chapter  10
‘Legacy’ as Managerial/Magical Discourse in Contemporary Olympic Affairs
ByAffairs John J. MacAloon
Pages 12

The appearance in 1996 of the third and final volume of the official centennial history

of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was a watershed marker of the organization’s new, if somewhat grudging willingness to have its own composition

and internal memory publicly inspected. [1] Subsequently, the scandal surrounding the Salt Lake City bid process and the consequent Olympic reform effort greatly accelerated this development, creating a much broader public awareness of the

structure and functioning of the IOC. [2] A new emphasis on administrative efficiency and transparency under the ensuing Jacques Rogge regime has extended a

self-proclaimed ‘world’s best practices’ style of management outward from the IOC itself to relations with Olympic bid and organizing committees and a wide variety of

other stakeholders. [3] On the scholarly front, as led by the work of Olympic policy expert Jean-Loup Chappelet, an insightful professional scholarship on this new IOC

governance has now appeared. [4] A number of IOC insider memoirs have also indicated (albeit in a more tendentious fashion) that these new managerial styles and

practices were already being forwarded in the commercial marketing and broadcast

rights arenas, though in a fashion generally less visible to public scrutiny because of corporate contractual secrecy. [5] One thing that did become only too apparent

within IOC corridors and in public discussions of these external Olympic commercial relations was the appearance of the transnational marketing language of ‘brand’,

‘brand value’, and ‘brand management’ during this period. The underlying purpose of this paper is to remind us of how patterns of

organizational discourse are sensitive indicators of changing institutional arrangements and shifting power relations among stakeholders. As a very broad scholarly

literature has long since demonstrated, organizational discursive routines are powerful modes of social control as well. To properly get at them requires an ethnography of speaking, that is, the recording and analysis of speech in its lived

context. Interpretation of published or unpublished documents alone, even a properly semiotic analysis, can never get at the full range of meanings apparent only

in the social contexts of speaking. [6] In this paper, I present a partial ethnography of ‘legacy’ speech in Olympic circles today, that is, of talk about what the Olympic

Games bring and leave behind. I analyse its contribution to the continued penetration of managerial rationality into Olympic affairs, through what I describe

as the magical properties of legacy discourse in attaining in a very short time a crossfunctional, cross-contextual, transnational hegemony denied even to Olympic brand

speech in its heyday.