Introduction: Sports Mega-Events, Sustainable Development and Civil Societies
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On 24 March 2008, at Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, a ceremony was held to mark the quadrennial ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch. The event itself promised added value as a media spectacle for reasons beyond the symbolism of Olympic pageantry. The Olympic host nation, China, was subject to widespread criticism for its human rights record in general, and its violent repression of protest in Tibet in particular; the global media were expecting to capture the possible hijacking of the day’s events by pro-Tibet campaigners. A year earlier, Greece had experienced the most devastating forest fires in its modern history; the last-minute salvation of the world heritage site of Olympia, as the flames had already entered the site, provided an opportunity for the Greek government to demonstrate the country’s symbolic survival. Notwithstanding the extensive security operation that was mounted on the day by the authorities, three members of the Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) managed to evade security and disrupt the speech of BOCOG (Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games) president (and Beijing Communist Party Secretary) Liu Qi and were arrested as they were about to unfurl a banner representing the Olympic Rings as handcuffs. Greek and Chinese state media acted promptly: live television coverage suddenly cut away to carefully selected footage of the ancient landscape. No footage of the incident was shown in the live transmission by either the Greek or Chinese state-run TV channels. ‘If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so’, Reporters sans Frontières said in a statement.
KeywordsCivil Society Olympic Game Civil Society Organization Civic Response Football Association
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