“Those who think that sport has nothing to do with politics are living in a dream world.” Lord Carrington, 1980, Foreign Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s Government
I inhabit the contested spaces between influential boosterists, who have forced the pace of these local transformations, and critics of neoliberal urban entrepreneurialism. (Download From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: The transformation in urban governance in late capitalism, David Harvey, 1989.) A mode of governance that informs the uncertain outcomes of various recent built forms of capital investment which materialise their rental values (the spatial fix). (David Harvey, 2001) download pdf. I started with the simple idea of making a book of photographs which would act as a commentary upon this complex drama of spatial determination to be played out where I live.
I have previously worked within a predominantly socialist tradition of documentary photo-reportage which starts with a question. What is the story? I realised with the recent arrival of broadband internet on my desk I had a means of answering a significant part of that question without stirring from my chair. I could also conduct my inquiries by talking to people in my new neighbourhood I had yet to meet.
I started from a position of great ignorance about Olympic Games. My attitude centred upon several ideas. I am a physically active person who had eagerly played a variety of sports, including athletics, at school and who enjoys riding a bicycle. However I find watching athletics on television boring. Knowing that I live in one of the most economically and socially deprived areas of the country the Olympics project at first seemed like a useful source of development finance for the East End.
I am driven by a curiosity which focuses around the problem; How can this situation be described and what are its dynamics? Realising that the Olympic project centred around people creating propaganda for ideas which would alter the future of my locality I thought a good place to start would be by looking at how previous Olympics had fulfilled their promises.
After about six months of online research and talking to others inquiring into this project, I had become a member of a local group who set up a website called Games Monitor. One of the members, Julian Cheyne, then stumbled upon a most interesting document The Role of Mega-events in urban competitiveness and its consequences on people, Carolina del Olmo, (2004). (Download from Games Monitor). It still stands as one of the most useful brief accounts of the political economy of how these projects function.
“Urban spectacles are also used to aestheticise local politics. As Walter Benjamin rightly noted, aesthetics can easily turn an unsavoury political agenda into an intoxicating spectacle. Urban spectacles and mega-events can therefore have an important depoliticizing effect by draining politics out of the urban arena, thereby averting political controversy and dwarfing political defiance from the local population.”
Anne-Marie Broudehoux, The Making and Selling of Post-Mao Beijing, p148, (2004)