Olympic Games & the Cultural Olympiad

I have been conducting research on the Olympic Games cultural dimension since 1999, focusing on the Cultural Olympiad or official Olympic Arts Festivals. I have conducted fieldwork on every single Summer and Winter Olympic Games host since Sydney 2000. From 2004 to 2010, I acted as academic observer and advisor to the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and in 2011 I was appointed to conduct its Legacy Evaluation. Between 2008 and 2013, I have also been a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Grant Advisory. Since 2015, I have been invited as external expert to act as member of the IOC Culture and Olympic Heritage Commission.

Reflections on my Olympic research are regularly published within Culture @ the Olympics [http://www.culturalolympics.org.uk ].

Find below an overview of the main Olympic Games related projects I am conducting or I have completed to date.

Current projects

Paris 2024

Paris 2024 | Beyond Pandemics… What future for the Cultural Olympiad?

Completed projects

Tokyo 2020

  • Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad (2016-2021) This project started with observations at the launch of the four year Cultural Olympiad programme and evolved into 2019, with final preparations towards the Olympic year. With the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games in to 2021, the research opens new questions as to the capacity for Olympic cultural programmes to retain relevance, be used during the interim period or risk being placed in the back burner.
  • See: A series of essays responding to the postponement announcement in 2020.
  • See all Tokyo 2020 stories

Pyeongchang 2018

Pyeongchang 2018 Cultural Olympiad vs Culture 2018 | Balancing Korean & Olympic narratives for culture  (2018)

This project followed on the research framework I have developed over 18 years and in 11 Olympic host cities during Games time. The main focus was exploring how the cultural needs and aspirations of the local host balanced out with the universal ‘Olympic culture’ aspirations of the International Olympic Committee and its dedicated Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage.

Rio 2016

Brand image of Brazil in the wake of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (2016-2017)

Project funded by a British Academy Newton Fund, involving a collaboration with the University of Sao Paulo, as well as inception funding from Brazilian communication agency Aberje. This research will enable detailed analysis of national and international narratives of Brazil and its two main urban hubs, Rio and Sao Paulo, as hubs for creativity and artistic innovation. The research asks the question: have the Olympic and Paralympic Games contributed (or hindered) the portrait of Brazil as a creative nation?

London 2012

Beijing 2008

Cultural programming at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (2008 )

Research funded by the Universities’ China Committee in London. This project involved working as an embedded journalist within the Non-Accredited Media Centre at the Beijing Games and field observations of the various 2008 Olympic Arts Festivals and fringe cultural activities in the city during Games time.

Sydney 2000

  • Analysis of the programming, management and promotion of the Sydney 1997-2000 Olympic Arts Festivals (1999-2002) – Research supported by a Mobility Grant by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), an Olympic Research Grant by the Olympic Studies Centre at the UAB, and grants by the International Olympic Academy and the Olympic Museum –International Olympic Committee. The research results have been incorporated in my PhD Thesis, ‘Towards a Cultural Policy for Great Events’ and will be published within a monograph by Routledge in 2009.

Comparative Olympic City & Global Cultural Policy

[Image | IOC (2021) Olympic Agora banner, covering IOC-led initiatives linking art, culture and sport]
  • Building cultural bridges between Olympic cities and the Olympic Movement (2015-2017) – Project funded by an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Advanced Research grant, involving fieldwork during the Rio 2016 Games and in Tokyo in the lead to the 2020 Olympic Games. The focus is on assessing the impact of the first Olympic Cultural Action Plan on opportunities for greater visibility and understanding of the Games cultural and artistic dimensions. This research aims to contribute to the Olympic cultural programme documentation process and subsequent transfer of knowledge, as well as raise questions about the complexities of developing sustainable cultural policy frameworks in the Olympic city.
  • From Athens 2004 to London 2012: the contribution of non-accredited media centres to the Olympic Games host city (2004, in collaboration with Andy Miah, University of the West of Scotland) – Research funded by the British Academy. The project involved one month of field-work in Athens during the Olympic sport competitions (August 2004). This project had led to the creation of the specialist magazine Culture @ the Olympics. [View Research Summary | Research Diary]
  • Cultural Policy of the Olympic Movement. A review of cultural agendas and structures at the International Olympic Committee (2001) – Funded by the Postgraduate Research Grant Programme 2000 of the Olympic Museum and Olympic Studies Centre, International Olympic Committee.