has proved time and time again to be detrimental to these rights. Chapter 3 looks at the impact of the Olympic industry on selected bid and host cities. Lenskyj focuses on New York, Salt Lake City, Athens, Barcelona and London. While New York was the only loser in the bid process, the author shows quite convincingly that the real losers were the low income and homeless residents of those cities. The last chapter of this section covers the bid of Vancouver. Lenskyj relates the numerous battles that go on between pro and anti Olympic Games groups. Neither side sees anything of merit from the other view, and both groups quickly use anything in their power to undermine the others stance.

Part II, using the umbrella term of Olympic Education, uses four chapters to look at a wide range of topics. Chapter 5 examines the use of the Olympic movement and its athletes to promote the Olympic ideal. According to Lenskyj, this use of athlete role models, similar to celebrity promotion, may be a double-edged sword. While it is true that many athletes truly follow an Olympic ideal, a number of high profile athletes do not. With the International Olympic Committee's suspension of the amateur status role, professional athletes have become Olympic competitors, many bringing their baggage with them. She argues that moral education cannot take place with "performance-enhancing drugs, professional athletes' inflated salaries, rampant commercialism and unsportsmanlike behavior" (p. 79) corrupting the arena. Chapter 6 analyzes the ways corporate sponsors use Olympic education to brand their products through "hidden or not-so-hidden [End Page 171] messages" (p. 113). The author contends that in this way children are deceived into building a lifelong loyalty to certain products. Chapter 7 tackles the gender issue in sport with an in depth analysis of what Lenskyj terms the nude calendar phenomenon. While she makes a passing reference to male calendars, the author concentrates on the sexualization of women athletes. These calendars, while under the guise of raising money and awareness of female athletes, actually perpetuate the myth that appearance, rather than performance, is of more importance to the success of an athlete. The last chapter puts forth the notion that social responsibility be added as a pillar of the Olympic movement, joining sport, culture, and the environment. This fourth pillar would require the IOC to adhere to a "mutually developed code of ethics" (p. 149) as opposed to just a code of conduct.

While this book has an admittedly Canadian focus, as stated in the opening chapter, Lenskyj has done quite extensive international research into what it means to protest the Olympic industry's propaganda. The author never tries to hide her personal biases about many of the abuses she sees in the Olympic movement but does give credit to the appropriate sources when she feels it...


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pp. 171-172
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