Tag Archives: Olympics

The sociology of sport

There are many things to love about Melbourne: its cultural activities, its coffee, its food, its parks. But one that I am going to really enjoy while I am here is its obsession, and that is the word, with sport. It proudly stakes its claim as the only city in the world to have both a Tennis Grand Slam and a Grand Prix. This weekend I went to a rugby union match on Friday, an Australian Rules football match on Sunday and I could have gone to Rugby League on the Saturday, if another Melbourne stalwart – incredibly changeable weather – hadn’t been threatening. The UCI track world championships were held here in 2012 and may be again next year, and there are two football teams. When you wander down Olympic Boulevard, you have the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Cricket Ground and AAMI Rectangular (Yes! Rectangular!) Stadium, all fantastic venues, within a few hundred metres of each other.

Given my own interest in sport – watching, not doing – it was good to combine it with my research interests today.  I was giving the first presentation of my graduate career, as part of my  elective course for this semester, which is called Mobility, Culture and Communication. The course is predominantly a sociological assessment of the what, how and why of mobility in the contemporary world and how that affects and is affected by issues of culture and communication. For the presentation, we have to choose a site and analyse it in terms of the themes of the course.

I took as my site the London 2012 Athletes’ Village which I had the privilege to work in during the 2012 Games. I was looking at how the athletes and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) bring a sense of identity to the village, and how the organising committee works to create a sense of community in that same space. Here’s the presentation on Slideshare.

What I found really interesting while researching the issues I wanted to cover was that almost nothing has been written about the sociology, or even the social science aspects, of Olympic Villages. Lots about environmental management, engineering etc, but next to nothing about the people that inhabit the space. There is more about the sociology of sport in general (searching Google Scholar for “gentrification of football” throws up quite a long list) but even then, given the cultural and social importance of sport in so many societies, especially the one I currently live in, you’d think it would be more of a thing. Have I discovered my niche?

Back to reality

Wasn’t it wonderful? This great British summer of sport and culture and more? I played my own very small part in it, as a volunteer during the Olympics. I didn’t get to stand with a big pink foam hand – rather I was in the Athletes’ Village, helping with transport information.

But now it’s over and we have to get back to normality. We’ve got a lot coming up including the European Day of Languages, the Mock Council simulation day (and here’s an interesting paper on the value of simulations as a teaching aid) and Single Market Week, marking 20 years of the single market.

12-16 November is Internet Week Europe, a festival of digitalness around the Lovie awards which recognise the best of the web in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. This isn’t organised by the Commission or EU, but obviously the idea of the multilingual web is interesting and so I thought it would be good to do European Multilingual Blogging Day 2012 in association with them. Hopefully it’ll be the biggest and best yet! If you’re interested in taking part, sign-up with the form, so that I can curate all the different entries. On 14 November, write your blog in a different language, or get a guest blogger in to do so. Write about whatever you want, though if you’re not sure where to start, maybe something about what languages mean to you might be a good place to start. I hope we’ll get lots of you taking part!

One Way Ticket?

There’s been a bit of grumbling about the putative ticketing policy for the 2010 [doh! that should of course be 2012] Olympics, with claims that tickets can’t be reserved for Londoners because of the EU’s competition policy. It’s kind of ironic, for several reasons.

1) The full ticketing policy hasn’t even been announced yet.

2) The EU policy being referred to is based on complaints from previous big sporting occasions around Europe, where fans, including from the UK, have complained that they were discriminated against buying tickets for events such as the European Championships, or the World Cup.

3) A number of tickets are reserved for “the Olympic family” whatever that means – a reservation that appears to have been 40% in Sydney. I think that and the issue of agencies buying up tickets will be a much bigger problem than Europe-wide rules on access – and in the case of the agencies, they’d get the tickets even if there were a UK-only allocation.

Reading the comments on the BBC article about this, some very good points are made about how exactly competition law would affect this. I’m checking out the validity of some of those points and will add something when I find that out.

I live in what will be an Olympic borough (Greenwich) and I look forward to going and watching archery and shooting and modern pentathlon and whatever else will be there, and I suspect that I won’t be fighting with hordes of people over from France or Portugal or wherever. Certainly my experience at the Rugby World Cup in France in 2007 was that the overwhelming majority of spectators were from France. But I really appreciated the fact that I could book my tickets from Belgium, with no problem.

I hope I’m wrong, but let’s remember this discussion if and when there are negative media stories about empty seats at Olympic events…

Silly season

There’s been a story doing the rounds a bit during “silly season” that’s actually pretty interesting. It all comes from a piece in the Sunday Times about how there is a dearth of quality English native speaker translators and interpreters in the European institutions. While there may be some nuance that was missed, the article has started a more general reflection on UK language skills. A recent report shows a dramatic decrease in numbers studying French and German. Having said that, there do still seem to be a lot of people taking languages as a module. That’s the route I took – one language at A-level, one improved during my year off and both taken as modules in another type of degree. But I do believe that having languages at my disposal greatly improved my employability. Certainly in terms of the jobs I got while I was at university – shops in touristy areas in London, marketing, English language schools: all using my languages. Never mind the fun you get meeting new people, going to new places and surprising people by being a Brit that can talk something other than English. Given the importance of multilingualism to the European Union, it’s an issue we take an interest in, even if we don’t have any direct involvement. And we provide support to those that promote language learning, with the UK doing pretty well there, as recent awards show.

Hasn’t it been great watching the Olympics! I was looking forward to the Velodrome since the Commonwealth Games, where we gave a real hint of what was to come. And boy they didn’t disappoint. Just amazing, and also displaying real form for the future, with lads like Ross Edgar and Jason Kenny. I just feel so bad for Cav and I hope his four stages of the Tour will compensate to some extent for missing out. And then the sailors, swimmers, rowers, runners, jumpers, riders and kayakers…so exciting. And hopefully there’s more to come! I love the chance to watch the sports that don’t usually make it to the screen, which is why I can’t really get excited about the football and tennis – they have their chance. The Olympics for me is about archery, weightlighting, fencing, modern pentathlon and all the other sports that people around the world are dedicating themselves to, not for money or fame, but because they love it and they get a buzz from being good at it.

Enjoy the silence

*weird, this got caught in the out tray. Still, here it is for the record*

Sorry for the long break – I was in France for a few days for my father’s 60th birthday, then Brussels sorting out moving all my belongings out of the house there and into the one here. The stuff arrives on Friday this week, so that will be a few days of graft getting it all out of boxes. Moving is a great time to clean up your life a bit and there were 35 bags of rubbish outside my house on Wednesday – most of them recycling bags I hasten to add. I’ve also got loads of stuff that I’m trying to give away to the Sally Army or something, if I can arrange for someone to pick it up. Got to go back one more time for the final tour through the house and transfer of utilities meters, but I’ll be staying with Abi (and my cats) then, as I was the few days I was back this week.

Abi stayed with me in Balham on Friday and we had a really nice night (watched Little Miss Sunshine, which is absolutely hilarious!). Saturday I met Hannah, someone I knew in Brussels, and some of her friends and we had a great day – late lunch at Tate Modern, drink at the Oxo Tower, then joined in a trance party on the river beach by the South Bank! We ended up in the ICA bar, which was great. Sunday I just watched Olympics for most of the day, which is no hardship with Team GB going so well. I’ve particularly been enjoying the velodrome, as always – how crazy are the events there??!! Just looking forward to seeing what else our lads and lasses can achieve!

So back in work, and as is usual in August, it’s all very quiet. Actually August is even quieter here than it is when you stay in Brussels, or maybe I’ve just always chosen bad summers to stay! Let’s see what happens…!