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No Olympus without Ares: security expressions of first-class global citizenship

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Hilary Powell.

The Olympics have become a point of security exceptionalism, wherein perceptions of danger are greater than normal and so the normal means of public security provision are greatly expanded. In contrast to the self-evidence with which the urgencies of Olympic threats are normally presented, we seek to denaturalise the claim to exceptionalism and highlight some of the underlying social valuations that contribute to the state of alarm that surrounds the Olympics. The disparity between an Olympic security event and normal security measures deployed against threats to equally vulnerable assemblies of large numbers of people connotes an ‘Olympic difference’: the social designation of the Olympic Games as a special event that transcends the material parity of that event with other human security vulnerabilities. We view the Games as a sui generis object of the claim to security to the extent that they provide the state with an opportunity to affirm itself as one of the most modern and advanced nations in the world. Security at the Games is not deployed to protect that affirmation but is entirely a part of it. Hosting the Olympics is one of several pathways towards first-class citizenship in international society. We maintain that membership in the club of Olympic hosts resembles many other élite clubs of nations, including the nuclear club, and we unpack some of these commonalities to further the argument that the urgency surrounding the Games relates more to their symbolic importance to the host nation than it does to concern about the safety of spectators or infrastructure.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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