Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games

1st Edition

By Jules Boykoff


174 pages

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The Olympic Games have become the world’s greatest media and marketing event—a global celebration of exceptional athletics gilded with corporate cash. Huge corporations vie for association with the "Olympic Image" in the hope of gaining a worldwide marketing audience of billions.

In this provocative critical study of the contemporary Olympics, Jules Boykoff argues that the Games have become a massive planned economy designed to shield the rich from risk while providing them with a spectacle to treasure. Placing political economy at the center of the analysis, and drawing on interdisciplinary research in sociology, politics, geography, history, and economics, Boykoff develops an innovative theory of "celebration capitalism", the manipulation of state actors as partners that drives us towards public–private partnerships in which the public pays and the private profits. He argues that the Athens Games in 2004 marked the full emergence of celebration capitalism, with London 2012 representing its quintessential expression, characterized by a state of exception, unfettered commercialism, repression of dissent, questionable sustainability claims, and the complicity of the mainstream media.

Controversial, challenging, and forthright, this book opens up a fascinating new avenue for understanding the contemporary Olympics in the context of global capitalist society. It is essential reading for anybody with an interest in the Olympic Games, the relationship between sport and society, or global politics and culture.


"You can’t understand economics, politics, or the way consent is manufactured and dissent is criminalized without reading Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games. Jules Boykoff has written "The Shock Doctrine" for anyone who cares about the relationship between sports and society. Combining the intellectual rigor of an academic with the dynamic reportage of a street activist, Boykoff has produced a remarkable book. There are many powerful actors who will hope this book does not command a wide audience. For all our sake, I hope their hopes are dashed."Dave Zirin, author of Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down.

"In Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games, Jules Boykoff builds an innovative theory upon a sturdy political-economic foundation. An economic system based on competition and greed distorts all our activities, often making them ugly shadows of what they could have been. Anyone who wants to understand how capitalism has sullied Olympic sports must read this book, written by a former Olympic athlete turned political science professor who loves sports but is willing to challenge what is being done to them."Robin Hahnel, Professor of Economics at Portland State University, author Of the People, By the People: The Case for a Participatory Economy and The ABCs of Political Economy.

"Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games is one of the most provocative and important books on the modern Olympic Games to have been written this century. Jules Boykoff convincingly shows that the Olympics has become celebratory spectacle and profit for the few and compensatory spectacle and austerity for the many. Essential reading for anyone who cares about the continuing struggles for social justice, inside and outside of the global sports arena."Ben Carrington, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, author of Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora.

"Boykoff (Pacific Univ.) argues that the Olympics have become a spectacle of "celebration capitalism," a "public-private partnership" in which the taxpayers assume the risk and wealthy capitalists reap the rewards. Boykoff focuses on the last four Olympics (Athens, Beijing, Vancouver, and London). A pattern emerges: Olympic bidders lowball the costs of the holding the games while emphasizing the benefits to the host cities. Summing Up: Recommended." – J. F. Kraus, Wagner College in CHOICE

"This short book demands reconsideration of our understanding of contemporary mega-events, including the Olympics, and poses major challenges to historians. Other readers will no doubt find other challenges; that you will do so is a sign of this book's importance, openness and richness - characteristics that allow it to open new areas of research and debate and attests to its significance in our field." - Malcolm Maclean, Sport in History

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Celebration Capitalism Chapter 2. A Brief History of Celebration Capitalism Chapter 3. Celebration Capitalism Clicks into Gear: The 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2008 Beijing Games Chapter 4. The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the London 2012 Summer Games Chapter 5. Challenging Celebration Capitalism

About the Author

Jules Boykoff is Associate Professor of Political Science at Pacific University, USA. His writing on the Olympics has appeared in academic outlets like Contemporary Social Science and Human Geography, as well as publications like the Guardian, New Left Review, and the New York Times. He has written across academic disciplines for more than a decade, publishing peer-reviewed articles in fields such as political science, sociology, geography, environmental studies, and history.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Sport

The Routledge Critical Studies in Sport series aims to lead the way in developing the multi-disciplinary field of Sport Studies by producing books that are interrogative, interventionist and innovative. By providing theoretically sophisticated and empirically grounded texts, the series will make sense of the changes and challenges facing sport globally. The series aspires to maintain the commitment and promise of the critical paradigm by contributing to a more inclusive and less exploitative culture of sport.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SPORTS & RECREATION / Sociology of Sports