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This article examines the diverse forms of public opposition, protest, criticism, and complaint in the United Kingdom on the staging of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. Our discussion draws heavily on empirical research, primarily fieldwork and interviews in East London with local residents, opposition groups, business people, politicians, and other stakeholders. The article is separated into three main parts. First, we explore the setting and political-economic context for London 2012. The main Olympic settingthe London Borough of Newhamfeatures very high levels of poverty and ethnic diversity. We argue that London 2012 represented a form of festival capitalism that was part of a broader set of New Right two-step policies in poor urban areas, involving initial Keynesian investment, followed by a deeper and far-reaching array of neo-liberal measures. Second, in the main part of the article, we identify and examine, in turn, six forms of public conflict, criticism, and complaint that centered on the Games, specifically national criticisms (e.g., on distribution of Olympic resources), local criticisms (e.g., on lack of jobs and business benefits), issue-specific campaigns (e.g., on the environment), glocal protests against specific nations and sponsors (e.g., campaigns against BP, Dow, and Rio Tinto), neo-tribal transgressions and situationist spectacles (e.g., mass cycle rides near Olympic venues), and anti-Olympic forums and demonstrations (e.g., critical web sites, multi-group marches). Third, we set out briefly the importance of conducting research into critics and opponents of sport mega-events, and discuss different arguments on how the social impact of protest movements might have been intensified at London 2012. The findings in this article may be extended to examine critical public responses to the hosting of other mega-events in different settings.
Journal of Sport and Social Issues
2015, Vol. 39(2) 99 –119
© The Author(s) 2014
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0193723514530565
Sport Mega-Events and Public
Opposition: A Sociological
Study of the London 2012
Richard Giulianotti 1 , 2 , Gary Armstrong 3 , Gavin Hales 4 ,
and Dick Hobbs 4 , 5
This article examines the diverse forms of public opposition, protest, criticism, and
complaint in the United Kingdom on the staging of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic
Games in London. Our discussion draws heavily on empirical research, primarily
fieldwork and interviews in East London with local residents, opposition groups,
business people, politicians, and other stakeholders. The article is separated into three
main parts. First, we explore the setting and political economic context for London
2012. The main Olympic setting—the London Borough of Newham—features very
high levels of poverty and ethnic diversity. We argue that London 2012 represented
a form of “festival capitalism” that was part of a broader set of “New Right two-
step” policies in poor urban areas, involving initial Keynesian investment, followed
by a deeper and far-reaching array of neo-liberal measures. Second, in the main part
of the article, we identify and examine, in turn, six forms of public conflict, criticism,
and complaint that centered on the Games, specifically national criticisms (e.g., on
distribution of Olympic resources), local criticisms (e.g., on lack of jobs and business
benefits), issue-specific campaigns (e.g., on the environment), “glocal” protests against
specific nations and sponsors (e.g., campaigns against BP, Dow, and Rio Tinto), neo-
tribal transgressions and situationist spectacles (e.g., mass cycle rides near Olympic
venues), and anti-Olympic forums and demonstrations (e.g., critical web sites, multi-
group marches). Third, we set out briefly the importance of conducting research into
Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
2 Telemark University College, Telemark, Norway
Brunel University, London, UK
University of Essex, Colchester, UK
University of Western Sydney, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Richard Giulianotti, Loughborough University, Epinal Way, Leicestershire, LE11 3TY, UK.
530565 JSS XX X 10.1177/0193723514530565 Journal of Sport and Social Issues Giulianotti et al.
research-article 2014
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100 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
critics and opponents of sport mega-events, and discuss different arguments on how
the social impact of protest movements might have been intensified at London 2012.
The findings in this article may be extended to examine critical public responses to
the hosting of other mega-events in different settings.
Olympics, mega-events, opposition, resistance, community
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games represented the United Kingdom’s
largest and most expensive peacetime event. The Games were widely praised for suc-
ceeding in delivering secure venues, spectacular athletic performances and event cer-
emonies, and sustained post-event support from the U.K. public (The Guardian,
December 25, 2012). However, the Games were marked by a diversity of public con-
flicts and criticisms, particularly in East London where the main events were staged,
ranging from complaints over organizational detail to concerted anti-Olympic
In this article, we examine the full range of these critical and oppositional responses
to the 2012 Olympics at national and community levels. Our discussion is separated
into three broad parts. First, we set the scene by detailing the relatively poor and dis-
located social context in which the London Olympics were primarily situated, in the
London Borough of Newham. Second, we differentiate six specific fields of conflict,
criticism, and complaint surrounding London 2012, and examine these in turn. Third,
in conclusion, we consider several reasons for the relatively limited socio-political
impact of these expressions of opposition and criticism. Our analysis is broadly empir-
ical, as we draw on a rich volume of research data accumulated before, during, and
after the Olympics to draw out the diversity and complexity of public experiences and
perspectives with regard to hosting the world’s biggest sporting mega-event.
In terms of its sociological context, this article engages with two fields of research.
First, as we explain below, London 2012 was a heavily commodified event with
major implications for the local host communities. Hence, our study is broadly
located within prior critical analyses of the impacts of the commodification of sport.
Much of this prior work has been undertaken in the United Kingdom, notably on
local, largely working-class football communities and subcultures, revealing how
commodification processes engender senses of disenfranchisement and marginaliza-
tion, expressions of resistance and opposition, and “market pragmatic” views on how
sport clubs should be run within a commercial environment (see Critcher, 1979;
Giulianotti, 2005; Hargreaves, 1986; Kennedy & Kennedy, 2012; Taylor 1970, 1971;
Walsh & Giulianotti, 2007).
The second and more substantial research context for this article relates to the body
of critical literature on the hosting of sport mega-events. Critical social scientists in
political sociology, urban geography, and the sociology of sport have explored the
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Giulianotti et al. 101
negative impact of hosting these events in terms of astronomical costs, loss of afford-
able housing, weakening of civil liberties and human rights, intensified policing, and
the creation of sterile zones of neo-liberal consumption and residence. This research
has largely focused on the hosting of specific sport mega-events, such as the 2000
Sydney Olympics, 2006 Germany World Cup finals, 2010 Vancouver Winter
Olympics, 2010 South Africa World Cup finals, and 2012 London Olympics (see, for
example, Armstrong, Hobbs, & Lindsay, 2011; Boykoff, 2011; Boyle & Haggerty,
2011; Cornelissen, 2012; Dyck, 2012; Fussey, Coaffee, Armstrong, & Hobbs, 2011;
Klauser, 2008; Lenskyj, 2002; Rowe, 2012). These studies have also been largely
conducted in situ within event locations and often with a particular emphasis on the
impact of policing and security on the transformation of urban space. Some of this
work—especially by Lenskyj (2002, 2008), as well as Armstrong et al. (2011), Fussey
et al. (2011), and Cornelissen (2012)—has discussed how local institutions and social
movements in these host cities seek to influence or to resist the staging of these events.
Recently, London 2012 has been the subject of several critical publications, for exam-
ple, by Houlihan and Giulianotti (2012) and Silk (2011), and, in the more empirically
based, substantial research by Armstrong et al. (2011) and Fussey et al. (2011) on the
pre-event impacts in East London, by Timms (2012) on workers’ rights campaigns
surrounding the event, and in our other studies of how mobility issues adversely
affected local communities (Giulianotti, Armstrong, Hales, & Hobbs, 2014).
Evidently, these two research fields have produced highly insightful and influential
bodies of work. However, one significant research gap centers on the lack of a com-
prehensive case study of the full range of critical public responses to the hosting of a
heavily commodified sport mega-event such as the Olympic Games or football’s
World Cup finals. One particular research lacuna has related to engaging with, and
capturing the views of, a wide diversity of local people, including those who are not
involved in community-based organizations or anti-event activism.
This article seeks to address directly this research gap by setting out the full range
of critical responses to London 2012 that emerged within the public sphere, with par-
ticular reference to the host community. In doing so, we develop a model of six fields
or types of public opposition, criticism, and complaint toward the hosting of London
2012. The model that we generate here may be applied to examine and understand
other hallmark events in sport and beyond.
Our article is substantially empirical in focus for two main reasons. First, we are
committed to giving full expression to the very rich and substantial data that we col-
lected before, during, and after London 2012. Second, to develop this sixfold model,
we relied broadly on a form of “thematic analysis,” in which we subjected our substan-
tial data to several layers or stages of analysis to identify the key themes within critical
public responses to the Olympics. As we show in the main part of the article, this mode
of analysis also enabled us to identify, within each of the six fields, several sub-fields
or “sub-themes” of public critical response.
Our research has not been “theory-led” in the sense of having a pre-established
theoretical lens before entering the field and then using such a perspective to select and
analyze data, and write up research findings. Such an approach would not have allowed
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102 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
us to draw out the richness of the data or to generate our sixfold model. However, we
do utilize and develop theory to situate our study, notably with reference to the research
context and, in particular, the commercialization processes surrounding London 2012.
Moreover, our sixfold model is intended to be portable and open to critical application
and development in other contexts; in this way, the model is intended to enhance sig-
nificantly the sociological theorization of sport mega-events and the commercializa-
tion of sport.
The Research Setting: The Olympics in Stratford/
Our study was undertaken as part of a wider 3-year project on the policing and com-
munity impacts of London 2012. Our primary research focus was on Stratford, located
within the London Borough of Newham, in London’s East End. Stratford hosted the
new, 560-acre Olympic Park, containing the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre,
Basketball Arena, Copperbox, Riverbank Arena, Velopark, Water Polo Arena,
Athletes’ Village, and Media Centre. Other Olympic venues included the ExCel Arena
in South Newham.
We comprised a team of four researchers conducting concerted research in and
around Newham, using multiple methods that primarily consisted of extensive ethno-
graphic fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. Further
data were drawn from official documents such as public reports on the Olympics and
statistics on Newham’s demographic profile, and from the mass media, notably U.K.
newspaper reports and commentaries on the social impacts of the London 2012 Games.
In addition, the project built heavily on our extensive prior personal knowledge and
research experience in East London and on sport mega-events, respectively (see, for
example, Armstrong et al., 2011; Giulianotti, 1991; Hobbs, 1989).
For this article, data were drawn from our long-term ethnographic fieldwork and
participant observation; 70 semi-structured interviews with key community stakehold-
ers, including local residents (10 interviews), business owners and representatives (8),
employees (8), politicians (8), faith group representatives (5), and service-sector offi-
cials (4); leaders and participants within Olympic-related opposition and protest
movements (15); and individuals from social groups that came into different kinds of
conflict with Olympic-related organization and security (12). Participant observation
was undertaken at 12 anti-Olympic events and demonstrations in East London, and at
20 Olympic-related community events such as resident and police–public meetings
convened before, during, and after the Games.1
Newham represented an exceptionally poor, diverse inner-city “home” for the
Olympics. Official data positioned Newham at the extreme ends of many demographic
league tables as the sixth most deprived local authority in England (only 56.7% of the
population aged 16-74 in employment), having the highest national levels of house-
hold overcrowding (25.4%), London’s youngest borough (average age = 31.8 years),
the United Kingdom’s most ethnically diverse borough (71% of residents classed as
“non-White”), and having London’s highest number of recent U.K. residents (27,000
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Giulianotti et al. 103
had lived in the United Kingdom for 2 years or less).2 Behind these official figures lie
many marginalized, submerged populations, notably irregular migrants, or the numer-
ous denizens of illegal “supersheds,” which had quietly mushroomed in Newham’s
back-gardens over the past decade. Newham’s community dislocation is further under-
pinned by high levels of population “churn” (annual household moves): In Stratford,
where short-term rental property predominates, informal estimates placed annual
household churn as high as 30%.
The proposed catalyst for transforming Newham, and East London more widely,
was the London 2012 Olympics, as a form of what we term festival capitalism. By
festival capitalism, we are referring to those aspects of a major public event that are
organized to advance private, commercial, and free-market interests, usually with
strong financial, political, and discursive support from civic authorities, such as
through large subsidies, infrastructural investments, and broader “regeneration”
In London, political leaders insisted that Olympian festival capitalism offered a
remarkable economic solution. For Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales, the Games
would be “a catalyst” for transforming the borough, offering an “abundance of land
ripe for development” and “an investment opportunity on a scale unmatched any-
where else in Europe.”3 For Prime Minister David Cameron, the Games would lift
East London, “from being one of the poorest parts of the country to one that shares
fully in the capital’s growth and prosperity” (Department of Culture, Media and Sport
2010, p. 11).
In Newham, Olympian festival capitalism was to be driven in political economic
terms by what we term here as a classic New Right two-step: First, an initial, seemingly
Keynesian4 approach would feature vast public spending on facilities, infrastructure,
and wider redevelopment; second, a neo-liberal approach would then come to domi-
nate, through the financial booms enjoyed by construction and property companies,
and in the establishing of privatized, commercial, and sanitized post-industrial urban
spaces, to entice new inflows of transnational capital and wealthier residents and con-
sumers. This New Right two-step has been prominent in much large-scale urban gen-
trification in the United Kingdom since the mid-1980s, notably in the £3.9 billion
spent on London’s Docklands to support the finance center that is Canary Wharf
(Guardian, April 22, 2000). In sport, the Keynesian-to-neo-liberal two-step typically
occurs in the hosting of sport mega-events. The New Right two-step might be seen as
a U.K. variant of American “corporate welfarism,” wherein civic authorities spend
billions of dollars of public money on new sport stadiums and infrastructure to attract
or to retain privately owned franchises. In the context of the Olympics in Newham, we
identified three types of Olympic-related development, which we explain below, that
were associated with festival capitalism and Keynesian-to-neo-liberal two-step
The first type of Olympic-related development involved direct Olympic develop-
ment projects that were centered on Olympic Park, with the stated aim of establishing
12,000 permanent jobs, over 14,000 new household properties, and a new parkland
environment.5 To facilitate construction, more than 400 residents on the Clays Lane
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104 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
Housing Estate and more than 200 businesses were evicted through compulsory pur-
chase orders (Fussey et al., 2011). Post-2012, the Olympic stadium eventually
acquired, as long-term tenants, West Ham United, an English Premier League football
team owned by two sex industry entrepreneurs.6 The deal clearly benefited the club:
West Ham would sell their current stadium in London to take a 99-year lease on a
world-class 54,000-seat stadium, worth more than £600 million, for an initial £15 mil-
lion down payment and £2 million in annual rent (Telegraph, March 22, 2013). To
support West Ham’s move, Newham council borrowed £40 million to help fund the
transformation of the stadium for football purposes; soon afterward, the council con-
firmed budget cuts of £100 million spread over 3 years.7
Second, transnational consumer development projects were centered particularly
on Westfield Stratford City mall: A £1.45 billion development opened in September
2011, touted as Europe’s biggest urban shopping mall, owned by the Australian–Israeli
Lowy family, and filled with more than 250, primarily transnationally branded retail
units. Westfield was perfectly located for Olympic-related visitors, being sited between
Stratford overground train and underground stations, and facilitating the main entrance
to Olympic Park. Although reportedly offering entry-level service-sector employment
for more than 1,000 Newham residents, and hoovering up consumers from across
South-East England’s High Street shops, Westfield was described to us by many locals
as “too expensive for me” and “not for us.”8
Third, broader redevelopment projects were encapsulated within the Stratford
“Metropolitan Masterplan,” a Newham Council blueprint for the area’s long-term
redevelopment. Masterplan objectives were to create 46,000 jobs, build 20,000 homes,
and transform the area’s long-term education, transport, retail, and cultural provision
(Newham Council, 2011). Some residents informed us of their suspicions that the
borough would be subject to an artificial demographic makeover to produce higher
scores on population tables (such as on employment, income, or child poverty): That
is, although new, wealthier residents might be attracted into the borough, the incomes
or livelihoods of established local people would remain largely unaffected.
Overall, these developmental aspects of Olympian festival capitalism, and the
demographically complex and impoverished borough of Newham, provided the social
and political–economic contexts for the emergence of diverse forms of opposition and
contestation regarding London 2012.
London 2012: Six Fields of Conflict, Criticism, and
Through a thematic analysis of our substantial data, our research revealed six themes
or fields of public conflict, criticism, and complaint over the hosting of the Olympics.
Each field contained two or three particular types of discontent or opposition. Overall,
these fields engaged with diverse Olympic-related issues associated with political
economy (e.g., jobs), the environment (e.g., redevelopment of green spaces), civil
rights (e.g., freedom of movement), security (e.g., levels of policing), and social jus-
tice (e.g., industrial rights, the rights of less powerful community members). We turn
now to consider each field.
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Giulianotti et al. 105
1. National Criticisms: Costs, Core-Periphery, and Resource Distribution
Three broad strains of public criticism were directed at key political-economic
aspects of the event. First, widespread criticism centered on the event’s perceived over-
all public cost: U.K. media widely reported that the public sector budget for the
Olympics had risen from an initial £2.37 billion in 2005 to £9.3 billion in 2007, while
later assessments of the overall costs ran as high as £24 billion, when including trans-
port, security, legacy, land depreciation, and other costs (Telegraph, January 26, 2012).9
Such spending on a 4-week sports festival contrasted directly with the program of eco-
nomic austerity pursued by the United Kingdom’s Conservative-led Coalition govern-
ment; claims that the event represented an alternative, Keynesian strategy to boost the
local economy were also criticized for being excessively expensive and unrealistic (The
Economist, July 22, 2010; Financial Times, July 24, 2011, January 8, 2012).
Second, core-periphery criticisms arose, as strong concerns were expressed that the
Olympics would have little meaning or economic benefit for U.K. regions outside
London.10 In Scotland, for example, many politicians and officials from the sport,
tourism, business, and voluntary sectors argued that the Olympic legacy there would
be low or non-existent, while criticizing the diversion of public funding for national
sports and cultural activities into paying for the mega-event in London (Scotsman,
June 19, 2011; Telegraph, April 1, 2012; Herald, January 8, 2012).
Third, national media and wider publics criticized the inequitable distribution of
Olympic-related resources. Olympic elites appeared to commandeer key resources at
the expense of ordinary U.K. citizens. Influential right-wing newspapers such as the
Telegraph and Daily Mail were among the strongest critics of the Olympic Route
Network (ORN): 280 miles of special road measures in and around London, including
30 miles of “Games Lanes,” reserved solely for the “Olympic family” (in effect,
80,000 accredited Olympic VIPs) to the exclusion of normal London traffic. Games
Lanes were quickly derided as “Zil Lanes,” in reference to Moscow traffic lanes
reserved exclusively for Soviet elites.11 Further criticisms centered on unfair and cor-
rupt ways of distributing Olympic event tickets. International sports leaders were
exposed selling tickets on the black market, while Olympic organizers were criticized
for lack of transparency over the public allocation of 11.3 million tickets for events
that were mostly over-subscribed (Sunday Times, June 17, 2012; Telegraph, February
16, 2012; Guardian, February 23, 2012). As the Games began, U.K. media spotlighted
the swathes of empty Olympic event seats, in prime viewing positions, allocated to
sponsors and other “Olympic Family” members who had simply failed to show up
(Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail, July 30, 2012). Shamed into action, Olympic orga-
nizers brought in volunteers and army personnel to fill empty seats, particularly those
most exposed to television cameras. After the Games, U.K. media widely reported an
official review of Olympic ticketing, which revealed the disproportionately large num-
bers of prestige tickets given to the “Olympic Family”; for example, the wider public
received only 44% of tickets for the Opening Ceremony, 43% for some major cycling
finals, 3% for some top tennis fixtures, and 0.12% for one sailing final (Daily Mail,
December 19, 2012; Telegraph, December 19, 2012; Guardian, December 19, 2012).
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106 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
2. Community Complaints: Impacts, Movements, and Costs
Our research encountered a wide range of criticisms and complaints directed at the
Olympics by residents, local politicians, public sector officials, business leaders, and
representatives and members of civil society organizations (e.g., churches, voluntary
agencies, and youth groups). Although not opposed to hosting the Games, most critics
highlighted broken promises and false assurances from Olympic organizers on the
purported local benefits. Three broad criticisms were advanced.
First, a major criticism centered on the Olympics’ lack of local economic impact on
jobs and businesses. One Newham business leader informed us,
The clarion call from the government and the Olympic games people at the start that the
Olympics are going to be the big lift off for local businesses has turned out to be a load
of rubbish . . . The same applies to employment: most Olympic workers are from outside
and coming to live here for a fixed period of time to get the jobs. They aren’t local people.
The unemployment levels in Newham are ridiculously high and the Olympics have had
little or no impact. We are not impressed. We’re appalled by it. (Mike, Newham business
representative, November 2011)
Many local people routinely commented that they knew no one employed on the
Olympic Park construction site. During the Games, many local businesses reported
significant losses in trade, which were blamed mainly on harmful Olympic transport
and brand protection strategies. Transport arrangements ensured that millions of
Olympic spectators and visitors, funneled along specified Olympic travel routes by
thousands of volunteers and security personnel, hardly ever moved into the wider
Stratford and Newham areas. Local traders criticized heavy-handed Olympic authori-
ties for banning advertisements for Newham businesses along specified Olympic routes
and zones. Meanwhile, “scaremongering” (in the words of some local residents) by
Olympic organizers over impending transport chaos in Newham served to dissuade
local people and other potential Olympic visitors from visiting local shops or Olympic-
related events. Thus, it was an eerie experience to walk within a 100 meters of “the
world’s biggest festival” to find sparsely populated streets, shops, restaurants and pubs,
and few signs of Olympic activity beyond blanket policing and road restrictions. Of all
the local businesses that suffered, perhaps the most dramatic losses were incurred by
more than 30 stallholders who had spent up to £27,000 to join a temporary “Olympia
Market” in nearby Leyton, with the promise of up to 40,000 daily visitors; marooned on
a quiet side road, the market attracted hardly any customers and folded after a few days.
Second, households and businesses criticized the adverse local impacts of Olympic-
related redevelopment. The most extreme circumstances involved businesses and
households that received compulsory purchase orders to clear land for construction of
Olympic facilities. One prominent business figure, otherwise supportive of hosting the
Olympics, criticized the unnecessary upheaval:
We had just spent two years building a brand new facility for the business with some grant
funding from the London Development Agency [LDA] and within a year of moving in we
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Giulianotti et al. 107
were told, “You’ve got to move out because that’s where we want to build the Olympic
stadium.” For four years we were fighting a battle, basically because there was a huge gap
between what the LDA were offering us to relocate and what the actual cost of relocation was
. . . So the Olympics was a huge diversion, it was the way it was handled that was the problem
. . . Our focus was taken off our core business and we lost customers, we lost business, we lost
our way. (Marcus, business owner formerly located in Stratford, January 2012)
Most residents on the demolished Clays Lane Estate in Stratford were relocated
into public or social housing; post-move, 39% of former residents believed themselves
to be “worse off,” with 49% considering themselves “better off” (Safe Neighborhoods
Unit, 2008, p. 15). One of the strongest critics viewed the development as part of a
wider Olympian process of dispossession and dissembling:
This is a land grab. It’s about removing from some people what they have and giving it to
some other people, and in the process not adequately compensating those people who have
been deprived of what they had . . .. They go on so much about how they’re supporting
communities and sustaining communities, it’s a sort of mantra, the whole language of
“legacy” and “benefits” is deployed all the time. What really makes you cynical is: you
know that this is just rubbish, when you look at the details then it just falls apart in your
hands. Our experience is that the claims which they were making for what they were going
to deliver, and you might say their ambitions for doing things for local people, just didn’t
add up to anything. (James, activist and former Stratford resident, February 2012)
The largest community adversely affected by Olympic-related redevelopment in
Stratford was the Carpenter’s Estate: built in 1969, largely owned by Newham coun-
cil, directly adjoining the Olympic Park, and earmarked for sale by the local authority
since the mid-2000s. More than half of the 700 households had been “decanted,” in
Olympic authority parlance, but the remainder were left in limbo as a site buyer was
sought. In interviews, local people criticized the lack of information and transparency
from council officials on their futures. Some had formed a protest movement
(Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans), while during 2012, a critical exhibition of
photographs was mounted on the boarded-up windows of one block of flats, capturing
the stress endured by old residents in having to leave their homes.12
Third, a broader set of complaints centered on the everyday Olympic-related costs
incurred by the local community, with few direct benefits. One local community
worker summarized the situation as follows:
People round here have had nothing from the Olympics. They’ve had to live with the dust
and pollution from the building work since 2005—you can’t hang your clothes out to dry
or they get filthy. They’ve had all the noise from the site. They’ve had all the uncertainty
about what happens here afterwards. And they’ve had nothing from it. If the organisers
said, “OK, we appreciate how it’s been here, let’s put a few hundred tickets for different
events into a ballot for the people all round here,” that would be something, but there’s
been none of that. (Angela, Stratford community worker, July 2012)
3. Issue-Specific Community Protests: Environment, Security, and Industry
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108 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
The London Olympics attracted direct protests by community members on three
specific local issues. First, a series of environmental protests were staged against
Olympic-related installations on local public land. At Leyton Marsh, located on the
border between the boroughs of Hackney and Waltham Forest and around two miles
from the Olympic Park, a group of local residents, with backing from the Occupy
movement, sought to block construction of a large, temporary basketball training facil-
ity.13 When the Olympic authorities exercised their legal powers, the protest camps
were forcibly evicted, three protestors were jailed, one received an “Asbo” (anti-social
behavior order) that banned him from Olympic areas, and eviction costs of up to
£335,000 were threatened for any future protestors. One legal ruling in favor of the
Olympic authorities was made by a judge who had tickets for an Olympic basketball
event. One protestor explained to us how their opposition had been intensified through
their perceived maltreatment by political, legal, and Olympic authorities:
Initially we said we’re not against the Olympics, that’s not what we are about. We’re an
environmental group that’s objecting to what’s being done in the name of the Olympics.
But increasingly more of us see that there’s a much bigger agenda, that there’s a whole
international thing . . . I think it tells a story in itself about how just a simple environmental
campaign, from people who don’t want a building in their backyard, suddenly politicizes
a whole group of people and criminalizes them for protesting against it . . . We’ve been
so horrified that this is in the name of the Olympics, and many of us would never have
thought that, this time last year. (Karen, Leyton Marsh protestor, April 2012)14
Further protests centered on the Manor Garden Allotments—a community resource
for more than 100 years, enabling scores of local families to grow vegetables—located
on the proposed Olympic Park site. Tenants were relocated onto land that turned out
to be inadequate, particularly due to waterlogging.15 At Wanstead Flats in Waltham
Forest (a borough adjoining Newham), some residents initiated an unsuccessful cam-
paign against the installation of temporary Olympic accommodation for thousands of
police and horses. At Greenwich Park, in the borough of Greenwich (bordering
Newham), some residents formed the No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrianism
(NOGOE) group to oppose the imposition of Olympic equestrian events on this United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage
Site. Following their Olympic requisition and use for a variety of sporting and security
purposes, large areas of land in both Wanstead and Greenwich were reduced to muddy
fields and remained as such several months after the event.
A second set of local protests centered on Olympic-related security impositions.
We attended one protest by the “Open Our Towpath” campaign that opposed the unex-
pected closure of a popular river towpath along the west side of Olympic Park for
stated security reasons.16 The “Stop the Olympic Missiles” campaign protested against
the installation of surface-to-air missiles on East London apartment blocks during the
Olympics.17 Fieldwork at the sites of two installations revealed residents’ mixed
views: Most were critical but resigned to hosting the missiles; for strong opponents,
the missiles were a severe safety hazard and potential target for attack; yet, a large
minority were either unconcerned, more critical of scaremongering solicitors touting
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Giulianotti et al. 109
for trade, or indeed supportive of the measure as the army and police presence would
curtail local anti-social behavior.
Broader concerns were reported by local young people and civil rights groups on
the local impacts of security impositions. Throughout the Olympics, Newham was
filled with thousands of police officers from across the United Kingdom, resulting in
substantially more police interaction with local young people, particularly in the eve-
ning and at night. Police introduced a dispersal zone in Central Stratford before and
during the Games, with an overnight curfew on young people (under 16s), and empow-
ered officers to disperse groups of two or more people.18 “Stop and search” or “stop
and account” powers were also used by police in Newham, as had been the case over
the previous 2 years. Thus, for many young people, particularly those from ethnic
minorities, the Olympic epicenter in Central Stratford became a forbidding space that
they were dissuaded from accessing.
A third set of campaigns centered on industrial disputes. For example, London’s
“Hackney cab” taxi drivers protested against their exclusion from the designated
“Games Lanes,” discussed earlier; more than 200 taxis brought Central London to a
standstill 1 week before the Games, whereas at a later demonstration, one protesting
driver dived off Tower Bridge into the Thames as a publicity stunt.19 Various civil
service and transport workers also staged protests and threatened strike action during
the Olympic buildup to challenge job cuts and low pay. Most disputes produced nego-
tiated settlements before the Games, but London transport cleaners held several small-
scale demonstrations during the Games, including outside Olympic Park, in pursuit of
a London “living wage.”20
4. “Glocal Protests”: Competing Nations and Sponsors
The Olympics were a focus for “glocal protests” by diverse campaign groups and
social movements. These protests were “glocal” as they centered on global issues
(such as industrial rights in developing nations) while having specific “local” contex-
tualization or application (in this case, with regard to the London Olympics; cf.
Giulianotti & Robertson, 2004, 2012; Robertson, 1992).
Two categories of glocal protest were evident. First, various campaigns against
participating Olympic nations or regions were staged. The most substantial interna-
tional media attention was accorded to “sextremists” from the international Femen
network who staged a topless protest near Tower Bridge in Central London over the
treatment of women by Islamic states participating at London 2012.21 Conversely, on
the last day of the Olympics, a radical Muslim group staged a peaceful demonstration
outside Olympic Park over the treatment of Muslim populations by some nations that
were participating at the Games. Elsewhere, members of the Circassian diaspora dem-
onstrated against the hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics by the Russian resort of
Sochi; campaigners were descendants of the Circassian peoples killed or expelled
from the Sochi area by invading Russians in 1864, exactly 150 years before the 2014
Games. Some demonstrations were isolated from large public gatherings and thus cap-
tured little attention. A Tamil protest camp, drawing up to 150 protestors and includ-
ing one hunger-striker, was stationed on Stratford High Street, a clear distance from
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110 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
major Olympic crowds, to demonstrate against Sri Lankan human rights abuses.
Kashmiri groups also staged low-impact protests along the same road against their
homeland’s control by India and Pakistan.
Second, various social movements developed glocal protests against Olympic spon-
sors. The arising campaigns registered strong forms of opposition toward particular
forms of festival capitalism at the Olympics, with a substantial focus on issues sur-
rounding the environment and human rights. Campaigners contrasted Olympism’s
stated humanitarianism with harmful sponsor practices; a longer-term aim was to
“toxify” these corporations before large audiences and the organizers of future hall-
mark events. Thus, in campaigns, the Olympics’ professed greenness was juxtaposed
with sponsors’ environmental records: For example, Dow Chemical had bought over
Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas-leak disaster in
India, which killed tens of thousands and seriously injured more than 500,000; BP
were responsible for the 2010 oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and had recently
initiated controversial oil extraction in Tar Sands, Canada; and Rio Tinto’s mining
operations were accused of severely damaging developing nations to the extent that
the government-controlled Norwegian Pension Fund had withdrawn all investment in
2008 due to “grossly unethical conduct” (The Guardian, September 9, 2008). Disability
rights groups protested against the Games sponsor role of the French information tech-
nology giant Atos that had been accused of forcing sick and disabled people back into
work as part of its £100 million contract with the U.K. government to help cut welfare
spending. The anti-poverty group “War on Want” publicized exploitative conditions
in Adidas merchandise plants in developing nations. Some media commentators and
opposition groups contrasted the Olympic health and physical activity rhetoric with
the “Olympic world partner” status of fast food corporations such as McDonald’s and
Coca-Cola; even IOC (International Olympic Committee) President Jacques Rogge
had openly pondered these ties before signing further deals up to 2020 (Financial
Times, July 8, 2012).
Some Olympic-centered campaigns unified social movements to strengthen public
impact. For example, the Greenwash Gold campaign amalgamated the Bhopal Medical
Appeal, London Mining Network, and U.K. Tar Sands Network that protested against
BP, Dow Chemical, and Rio Tinto. For other glocal protests, London 2012 was part of
wider or recurring campaigns at sport mega-events. Thus, for example, War on Want
social justice campaigns encompassed football World Cups in South Africa (2010)
and Brazil (2014), and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Underlying these glocal campaigns
was a sophisticated critical social analysis of the Olympics as a form of festival
We’re also looking at the Games in terms of projection of corporate power. So it’s not
just a projection of the state, but also the projection of capital and again the appropriation
of public space by capital . . . So instead of it being Olympic Games which are celebrating
the achievements of humanity and jumping higher, running faster and swimming further
or whatever it is, it’s actually about monopoly capitalism moving in on that space,
excluding those who wish to take part in it, whether it be traders in Cape Town or whether
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Giulianotti et al. 111
it be businesses locally which aren’t allowed to put up things saying “Special Olympic
Offer” on your tea and toast. (Stuart, anti-poverty activist, April 2012)
5. Situationist Spectacles and Neo-Tribal Transgressions
Some of the most striking ways in which different social groups caught wider pub-
lic attention centered on relatively spontaneous and informal forms of protest or trans-
gression in prominent social settings. These types of event took two main forms.
First, there were various acts of transgression by neo-tribal formations. We use the
term neo-tribe in the sense of Maffesoli (1996) here, to refer to relatively loose social
formations and spaces, communities of sentiment and feeling, which arise often in
response to social fragmentation, enabling participants to drift in and out of participa-
tion. The most spectacular incident featured the Critical Mass cycle ride on the eve-
ning of the Opening Ceremony. Critical Mass are a neo-tribal, informal social gathering
of diverse cyclists, which meets monthly in London to cycle an unplanned route in
relative safety; earlier police attempts to closely regulate and potentially ban these
gatherings were rejected by the courts on the grounds that the rides are a “customary”
rather than “planned” procession (The Guardian, November 26, 2008). On this
Olympic occasion, our entire research team watched from the steps of Westfield mall
as around 200 cyclists emerged outside Stratford train station in mid-evening and,
creating a carnival-like spectacle, pedalled around the Stratford area to cheers and
applause from Olympic onlookers. Police vans and officers pursued, intercepted, and
“kettled” the cyclists within a controlled space approximately one mile from the
Olympic Park; 182 participants were arrested under Section 12 of the Public Order
Act, on the grounds that they might “cause serious disruption to the life of the com-
munity” (The Guardian, July 29, 2012). Some of those arrested later claimed that
police had intervened to clear the way for VIPs such as David Beckham to travel to the
Olympic stadium. We understand from senior police sources that the Queen’s car trav-
eled on an overhead flyover as Critical Mass cycled underneath, as both made their
way to Stratford.
Second, various situationist spectacles were created by both formal protest groups
and informal social groupings. The situationists were a group of radical European
theorists, artists, and activists, which was active from the mid-1950s to early 1970s.
The leading situationist theorist, Guy Debord (1970), argued that modern life had
degenerated into a “society of the spectacle” in which individuals were passive “spec-
tators,” as modern social relations were artificially shaped and defined by commodi-
ties, media images, and ideological representations. The situationists indicated that the
media-led spectacle might be exposed or opposed through the staging of satirical,
unsettling, and libertarian actions and situations before public spectators. One situa-
tionist strategy is détournement, which points to both diversion and subversion, and
refers to how commodities and images associated with the spectacle or capitalism may
be adapted or imitated to produce critical or radical messages (cf. Plant, 1992).
Contemporary examples of détournement may include “subvertising” (subversions of
advertising) wherein corporate adverts are adjusted or amended by campaign groups
to produce critical messages on these corporations.
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In the Olympic context, situationist actions may seek to highlight and expose the
festival capitalism that envelopes mega-events. The most striking illustration of
détournement at London 2012 featured the subvertising activities of the campaigning
organization, War on Want, which adapted the adverts of the Adidas brand to include
the anti-sweatshop message “exploitation—not OK here, not OK anywhere”; a
20-meter-high image of this “subvert” was then projected onto a block of flats outside
Olympic Park and viewed by crowds exiting the Olympic Stadium after the men’s 100
meters final.
Other situationist spectacles included Greenwash Gold activists who staged an
impromptu mock award ceremony at Trafalgar Square in Central London, which fea-
tured pretend “officials” from Olympic sponsors being soaked in green custard before
onlookers; a further situationist twist was added when police arrested participants on
the grounds of possible criminal damage, thereby increasing national media interest in
this public action (Guardian, July 20, 2012). Elsewhere, around 50 anti-Dow protes-
tors, wrapped in white shrouds, staged a mass “die-in” outside the Olympic Park to
increase public awareness of the chemical company’s links to the Bhopal disaster.
Two members of the art-anarchist group Love Police performed at the steps to
Westfield mall; one artist, wearing a high-visibility jacket marked “Legal Observer,”
made mega-phone pronouncements on the banality of modern materialism, such as
“Everything is OK” and “Do not waste valuable shopping time.” While packing up,
the artists were provided with future material when an Olympics official approached
and, in all seriousness, warned them to refrain from selling or advertising products on
the concourse.
6. Anti-Olympic Movements and Forums
The two main forums for drawing together anti-Olympic movements and informa-
tion were the Counter Olympics Network (CON) and Games Monitor. CON emerged
in effect in 2012—in part from an earlier movement, the No London 2012 group,
which had opposed the original London bid—and sought to facilitate stronger ties
between diverse Olympic protests and campaigns, primarily through its website and
the publicizing or organizing of demonstrations. Games Monitor has been a long-
standing public resource and outlet for critical research, news, and information on the
The most significant public protest events were the Counter Olympics March and
the Olympic Protest Torch Relay. Both events highlighted the transnational reach and
connectivities of the anti-Olympic movement. We would also argue that both events
represented forms of festival anti-capitalism, in terms of drawing together diverse
groups that shared inter alia substantial opposition to different aspects of Olympic
“festival capitalism,” to produce forms of protest that were socially informal, colorful,
and celebratory. However, both events also highlighted some of the limitations sur-
rounding the mobilization of critics and protestors regarding the Olympics.
First, the relay featured an anti-Olympic torch, handed on by 2010 Vancouver
Winter Olympic protest movements to the London protestors, which was then
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transported around London by teams of cyclists and concluded on the day of the
Olympics Opening Ceremony in a party picnic at Leyton Marsh, attended by around
two dozen protestors.
Second, the next day, the major anti-Olympic demonstration was staged and drew
around 1,000 protestors from a very wide variety of local, national, and international
movements, such as red and green political parties (e.g., Communist Party of Great
Britain, Socialist Party, Socialist Worker Party), environmental movements (e.g., Save
Leyton Marsh, Green Party), residents’ groups in East London, various trade unions,
anti-corporate protest groups (e.g., the Greenwash Gold campaign), arts movements
(e.g., Art Not Oil, Association of Musical Marxists, Reclaim Shakespeare Company),
and broad anti-austerity movements (e.g., Coalition of Resistance, Disabled People
Against Cuts). The demonstration also drew an impressive range of international tele-
vision stations and reporters, although much of the U.K. media, particularly the BBC
(which held exclusive U.K. television rights to the Olympics), were conspicuously
absent. The demonstration route, agreed with police, was well-removed from Olympic
venues and incoming spectators. The closest engagements with Games-related activity
occurred when the demonstration paused at an apartment block where surface-to-air
missiles had been installed. The strongest media images were offered when, as the
demonstration moved through Stratford High Street, three local bystanders unfurled
Olympic flags, provoking a short argument with several protestors; a scrum of photog-
raphers and cameramen rapidly converged around the incident, which soon petered
out. The march concluded at Wennington Green, some 2.5 miles from the Stratford
entrance to Olympic Park, with speeches from participating organizations to around
200 people.
Concluding Comments
In this article, we have sought to advance social scientific understanding of the staging
of sport mega-events with reference to the diverse forms of opposition, criticism, and
complaint that emerge within host societies. There are many reasons why this area of
research is important for sociologists and other social scientists. To summarize, we
may note the following: First, the staging of these expanding, hugely expensive events
is a major public issue for host societies and is therefore a significant subject of
research inquiry; second, there are critical social justice issues to examine here, par-
ticularly in how local communities (often already poor, marginalized, and disenfran-
chised) tend to experience the worst impacts of event hosting; third, this research may
have democratic and political benefits, in revealing significant yet submerged counter-
perspectives, as event hosting otherwise tends to secure cross-party support and media
backing, thereby restricting the scope for dissent and criticism to be aired within the
public sphere; fourth, more broadly, this research registers diverse forms of public
unease and opposition toward the wider commodification of sport, the construction of
“festival capitalism” around major events, and “New Right two-step” policies on
sport-related urban redevelopment and regeneration. We would therefore urge social
scientists to investigate future mega-events by engaging with individuals and social
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114 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
groups within local communities while also exploring the full range of critical stances
toward the hosting of these events.
In studying London 2012, we have endeavored to advance several concepts and an
explanatory model on the Games that may be used to research other mega-events.
First, we introduced the concepts of “festival capitalism” and “New Right two-step”
policies to explain the event’s political economic context. Various public criticisms of
London 2012 were linked to the festival capitalism surrounding the event, notably
regarding the specific choice and ubiquitous celebration of corporate sponsors, the
Olympic mobility system that funneled visitors and spectators into mall shopping, and
the event’s overall public cost. Moreover, several of our research groups and inter-
viewees highlighted in broad terms how public expenditure was being directed to
assist the privatization of urban spaces through the Olympics. Here, we witness the
confluence of the New Right two-step and festival capitalism through the wider priva-
tization of urban neighborhoods: Inspired by the mega-event planning agenda, vast
public expenditure is harnessed, first, to clear the ground, build infrastructure, and
reinvent spatial identity, in order, and second, to draw in primarily private owners,
investors, residents, and consumers. At London 2012, the New Right two-step policies
featured three types of development initiative: First, direct Olympic projects (notably,
the construction of Olympic Park and other venues); second, transnational consumer
projects (specifically, the Westfield shopping mall); and third, broader development
and infrastructure projects (encompassed in one master plan). These three categories
may be used to examine the political economy of urban redevelopment projects that
surround other sport mega-events.
Second, we have sought to advance beyond prior, partial studies of resistant move-
ments at sport mega-events, to examine the full spectrum of critical and oppositional
responses at national and community levels to London 2012. Specifically, we identi-
fied six fields of public opposition, criticism, and complaint:
first, national criticisms, centered on costs, core-periphery issues, and resource dis-
tribution, such as tickets and transport routes;
second, community criticisms, centered on the low impact of the Olympics on local
jobs and businesses (including loss of trade), the negative impacts of redevelop-
ment (such as relocation), and the everyday negative experiences of living in an
Olympic construction area;
third, issue-specific campaigns and protests, centered on the environment, security,
and industrial disputes;
fourth, “glocal” protests, centered on the participation of specific nations and
fifth, neo-tribal acts of transgression and situationist spectacles; and,
sixth, anti-Olympic forums and demonstrations, which offered strong actual and
virtual platforms for different opponents and critics.
In terms of scale, the first two categories here were by far the most substantial: At
both community and national level, primary and secondary data pointed to a large
volume of criticism, ranging from skepticism to opposition, over the hosting of the
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Giulianotti et al. 115
Olympics. In some contrast, Categories 3, 4, and 5 reflected relatively small-scale and
often localized forms of opposition, resistance, and transgression toward different
aspects of London 2012. Overall, these six fields may be applied as a model to exam-
ine critical public responses to the hosting of other mega-events, in sport or
To conclude, we ask whether more substantial or unified political impacts might
have been achieved by the multifarious critical voices at London 2012. In response,
three points might be made that are relevant to this and other events.
First, the individuals and social groups within these six fields were not assembled
into a relatively unified movement. Indeed, the coordination of a collective opposition
movement only came into full effect in 2012, relatively late, as the Olympics were
awarded to London in mid-2005. Overall, the first two fields (national and community
critics) remained relatively separate from the other four fields. Future protest groups
on mega-events might look to bridge this gap; at London 2012, there was common
ground for exploring such links, given wider public and media criticisms on issues
such as “Zil Lanes” and ticket distribution. In addition, some interviewees believed
that the counter-Olympic movement might have engaged more fully with local com-
munity members whose Olympic experiences were relatively negative. As one partici-
pant on the counter-Olympic demonstration commented to us,
It was a bit too focused on abstract things, theoretical things, like corporate power. You’d
get that from a white, middle-class, often older audience which was there, which is fine.
But I can’t see that it offered much connection with local people, with the problems faced
by younger black men round here for example. They could have done more on local
issues, like local policing here. (Natalie, anti-Olympic activist, August 2012)
Second, most Olympic-related protests were the subject of close regulation by
police and typically squeezed out into locations where contact with wider publics,
particularly Olympic-related visitors, was relatively low. For example, the route for
the major anti-Olympic march, and separate protests on Sri Lanka, Nepal, and the
Towbridge footpath, did not come near to Olympic Park or to any large Olympic-
related crowds. This spatial marginalization undermined the engagement of particular
opposition movements with wider publics and the media at London 2012.
Third, we might also consider whether the old, conventional formats of opposition—
public demonstrations, formal organizations—remain the most effective ways of
resisting or challenging festival capitalism. We noted earlier the impact of transgres-
sive actions by neo-tribal movements, as demonstrated by the Critical Mass bike ride
and situationist performances. Alternative strategies might have included working
locally with radical community-based organizations, such as civil rights groups. For
some volunteers in these organizations, greater impact may be demonstrated than on
formal counter-Olympic marches, as one informed us,
I’ve been on plenty demonstrations and marches but I feel like I’m doing something
constructive here. If you go on a march, you can walk around for three or four hours and
make a lot of noise but are you meant to be happy with that? If you put that energy by all
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116 Journal of Sport and Social Issues 39(2)
those people into something direct and constructive you can have a much bigger effect:
you can see the consequences of your activities. (Jenna, anti-Olympics protestor, August
Future sport mega-events and other forms of festival capitalism will continue to
attract diverse forms of opposition, criticism, and complaint. If critical forces are to
enhance their impacts, it is important that they engage fully with a wide cross-section
of critics at community and national levels while also seeking to avoid peripheral
spaces for the location of public protests. More significantly, such opposition groups
might also note the potential of other approaches toward resisting or transgressing
festival capitalism. Spectacular neo-tribal activities, situationist performances, and
engaging with radical community-based organizations all provide ways in which pub-
lic attention might be diverted and captured. At the same time, these practices also
seek to evade, or to mock, or to challenge symbolically, some of the key issues sur-
rounding the hosting of sport mega-events with regard to political economy, security,
and social justice.
We wish to thank the two anonymous journal reviewers and delegates at the 2013 annual confer-
ences of the European Association of the Sociology of Sport in Cordoba and the International
Sociology of Sport Association in Vancouver, for their very helpful and constructive comments
on earlier versions of this article.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article: The research for this article was financed by a grant from the
U.K. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Award Number RES 062-23-2738.
1. For reasons of brevity, it is not possible to provide direct comments, notes, and quotes from
all interviews and fieldwork exercises.
2. See; http://data.; http://;
key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/rft-table-qs803ew.xls; http://data.
3. See
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Giulianotti et al. 117
4. Our thanks to Helen Symons, a research student at Loughborough University, for initially
drawing our attention to potential claims on the Keynesian aspects of hosting mega-events;
on this point, see also Despiney and Karpa (2010) and Financial Times (24 July 2011).
5. See; and
Guardian (November 26, 2013).
6. Club owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, made separate fortunes from ownership of
various adult stores, publishing houses, and film companies.
7. See The Telegraph, January 27, 2011;
8. See
9. The initial £2.37 billion figure that was widely referenced had excluded around £1 bil-
lion in public sector spending on Olympic Park infrastructure and £738 million from the
private sector (National Audit Office, 2007). As Olympic security costs doubled to almost
£2 billion, one parliamentary committee lambasted the event’s poor budgetary planning
(Guardian, March 9, 2012); meanwhile, a senior police officer leading local Olympic secu-
rity preparations reminded us that this figure ignores many other Olympic-related costs
borne by police and other security services (Telegraph, March 9, 2012; field notes, May
10. Our thanks to Roger Penn for recommending that we include this point in our analysis.
11. See Daily Mail (December 28, 2008); one Telegraph (June 6, 2012) columnist sensed a
popular negative reaction from “Londoners who find their city grinding to a halt while the
privileged few take precedence.”
12. See, for example,
13. Occupy is a transnational social movement that protests against social and economic
inequalities, particularly in the context of governmental neo-liberal austerity policies fol-
lowing the post-2007 global economic downturn.
14. See, for example,
15. See, for example,
16. See
17. See
18. These powers are drawn from the Anti-Social Behavior Act 2003, particularly, Section 30.
19. See Telegraph, July 17, 2012, and
20. In 2012, the London living wage was calculated by the Greater London Authority at £8.55,
while the national minimum wage for adults was £6.08.
21. Femen is an international feminist movement, which originated in Ukraine in 2008, ini-
tially to protest against the sexual trafficking of women.
22. See,
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Author Biographies
Richard Giulianotti is Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University, and Professor II at
Telemark University College, Norway. He is the author or coauthor of four books, including
Sport: A Critical Sociology (Polity, 2005) and Globalization and Football (with Roland
Robertson; Sage, 2009). He is author of numerous articles in mainstream and specialist social
science journals. His main research interests are in the fields of sport (especially football),
development and peace, globalization, mega-events, and policing and security.
Gary Armstrong is Reader in the School of Sport and Education, Brunel University. He has
published widely on football and football supporter cultures and the role of sport in arenas of
conflict. His most recent ESRC-funded research project was an inquiry into the policing of the
2012 London Olympics.
Gavin Hales is an independent researcher who at the time of the research reported in this paper
was a research fellow at the University of Essex. His research interests encompass policing and
crime, in particular the policing of local communities, gun crime, drug markets, and police
Dick Hobbs is Professor of Sociology, and Director of the Essex Criminology Centre at the
University of Essex. He is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Western Sydney,
Australia. His main research interests are in urban ethnography, working-class entrepreneur-
ship, professional and organized crime, violence, the political economy of crime, the night-time
economy, and the sociology of East London.
by guest on October 19, 2015jss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Moreover, studies have highlighted the need to critically interrogate Olympic legacy rhetoric, domestic sport policy environments (in this case, Athens circa 2004-2021) and the realities as experienced by those practicing and working within the sport sector (e.g., volunteers and their sport organisations). Within this domain, an established body of research has specifically examined connections between people's (often young children's) participation in sport/physical activity within the context of legacy investment and Olympic Games hosting, and organisations' related efforts to fulfil government agendas to adequately resource associated sport promotion within the city/country (e.g., Carmichael et al., 2012;Girginov, 2012;Giulianotti et al., 2014;IOC, 2017;Kennelly and Watt, 2011). ...
... Differing in focus and scope from previous Olympic host cities legacy efforts, a key part of LOCOG's, 'inspire a generation' approach was the use of strategies capitalising on people's volunteer 'spirit' and perceived proclivities for sport participation (Mahtani et al., 2013;Thornley, 2012;Weed et al., 2012). Beyond London, however, debate persists among academics, the public and political sphere, and within the sport sector, regarding the post-games delivery and the meaningfulness of legacy experiences (Devine, 2013;Giulianotti et al., 2014). ...
Technical Report
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Empowering communities through volunteering is one of the IOC priority fields in fostering the Olympic Games' wider civic contributions. In 2004 Greece hosted the summer Games at a time when volunteering was not widespread or well understood. The Athens 2004 Olympic Games volunteer programme is anecdotally portrayed as the catalyst for the current volunteering bloom in Greece. Legacies of volunteer investment cannot be guaranteed however, and empirical data on the current volunteer, sport-volunteering and wider civil society landscape in Athens and Greece are lacking. Subsequently, this project aimed to revise understanding of the current experiences of civil and volunteer sector stakeholders. It employed a qualitative, mixed-method, research design comprising strategically targeted semi-structured interviews and surveys with 19 civil society professionals and Athens 2004 volunteer programme administrators and participants. Findings reveal that the Athens 2004 Olympic Games was aided by existing sector expertise and resources, eventually encouraged further third sector development in the country, and inspired individuals to continue wider volunteer-related work. Additionally, while broader social, political, economic factors and a lack of post-Games strategy hindered sector development, new collaborative opportunities were also created. Ultimately, these findings provide a critical appraisal and guidelines for enhancing future Olympic volunteer legacies in host cities.
... Beyond that, many of the recommendations are formulated in such a way as to counter the criticism faced by the Paris Games. Literature on the subject for London 2012 makes it possible to identify the wide variety of social and political protest (Giulianotti et al. 2015): absence of forecast economic spin-offs, rehousing and expropriation, infrastructure privatisation, pollution, contradictions between communication on environmental sustainability and large industrial sponsors, and loss of individual freedom in the Olympic neighbourhoods. Yet, the 2020 agenda orients Olympism towards greater sustainability (economic, environment and social), increased integrity (physical and moral) and more gender equality. ...
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Both the promoters of Olympism and the organisers of the Olympic Games regularly employ the term legacy. In this context, the use of education as a tool constitutes an important stake. We have analysed the position of French actors in education with regard to Olympism and the measures implemented. In this respect, we have studied, on the one hand, the texts of the IOC and OCOGs from the 1960s to those concerning Paris 2024, in order to identify the concepts of education. On the other hand, we have focused on the professional texts of Physical Education and Sport (PES) teachers. Finally, in order to complete this analysis, we have examined the contents of projects labelled as part of the “Olympic Class” scheme, designed as one of the main channels for rolling out Olympic education in schools. This study has made it possible to identify the ways in which PES teachers engage in and take ownership of the concept of Olympic education, sometimes to the point of validating its ideological foundations or transforming them. Our study thus ponders the means used to make Olympism a universal subject and demonstrates that, far from offering real pedagogical treatment of Olympic facts, current practices aim rather to form generations of spectators attached to Olympism and guarantee the success of future Olympiads.
... One of the main realms in which political protest is most evident is sport events, where political and/or human rights movements, such as the Black Live Matters or the Climate movement find as a hub to promote their ideals during major national and/or global sporting events (Carney, 2016;Mundt et al., 2018;Galily, 2019Galily, , 2021. Specifically, the issue of sport and protest is evident before mega global sport events such as the Summer Olympic Games and the soccer World Cup, where activists have a chance of promoting their ideas to a large-scale international audience (Giulianotti et al., 2015;Lauermann, 2019). In some cases, the hosts of mega sport events have also been the target of global protest due to their policies (Qi et al., 2009;Horne, 2017). ...
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Toward better understanding the nature of sport global protest, this article examines the profiles of users of the #boycottqatar2022 ( N = 111,172), a global initiative calling to boycott the 2022 World Cup on grounds of Qatar’s alleged breach of human rights. A social network analysis identified that 82% of users of the hashtag were from North America and Western Europe, that 88% of the uses of the hashtag were on Twitter (and a minority on Facebook and Instagram), and that the users’ political inclination was mostly liberal in comparison to random users. Overall, the findings indicate that the hashtag was used almost exclusively by activists from the so-called Global North on the more elitist Twitter platform, thus portraying a picture as an act of the global elite rather than a truly inclusive and overarching global initiative. We discuss further theoretical and practical implications of the findings.
Recommendations are a high form of community consultation, but rarely solicited in surveys of resident attitudes despite their potential to better inform planning and foster stronger event loyalty in an era of mega-event crisis. This paper innovates by identifying and structuring open-ended recommendations for the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games from host region residents 10 years prior to that mega-event. From an online survey of 897 respondents, 946 discrete recommendations for event “success” were organised through thematic analysis into high level “event,” “community” and “organiser” themes. In the emergent community vision for the Games derived from these themes, host city residents aspire for efficient, affordable, and authentic Games that benefit and involve the host community and learn from the past. The vision’s focus on resident self-interest is unsurprising but challenges event organisers to accommodate the interests of multiple stakeholders. The aspiration for a sustainable community, nevertheless, is conducive to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and complements recent IOC reforms and the official 2032 Games Vision which call for greater responsiveness to host community interests. Under a framework of soft transformative governance, facilitating micro-transformations should ensure that marginalised groups are heard and their aspirations integrated into early mega-event planning.
In ihrer nun über 100-jährigen Geschichte haben sich die Olympischen Spiele zu einem wesentlichen und einflussreichen Bestandteil der Sportwelt entwickelt. Die Bedeutung der Olympischen Spiele und der Olympischen Bewegung geht allerdings weit über den Kontext des 16-tägigen Sportfests hinaus; sie werden geprägt durch eine enorme ideologische, strukturelle, gesellschaftliche, wirtschaftliche, ethische und politische Komplexität. Einige Kernelemente und Entwicklungsprozesse des Kulturphänomens der modernen Olympischen Spiele werden hier einführend dargestellt. Dabei werden historische und gegenwartsbezogene Zusammenhänge thematisiert und mit Handlungsleitlinien des Internationalen Olympischen Komitees (IOC) verwoben. Dieser Beitrag ist Teil der Sektion Geschichte des Sports, herausgegeben vom Teilherausgeber Michael Krüger, innerhalb des Handbuchs Sport und Sportwissenschaft, herausgegeben von Arne Güllich und Michael Krüger.
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There is no shortage of sociological research that explores the successes and failures of various sport-related social movements. However, a more capacious approach to understanding the significance of sport-related social movements, their imaginative actions and collective labor, and their impacts on social change, is one that shifts its focus away from binary categories of “success” and “failure”. In this paper, we explore the formation of the short-lived Edmonton Community Benefits Coalition, which emerged in 2016 to oppose the lack of a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement associated with a new publicly financed National Hockey League arena in Edmonton’s gentrifying city center, an area of spatially concentrated racialized poverty. Drawing from our ethnographic research, we examine how coalition members engaged in the collective labor of building solidarity, including the collaborative development of political strategies, while recognizing that the odds of successfully penetrating neoliberal capital and municipal governance were virtually impossible. Finally, given that the coalition ultimately “failed” to secure more significant institutional impacts, we offer an analysis of how this failure engendered several effects, including the cultivation of new relationships and political strategies in the ongoing struggle against gentrification and its related displacements in Edmonton, Alberta.
Mega-events appear to be losing their appeal as tools for urban development. Events have long been funded by local governments on the promise that they can act as a catalyst for economic growth. But constituents and leaders are questioning that approach, disrupting the relationship between municipalities and global sports institutions. These political shifts are analyzed with a comparative study of Olympic planning and urban politics in American cities, from the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics to present-day preparations for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics (during this period, Olympic planning also occurred in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Salt Lake City). The paper examines the development, mobility, and contestation of an “LA model” of mega-event planning, which emphasizes municipal fiscal conservativism, and which has provided a political rationale for city leaders to invest in mega-events. The travels of the model illustrate the evolving role of mega-events in the political economy of entrepreneurial cities.
Attracting capital: The case of the Olympic Games In 2024, Paris will once again host the summer Olympic Games, a century after they were last held there. Behind the flame and the five interlocking rings, a complex logistic, economic, and political operation is at play, whose organization requires seven years of preparation and several billion euros of funding.
For the second time in history, England was announced as the host for the 13th edition of the UEFA Women's Euro by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). This study aims to analyse media coverage and public opinion of England's host bid and the country's choice as hosts of the UEFA Women's Euro 2022. This research was based on a content analysis of the English newspapers The Guardian, The Sun, and The Times regarding the media, and the social media Twitter to analyse public opinion. After applying filters, we analysed 65 news reports and 480 Twitter interactions. Thus, investigating these two different views on the same subject, we noted a relative consonance of positions: expectations for the organisation of the tournament, the success of the English team and the development of women's football, and criticism of the regional distribution of the games and the use of modest stadiums.
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Written from the contrasting yet complementary perspectives of sociology and philosophy, this book explores the far-reaching ethical consequences of the runaway commodification of sport, focusing on those instances where commodification gives rise to morally undesirable consequences. The authors consider three main areas of concern for participators and observers alike: the corrosion of the core meanings and values of sport, the increasing elitism of access to sporting commodities, and the undermining of social conditions that support sporting communities. Unique in its focus on the ethical dimension of the powerful economics of today's sport, this book will be of interest, not only to those in the fields of sports studies and ethics of sport, but also to academics, researchers and students in philosophy of morality, sociology, and the ethics of globalization as viewed through the ultimate globalized phenomenon of modern sport. © 2007 Adrian Walsh and Richard Giulianotti. All rights reserved.
This paper develops our prior work to examine how glocalization may be applied to examine Asian sport. We begin by discussing the different usages of glocalization in social science, and the role of Asian scholars in developing and applying the term. We set out our sociocultural understanding of glocalization, notably drawing on Robertson's work and our subsequent conception of the "duality of glocality". We examine critically the arguments of Ritzer and Connell on glocalization and globalization more generally. We consider in detail how the study of glocalization processes in Asia may be most fruitfully developed with reference to four fields of research inquiry. We conclude by discussing the connection of glocalization theory to debates on localism and localization, civilizations, and multiple modernities.
This paper examines the politics of mobility which surrounded the London 2012 Olympics. We provide a critical discussion of the mobility conflicts, problems and criticisms which emerged from our research with local people in the Stratford and wider Newham areas of London, where most Olympic events were located. The paper is divided into four broad parts. First, we identify and discuss the relevant components of the ‘mobilities paradigm’ in social science which underpin our analysis. Second, we briefly outline our research methods, centring particularly on fieldwork and interviews with different social groups. Third, we examine in detail the six main themes of mobility politics which were evident at London 2012, relating to social context, event construction, event mobility systems, commercial mobilities, the mobile politics of exclusion, and contested modes of mobility. In doing so, we seek to extend the mobilities paradigm by introducing various concepts and keywords – notably on the three-speed city, entryability, mobility panics, instrumental mobility, and corporate kettling – which may be utilized by social scientists to examine mobility systems in other social contexts. We conclude by reaffirming the significance of mobility-focused research at sport and other mega-events, and by indicating future lines of inquiry for social scientists.
This article traces the emergence of security at the Olympic Games as a key concern of host governments and of the Olympic movement and analyses the implications of this heightened concern for the delivery of the Games, the local host community and for national security policy. It is argued that the Olympic Games, as a high profile media event, provide an increasingly attractive political opportunity structure for a range of political actors—an attraction that is intensified when the Games are held in a world city such as London. Since the 9/11 attacks in New York there has been a sharp increase in security expenditure for the Olympic Games, arguably significantly out of proportion to the likely risk. The cost of security has risen from approximately $108 million in 1996 (Atlanta) to an estimated $1.99 billion in 2012 (London). It is argued that the period since 2001 has been characterized by hyper‐insecurity and a culture of intense risk aversion based not on probability but on the possibility of attack. Among the consequences of this development is a desensitization of host nations to the increased securitization of their cities. It is also argued that the impact on the local UK host community of Newham will be significant not only as a result of the intense level of policing, but also owing to the redevelopment associated with the Games and the use of the surveillance infrastructure to create a virtual gated community in the post‐Games athletes' village. The article concludes by discussing some of the longer‐term implications of the increased securitization of the Olympic Games, including the normalization of intense surveillance, the further encroachment on civil liberties and the growing tension between the values espoused by the Olympic movement and the reality of a successful delivery of the Games.
The 2010 Winter Olympics initially encountered not only scepticism on the part of local critics concerning the levels of public expenditure on the Games and protests by anti-globalisation activists but also the death of a Georgian luger during a training-run crash on the first day. This tragic event and a number of other logistical difficulties fuelled international criticism of the Games that sparked consternation within the host community and across Canada. This paper examines how nationalistically charged responses to these criticisms were evoked and enacted through the creation of officially encouraged street activities on the streets of downtown Vancouver. Attention is given here to the ways in which those who garbed themselves in various forms of Olympic paraphernalia and took to the streets became active participants and featured performers in an informally choreographed undertaking to transform the Games into an experiential and mediated ‘success’.
Within this article, I focus on a number of productive scholarly avenues to which sociological analysis of London 2012 might want to attend. Understanding major sporting events – and thus the Olympic Games – as inextricably entangled with the media-industrial complex, I suggest London 2012 as a commodity spectacle that will emphasize gleaming aesthetics, a (sporting) city and nation collapsed into (simple) tourist images, and the presentation of a particular expression of self within the logics of the global market. In so doing, and by peeking behind the seductive, corporate-inspired veil of material and symbolic regeneration, image, strategy and legacy, we, as a field, can ask crucial questions about whose histories, whose representations and which peoples matter to, and for, the sporting spectacle.