But there’s more than gold on their minds – they want their presence to mean something.
With the endearing nonchalance so typical of the extreme sports star, snowboarder Belle Brockhoff told reporters that she’d considered whether or not to address the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights during the games and concluded that, “screw it”, she would.
Belle’s got some powerful friends. Today, Google celebrates the opening of the games with a rainbow flag logo and a reminder of the Olympic Charter:
Before a ski boot is buckled, it’s clear that Sochi will be a media event that will not let Russia disguise its disdain for LGBT rights.
The idea of the Olympics as a political spectacle that gives individual athletes the power to make a difference to global human rights is hardly novel.
But what is new is the people who produce the Olympics as a media event are accepting and embracing this as part of the drama that audiences need and want.
It’s written in the history books
The 2012 London Olympics kicked off with politics, and everyone loved it.
Danny Boyle’s dizzying blend of the industrial revolution, James Bond, the Arctic Monkeys and a tribute to National Health Service was dismissed as “multicultural crap” by Tory MP Aidan Burley.
London mayor Boris Johnson was far more welcoming, lauding Boyle for saying something meaningful, in an entertaining way.
If anyone knows that politics can be entertaining, and that being entertaining is a great way to make a political point, it’s surely the Mayor of London.
Google’s decision to label Sochi as a human rights affair brands the Olympics as a politicised media occasion, above and beyond anything else – whatever the IOC might think.
This isn’t surprising, given the company’s recent history. Back in 2012, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wanted to show his desire to connect with young people from around the world on human rights issues, he chose Google+ Hangout to do it.
Social media seemed the natural heir to article 19 of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
So, if Brockhoff demonstrates her solidarity with the Russian LGBT community, she won’t suffer Peter Norman’s fate. Everyone’s stopped pretending that politics isn’t part of the show.
On the other hand, it’s worth asking how the stage has been set, such that the snowboarder’s undoubted mettle is likely to become a historical fact?
It’s also a fact that Google has played an active part in integrating young, grass roots activists with powerful political and media interests.
Company executive Jared Cohen co-founded Movements.org, an organisation where Google have joined with Facebook, MTV, Pepsi and CBS news – among others – to help young activists use social media to battle oppression, wherever they may be.
The organisation emerged from the Alliance of Youth Movements; a collective characterised by critics as an agent of US soft power; that is, Google’s interest in human rights has been criticised as less disinterested than it might appear.
And, of course, the Olympic Games is a commercial media event that can only communicate the messages that sponsors will pay for. In London, the world saw how business concernscompromised Twitter’s commitment to freedom of speech.
Let’s celebrate Belle Brockhoff, without reservation.
But let’s also think about the global media conditions that give her a voice. Because ultimately, they decide what we hear.
This story first appeared on The Conversation
MFJ academics play key part in Screening Melbourne
Screening Melbourne, an exciting conference and events program, was held in the the CBD recently, which involved moving attendees through the city to experience its history, materiality and contemporary complexity.
Death or Liberty tour stirs up Australia’s transglobal place in political history
Death or Liberty, the screen adaptation of the history of political rebels and radicals transported as convicts to Australia, toured to the UK and Ireland in December 2016. Billy Bragg, who is Musical Director of the film, noted that music was an important way that the messages of political movements are remembered and communicated, and by which the emotional aspect of struggles and sacrifice, like passion, sorrow, and hope, are conveyed to inspire new generations.
Playing politics with renewables: how the right is losing its way
by David Holmes. This summer has seen a concerted attack on renewable energy coming out of Canberra, featuring everyone from One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts to Coalition ministers channelling the far right of their party. So absurd and illogical has the broadside been, it is tempting to conclude that conservative politics is at risk of losing its way entirely. The Conversation
A PhD journey with Michael Kho Lim
Michael Kho Lim shares his research insights as a joint Monash/ Warwick University PhD candidate uncovering the dynamics of film distribution in the Philippines.
Death or Liberty tours in London, Dublin and Wales
After Death or Liberty premieres in Australia, Manchester and Scotland last year, it has since garnered many awards. The documentary is now on its London, Dublin and Wales tour. It is adapted from the book Death or Liberty: rebels and radicals transported to Australia 1788-1868 by Associate Professor Tony Moore.
Music survey: investigating the value of music exports
At a time when Australian pop, rock, country and hip hop acts are finding new international markets in unprecedented numbers, a team of researchers begin the first phase of their study of national and global music export markets.
Mambo: Art Irritates Life
A new documentary, Mambo: Art Irritates Life, premiering Tuesday 9 November at 9.30pm, ABC, explores the evolution of the Mambo phenomenon and features Monash academic Associate Professor Tony Moore.
Ruddock launches Youth and Media book in Serbia
Monash University’s senior lecturer in communications & media Studies, Dr Andy Ruddock, recently launched the Serbian version of his book, Youth and Media.
Monash University launches innovative media lab
A state-of-the-art media lab will be officially launched at Monash University’s Caulfield campus on April 7.
New book explores popular music & cultural policy
Three researchers from Australia, New Zealand and Scotland have explored the different roles of the state in national and global music markets.
Australian television premiere of ‘Death or Liberty’
An Empire’s rebels banished to the end of the earth: a documentary brings to life a forgotten history of convict rebels.
Getting to know…Elizabeth Burns Coleman
Communications and Media Studies lecturer Dr Elizabeth Burns Coleman is currently working on two inter-related … Continue reading Getting to know…Elizabeth Burns Coleman