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Olympic Games

The Olympic Games Drone Show

The Olympic Games Drone Show

With over 35,000 views, this video is my most watched on YouTube, but aside from being an amazing display, what was especially beautiful was the fact that Intel made its show a daily feature within the Olympic park, taking place after the medals ceremonies.

In so doing, it may have achieved another Olympic first, by making part of the Opening Ceremony freely available to anyone who happened to be in the park. 

It's well worth another watch....

My PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games

My PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games was my 10th in total, Winter and Summer, 11th if you include the Youth Olympic Games, which I attended in 2014. Each Olympic Games is unique and, like a good novel, has story after story which characterise them in extraordinary historical terms. With Sydney 2000, it was the controversy around the contested land of Homebush Bay, juxtaposed against the eventual lighting of the Olympic cauldron by Cathy Freeman.

In Athens 2004 it was the feeling of the Games coming back to their origin with the shot put taking place within the Ancient stadium of Olympia, with Beijing 2008, China's first Olympic Games as host, it was the magnificence of the Opening Ceremony, set against the concerns about media freedom and human rights.

For London 2012, there was the transition from media to social media as the tipping point in content consumption, along with its controversial logo which made strides to transform how branding operated around the Olympic programme.

For Rio 2016, the first South American Games, discussions ensued around resident rights to remain, alongside concerns about corruption and the political turmoil surrounding the nation. These are just some of the stories that operate around the Games, some of which are matters of deep social concern, while others are snapshots of a society that help us understand more about a location, its people, and how the world makes sense of their values and political history.

PyeongChang 2018 was perhaps the most extraordinary of all in recent times, in terms of political discussions about how the Olympic Games contributes to global diplomacy. While sports officials are modest in their claims and expectations for Olympic participation to lead to significant political change, there does seem to have been an important series of outcomes from the conversation between North and South Korea, resulting from Olympic participation. I anticipate that this will be studied for many years to come, but watching what happens within this region for the next 5 years - and for future Olympic Games - will be fascinating.

While I was in PyeongChang, I made a series of videos, which cover subjects from virtual reality to Olympic diplomacy. You can find these on a dedicated page here.

Sarajevo 1984, 33 years later

Today marks the 33 years since the Opening Ceremony of the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games and so I dedicated my afternoon to capturing some of its history. The most remarkable location is the Bob Sled track, which was built in concrete and survives to this day. It remains now as a living monument to the Games, although for the locals, it feels also like a forgotten place.

Draped in overgrown foliage and graffiti, I learned that it has become a popular place to come walking and, while the snow was too deep to walk its length today, I had the chance to see a few of its turns.

It's hard to know how to place this as an Olympic legacy. It has become a tourist attraction, that much is clear. Yet, it does not resonate with conventional legacy language. After all, it has become a line of desire, rather than a purposeful sports facility. However, I think it is all the richer for this, and there is something truly authentic about it, as a manifestation of cultural heritage, re-worked by the local community.

Clearly, the 1990s war broke continuity for the city, in terms of many things, but also that Olympic legacy. The cable car running from the city to the mountain venue was lost - but is being re-built I am told. Also, many Olympic buildings were destroyed. So, there is something also compelling about the robustness of this unusually permanent concrete bob sled run. So, I am comfortable with talking about this monument as a feature of Sarajevo's Olympic legacy. Like the most effective legacies, they have to arise from a process of re-negotiation, re-ownership, and be sites of active value creation for a community. This area enjoys each of these features and, for this reason, i'm sure it will continue to be of historical significance and worthy of protection. And if that wasn't enough, you can also mountain bike down the run, which has to be completely awesome!

My trip here has been all the richer for venturing out to see this amazing site and I hope you will agree that there is a beauty to this Olympic heritage, even if it was not the one intended when it was imagined.

Draped in overgrown foliage and graffiti, I learned that it has become a popular place to come walking and, while the snow was too deep to walk its length today, I had the chance to see a few of its turns.

It's hard to know how to place this as an Olympic legacy. It has become a tourist attraction, that much is clear. But it does not resonate with conventional legacy language. After all, it has become a line of desire rather than a purposeful sports facility. Yet, I think it is all the richer for this, and there is something truly authentic about it, as a manifestation of cultural heritage, re-worked by the local community. 

Clearly, the 1990s war broke continuity for the city, in terms of many things, but also that Olympic legacy. The cable car running from the city to the mountain venue was lost - but is being re-built I am told. Also, many Olympic buildings were destroyed. So, there is something also compelling about the robustness of this unusually permanent concrete bob sled run.  

My trip here has been all the richer for venturing out to see this amazing site and I hope you will agree that there is a beauty to this Olympic heritage, even if it was not the one intended when it was imagined.

My Rio 2016 Research

My Rio 2016 Research

As my 10th Olympic Games, Rio 2016 was a long time coming, having seen it through from bid stag to completion and, in recent years, working more closely with the media operations team at the International Olympic Committee.

While here, I shot around 100gb of photographs, attended around 20 sports, wrote 4 articles for the news, interviewed for around 20 different outlets, re-designed and wrote for a magazine, and continued by longitudinal research into media change at the Olympics, this time focused on social media and new forms of broadcasting. Articles to follow.

I also made a film about life in one of Rio's favela, and even managed to publish a two page spread in the Times Higher Education about social media (unrelated to the Games!). It has been an epic fortnight, my most productive Games yet and it is possible thanks especially to the University of Salford, Manchester , which continues to support me tremendously in all my endeavours.

 

 

Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Rio 2016 Olympic Games

For the next 17 days, I'll be working at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This will be my 10th Olympic Games, including Winter, Summer, and Youth, since Sydney 2000. At every Olympic Games, I have multiple roles and agendas.

Since London 2012, I have been working with the IOC Young Reporters' Programme, led by Anthony Edgar, who is the IOC's Head of Media Operations. Understanding how the media work is one part of this work and it's really ethnographic, as I work among the journalists. I also use the opportunity to develop my own practice as a journalist, but I'm not nearly in the same category of those people who work on assignment after assignment, day after day. Over the years, I have got to know quite a few of the best journalists that come to the Games and they have an extraordinary work ethic.

Most accredited people at the Games - if not everybody - has a very specific role to play and often only see a fraction of what happens around an Olympic city. Part of what I try to do in my research, is obtain a holistic sense of the operation, which means going to sports, press conferences, local neighbourhoods, and understanding how the city runs the Games. 

I'll also give a talk at a conference while here, and interview a lot for the media. It's a full on fortnight. The last 8 Olympic Games are being written up in my next book, Sport 2.0, coming out with MIT Press next year. It's the end of an era - the first decade of social media - and it's fantastic to be at yet another Olympic city. This will be my third book to write about the Olympic Games, but it goes much broader than that, into all things digital, from social media to virtual reality.

There's no better way to get to know a city and its community than to examine it through the lens of the Olympic Games and I look forward to leaving Rio a little more of a Carioca than before I came. Show time. 

My Photographs from the Games

Is the Olympic Ideal over? (No)

Is the Olympic Ideal over? (No)

This week, I interviewed for BBC Newshour Extra on the state of the Olympic movement. We covered everything from the role of arts in the Olympics, the rise of e-sport, the importance of nationalism and, of course, the doping debate. It is a really fun programme, with some pretty serious issues covered. Take a listen here

Sport 2.0 #sportfuture

Sport 2.0 #sportfuture

This week, I am in Lausanne for the Sport Future Rendezvous 2016 conference, organized by good friend Professor Jean-Loup Chappelet at the University of Lausanne. I took the chance to talk about the biodigital interface, the growth of e-sport, biotechnological change, ingestible sensors, and virtual realities. But the big controversy, as always, was my views around doping, which did hijack the futures debate a little. In any case, here's my presentation.

 

 Thanks to Michel Filliau for the photograph.

A Paralympian may win an Olympic Medal at #Rio2016

A Paralympian may win an Olympic Medal at #Rio2016

Last week, I was interviewed by the Danish media outlet Zetland, a cool new online portal for all kinds of radical news. This feature was about the possibility of a Danish Paralympian being competitive for a medal at the Olympic Games. While Oscar Pistorius may have been the first prosthetically enhanced athlete to take part in the Olympic Games, Markus Rehm may be a medal contender, providing he is allowed to compete.

Here is the full article, in Danish. Google translate doesn't do a bad job.

It includes this neat little video of Markus jumping

 

Rio 2016 #Falta1Ano

Rio 2016 #Falta1Ano

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This week, Rio marked the 1 year to go anniversary before the opening of the Olympic Games. I always try to get to an Olympic city ahead of the event and spent my time here attending the official press conference of the organizers in the morning, and the civic protest in the afternoon. Here's what the latter looked like. It was a small group and very peaceful. It was also not focused only on the Olympics, but instead a range of groups were present, all of whom have complaints that may be tied to the wider changes around the city.

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IOC MOOC on Sports Media #IOCathleteMOOC

IOC MOOC on Sports Media #IOCathleteMOOC

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Today saw the launch of the International Olympic Committee MOOC on Sport and the Media, which I led. We have some of the world's leading media pros in the course, including the IOC's Heads or Communications, Media Operations, and Social Media. We also have ABC Broadcaster Tracey Holmes, photographer extraordinaire Nick Didlick, awesome video journalist Yuval Lion, and athlete Jonathan Edwards MBE. The course is free to access and is designed to guide athletes towards a career in the media, after they conclude their life in competition. Subjects covered include broadcasting, writing, photography, video journalism, corporate communications, social media, and future media developments. Something for everyone!

Here's the link

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Let the Selfie Olympic Games Begin

Let the Selfie Olympic Games Begin

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I have been in Nanjing for 4 days now and we have done our intensive training. Time to get out in the field. The 35 Young Reporters are extraordinary, so talented. I look forward to seeing what they can produce. Follow their output here.

Sochi 2014 & Social Media

Sochi 2014 & Social Media

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This week, I was in Paris for a meeting convened by the International Olympic Committee's Head of Media Operations Anthony Edgar and outgoing IOC Press Commission Chair Kevin Gosper. It took place at AFP Paris and focused on the future of sports and news reporting. As a private meeting, it aims to set out key priorities for the IOC to consider around the future needs of the press at the Olympics. Debates were open and the climate of the meeting aimed to promote sharing among what otherwise might be seen as competing organizations. It's a really unique meeting and it was a privilege to speak there for the second time running.

Why a broken Ring matters in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony (2014)

Why a broken Ring matters in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony (2014)

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Piece first published in Inside the Games  

The Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympics may go down in history as having been one of the most ambitious and accomplished of all time. The complexity and sophistication puts it on a par with the Lillehammer 1994 Games, which is widely regarded to have been a Winter opening without rival.

But there was one problem that became the focus of attention after the ceremony finished. You might not have noticed it if you were watching on television, as the delay from live to broadcast meant that a rapid replacement of prior footage could wallpaper over what really happened.

In the segment when the Olympic Rings were being spectacularly visualised from gigantic snowflakes, one of them failed to expand and achieve its circular form.

So what? You may say. In the press conference that followed, it was apparent that this was a source of frustration for the organisers, who implored reporters to focus on their achievements instead of this tiny failure. The artistic director even said that this was one of the simplest technical moments in the Ceremony.

However, there is good reason why reporters will focus on it, as the presentation of the Olympic Rings is the second most important symbolic moment in the Ceremony, after the lighting of the Cauldron.

It wasn't always like this. In years gone by, the Rings would have just been erected within the stadium from the start of the show. However, in recent years, this segment has become a moment where the hair will stand up on the back of your neck and that moment was lost, at least for those who were in the stadium, which included Vladimir Putin, who was sitting next to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and not far from UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon.

So, the significance of this moment is easy to understand. After all, as much as the Games are about the athletes, they are also significantly about those Rings. The entire economic foundation of the movement relies on their sale to the highest bidder. The success of the Games rises and falls on the basis of who has the right to use the Rings.

Thus, the rings have come to symbolise more than just the Olympic values and so their failure to be properly visualised during the Opening Ceremony is to compromise the integrity of that powerful symbol. It is equivalent to the Olympic Cauldron failing to ignite. This need not mean embarrassment but it does mean that an important moment was lost for Sochi.

It would be unfair for the world to judge the artistic merit of the Ceremony on the basis of this one technical fault. Art may deserve a bit more flexibility in terms of how we evaluate success, compared to sport, where only perfection matters.

However, what took place also means that we cannot award the organisers a perfect 10 for their delivery, even if it was the best Opening Ceremony of all time. But at least that means that the next host city has something to strive for how, beyond Sochi 2014.

Besides, the beauty of television means that it won't be difficult for the Olympic organisers to easily dodge international commentary on what happened. For the majority of viewers - and for the record - it never happened.

The Olympics: The Basics [Russian edition]

The Olympics: The Basics [Russian edition]

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Last week, my book 'The Olympics' was published in Russian by the Russian International Olympic University, the educational arm of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games organizing committee. This is a great achievement, especially as the previous book translated by RIOU was Pierre de Coubertin's writings.  

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From London 2012 to Rio 2016 #Olympics

From London 2012 to Rio 2016 #Olympics

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I'm delighted to be giving a keynote at this @BritishLibrary event on 5th Nov. It's especially nice to focus on Rio 2016, just after the London 2012 Games, and to speak to a broad brief , rather than just one topic. Social change is certainly one thing any host city can take for granted in their hosting process. The challenge is to ensure positive social change happens and this is a much disputed outcome of the Olympics, no matter how many medals a home team wins.

In the mean time, here's the programme:

From London to Rio: Social Change and the Sporting Mega-event

9-9.30

Registration/Coffee

9.30-9.45

Welcome and Introduction to the Conference Jude England, The British Library

9.45-10.15

Keynote Lecture Prof. Kenneth Maxwell, Harvard University

10.15-11.15

Panel: Politics and Security Are the games a means to implement government policies? Will the events become focal points for international and local political conflicts? Do the events serve as a catalyst for developments in cyber security and surveillance?

Speakers:

Dr. Timothy Power, Oxford University

Dr. Jeff Garmany, King’s College London

Gabriel Silvestre, University College London

Chair: TBD

11.15-11.30

Coffee Break

11.30-12.30

Panel: Economic Impact What impact do these events have on economic development and growth? What is the impact of these events on employment and labour unions? What is the impact of these events on small business and the informal market? How is the housing stock and housing market effected by such events?

Speakers:

Prof. Jane Wills, Queen Mary, University of London Dr. Mike Raco, University College London Prof. Tom Cannon, University of Liverpool

Chair: TBD

12.30-13.15 Lunch Break

13.15-14.00

Mid-day key note lecture: Prof. Andy Miah, University of the West of Scotland

14.00-15.00

Panel: Sustainability: Social and Environmental Will the games improve most people’s quality of life? What kind of long term infrastructure developments will happen? How will renewable energies and design be incorporated into these events? Speakers: Dr. Stephen Essex, Plymouth University

Dr. Russell Seymour, Sustainability Manager for Marylebone Cricket Club

Chair: Dr. Alvaro Comin, King’s College London

15.00-15.15

Coffee Break

15.15-16.15

Race, Media and Identity What kind of racial imagery and ideology do the games reproduce/challenge? Are their different impacts of the games along racial and gender lines? What kind of coverage does the media produce about the games and why?

Speakers: Prof. João Costa Vargas, University of Texas, Austin

Prof. Renato Emerson dos Santos, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro Prof. John Horne, University of Central Lancashire

Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Cooper, The British Library

16.15-17.15

Education Will the games contribute to public health agendas? Do they further the cause of sports education/participation? Speakers: Paul Docherty, Director UK 2012, British Council

Prof. Steve Cummins, Queen Mary, University of London Luke Downdey and Marigold Ride, Fight for Peace/Luta Pela Paz

Chair: Dr. Madeleine Hatfield, Royal Geographical Society (with IGB)

17.15

Closing Remarks Jude England, The British Library

17.30

Reception

Emoto 2012

During the London 2012 Olympic Games, I was working with an arts based digital project called Emoto, which was an artist-led data visualization of the Games using Twitter. The project was developed by Future Everything using Lexalytics. Here is a video of the final sculpture of the tweets, which brought an additional creative layer to the content.

A Very Olympic Last night of the Proms

A Very Olympic Last night of the Proms

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The last night of sport at the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games coincided with the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms on 8th September and it was a night full of Olympic tributes. The programme included work by Josef Suk, which won a musical prize at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games, back when there were also contests for artists, as well as athletes. His ‘Towards a New Life’ is now considered a classic Olympic fanfare and a fitting prelude to John Williams’ ‘Olympic Fanfare and Theme’, which took place in Part two of the evening

The popular Williams composition is an iconic Olympic musical score and was even greeted in the Royal Albert Hall with a solitary Olympic flag, which stood amidst a uniquely international collection of other flags in what is one of the most popular British nights of the year, watched all over the UK.

It was also a night for festival. In this unique year for the BBC Proms, now in its 118th season, it was made part of the London 2012 Festival, the primary Cultural Olympiad brand during Games time, running throughout the Proms season.

It was also apt then that Antonin Dvork’s Carnival was played in this important year, as it was first played at the original Proms in 1895. Dvorak – whose birthday in 1841 also fell on the 8th September – composed the piece imagining a ‘lonely, contemplative wanderer reaching at twilight a city where a festival is in full swing’. Played at twilight in London on the penultimate night of the London 2012 Games and within the London 2012 Festival programme, one could not imagine a greater festival in any fuller swing!

Whether by design or by chance, this Paralympic Games time finale was a wonderful climax to the London 2012 Games’ cultural programme, which could only be followed by a closing ceremony, which takes place on Sunday the 9th September at 730pm.

The evening concluded by bringing the Olympic programme full circle, with a rendition of Jerusalem, which also featured in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. There was also a surprise appearance of Team GB gold medalists, who accompanied the audience in a rendition of “Rule Britannia’, a Last Night of the Proms classic, and a special mention to London 2012’s Cultural Olympiad by Jiri Belohlavek, outgoing Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra – the evening’s star of the show.