Click here to skip to content > Sport & society home > Explore social sciences > Sport & life > Mega-events > Counter-culture


World Outgames pillars [10KB]

Olympic ceremonies are intended to invoke a sense of community spirit at several levels, from the local to the international, and to demonstrate that certain universal values – in this case the celebration and enjoyment of sporting excellence – underpin global culture. However, there are those who dissent from the prevailing view, and they may seek to present an alternative mega event which mirrors but also challenges the traditions of the Olympic Games. There have been a number of attempts to create an 'alternative' Olympics since the modern Games began, most notably the Gay Games and the 'Worker Olympiads'.

The Gay Games started life as the Gay Olympics before a lawsuit in 1982 prevented its organisers from using this designation. Its founder Dr Tom Waddell had originally modelled many of its ceremonies on the Olympic Games, including having a torch relay, a parade of athletes and an oath, but these ideas had to be abandoned in the face of the American Olympic Committee’s claim to ownership of Olympic terminology and customs. Waddell’s vision of an inclusive and non elitist Lesbian and Gay sports community continues, as do the issues raised by his struggle with the AOC. These are described by Caroline Symons and Ian Warren in an article called 'David v Goliath' which was written for the Entertainment & Sports Law Journal in 2006. Read the full article by clicking on the link in 'Research Articles'on the right.

The Worker Olympiads flourished in the interwar years (at times challenging the 'real' Olympics in terms of attendances and success) and were championed by a loose confederation of socialist sporting organisations across Europe. Communist groups, backed by the Soviet Union, also created Olympics-type events in the form of the Spartakiads. Such events represent - in part - an attempt to widen the concept of the sporting mega event to demonstrate inclusiveness rather than the celebration of the elite athlete.

Getting started with the British Library's collections

See the mega-events bibliography for resources held here.

Help us to provide a research legacy for the London Olympics

Find out more

Research articles

The links below are to Adobe PDF files. Accessibility solutions and free Reader software are available from Adobe.

David v GoliathPDF file

Related external resources

Goodwill Games

Social sciences at the British Library

Find out more