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Olympic impacts: global impacts

Satellite image of Earth [8KB]The Olympics is a perfect example of how an event that takes place in one location can have local, national and global impacts.

'We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil" Adlai Stevenson, 1965 – speech to the UN

The concept of a spaceship earth is a popular metaphor for helping us to understand the interconnectivity of our planet. It emphasises that we are all dependent on the same resources no matter which part of the planet we inhabit, and suggests that even the trivial things we do in our daily life can have repercussions for someone living thousands of miles away. For example, the wooden table we buy in the local store may have come from an ancient forest thousands of miles away.

In this technological age, globalisation can also have indirect and less physical impacts. Through television, radio and internet, messages and ideas can be projected to millions around the world.

Limited resources

No matter how green the Olympics aim to be, the creation of any new infrastructure requires natural resources. Over-use of natural resources is central to the sustainability debate and therefore central to the greening of the games.

Creating a global conscience

In an age of mass media, the Olympics provide a unique platform for global consciousness to be raised. In the run up to the Games and for an intense four week period during the event, the eyes of the world are fixed on the host city. Organisers can use this opportunity to showcase controlled images of the host city, or to spread carefully crafted messages. At the same time protesters can use the Olympic stage to try to create their own consciousness shift. The Games therefore provide a perfect platform for a sustainability agenda.

Since green thinking became mainstream, host cities have tried, with varying degrees of success, to present their city as an exemplar of environmentalism. These attempts are then internalised and become the norm.

Even when the host city fails to create a successful environmental image an unintentionally positive greening effect may occur. The coverage of the air pollution at the Beijing Olympics was widespread, and the global public reaction was such that China closed its polluting factories.

The role of global cooperate giants

Olympic sponsorship is a multi-million pound industry with global companies battling for a deal with the IOC in the knowledge that for four weeks their brand will be at the forefront of the global media and will reach millions around the world. For the few companies who are part of the Olympic Partner Programme (TOP) this unique marketing opportunity comes every two years as sponsorship for both the winter and summer games is negotiated. Along with the TOPs, each year a select few multinationals are chosen to support the Games. From an environmental point of view it is essential that these companies share the concern for a sustainable event, and the Olympic Charter now provides moral leverage to ensure that these companies assess and affirm their green credentials. Nevertheless, certain tensions imposed by the profit imperative remain.

The Olympic Partners (TOPs)

  • Coca Cola
  • Atos
  • Acer
  • GE
  • McDonalds
  • Panasonic
  • Samsung
  • Visa

Getting started with the BL collections

Fuller, R Buckminster ( Richard Buckminster) Operating manual for spaceship Earth.  London: Feffer & Simons, [1969]. 
London reference collections shelfmark:  X.529/11536

DS shelfmark: AL69/725

Ferrand, Alain et al.  Routledge handbook of sports sponsorship: successful strategies London : Routledge, 2007. 
London reference collections shelfmark:    SPIS344.099

DS shelfmark: m06/41350

Stevenson, Nicholas. The transformation of the media: globalisation, morality, and ethics London: Longman, 1999. 
DS shelfmark: 99/28725

Stiglitz, Joseph E. Globalization and its discontents London: Allen Lane, 2002

London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2006.a.11377

DS shelfmark: m02/36782

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