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Reviewed by:
  • Surveilling and Securing the Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 and Beyond ed. by Vida Bajc
  • Erin Redihan
Bajc, Vida, ed. Surveilling and Securing the Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 and Beyond. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Pp. 420. $115.00, hb.

For those following the Olympic Games from afar, as well as for those present at the events, the best security measures are those that are least visible. However, with the consistently increasing number and variety of threats facing not just the games but all megaevents, creating an effective yet nonintrusive security presence is a formidable challenge. Games organizers from the 1964 Tokyo events to the present have confronted unique circumstances that have forced them to spend constantly growing amounts of money and resources on protecting those in attendance. Through a series of case studies treating selected games from Tokyo through the 2012 summer contests in London, Vida Bajc and a number of Olympic scholars dissect how the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the various host countries, and local police infrastructures collaborate to provide a secure Olympic environment.

With the amount of time that passes between the awarding of the games to a city and the actual events themselves and given the constantly changing political circumstances—both domestic and international—one of the biggest challenges facing planners is the unknown. How will potential threats evolve in the average seven-year span between the IOC’s decision and the opening ceremonies? As a result, the organizers must be constantly vigilant against changing hazards. While the Cold War and its accompanying politics presented a certain set of circumstances, the games since the 1990s have faced more in the way of protests, cyberterrorism, and fallout from the war on terror. Each essay in this collection offers a panoramic view of how games’ organizers on all levels perceived their unique challenges and how they reacted. Some efforts were more successful than others, with the Black September attacks during the 1972 Munich games as a negative example.

At the heart of the issue are two often contradictory goals. First is to maintain the security and comfort of all associated with the games by thwarting all possible threats. The second is to do so in a way that does not interfere with the purity of the Olympics and the celebratory atmosphere that is such an inherent part of the spectacle. The Olympic Games would not be nearly as special if the world’s top athletes were either afraid to attend or dissuaded from competing by security hassles. The result of striving toward these disparate goals is an increasingly sanitized and isolated Olympic Village where the athletes and the spectators are largely cordoned off from outside interaction with the local inhabitants and environment. Presenting a friendly and safe atmosphere that incorporates both a bit of the local culture while staying true to the Olympic ideal has led to ever-ballooning costs and highly technical systems to prevent anything close to another Munich.

While each of the articles here could stand alone, together they present a strong case for the necessity for constant vigilance and innovation on the part of the Olympic organizing committees to execute the games at a continually high level. Each piece is thoroughly researched and well written. This anthology is a welcome addition to the growing field of Olympic studies. [End Page 100]

Erin Redihan
Boston University


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