chapter  16
14 Pages

Watched by the Games: surveillance and security at the Olympics


The Olympic Games stands alone as the world’s greatest sporting spectacle. While in terms of spectatorship, both live and virtual, it may be outgunned by its nearest rival, the Football World Cup, as a sporting spectacle it is peerless. World Cups are awarded to nations whereas the Olympics are hosted by cities. The Games bring together the widest range of sports in (more or less) a central location and, unlike Football World Cups, the Olympics capture the attention and fire the imagination of the largest and most diverse world spectatorship. Moreover, largely of its own making, the Olympics are rich in symbolism, rooted in largely Westernised, liberal democratic traditions but susceptible to manipulation by nationalist political ideologies. The Olympics are supposed to ‘stand for something’ and thus they present something to stand against. As such, Olympic events are targeted by a range of individuals and groups as sites for non-violent political protest and – the primary focus of this chapter – domestic and international terrorism.