Understanding the Olympics

By John Horne, Garry Whannel

© 2012 – Routledge

240 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415558365
pub: 2011-07-05
US Dollars$53.95
Hardback: 9780415558358
pub: 2011-07-01
US Dollars$180.00

e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

The Olympic Games is unquestionably the greatest sporting event on earth, with television audiences measured in billions of viewers. By what process did the Olympics evolve into this multi-national phenomenon? How can an understanding of the Olympic Games help us to better understand international sport and society? And what will be the true impact and legacy of the London Olympics in 2012?

Understanding the Olympics answers all of these questions, and more, by exploring the full social, cultural, political, historical and economic context to the Olympic Games. It traces the history of the Olympic movement from its origins in ancient Greece, through its revival in the nineteenth century, to the modern mega-event of today. The book introduces the reader to all of the key themes in contemporary Olympic Studies, including:

  • Olympic politics
  • nationalism and internationalism
  • access and equity
  • festival and spectacle
  • urban development
  • political economy
  • processes of commercialization
  • the Olympics and the media
  • Olympic futures.

Written to engage and inform, the book includes illustrations, information boxes, chronologies, glossaries and ‘Olympic Stories’ in every chapter. No other book offers such a comprehensive and thoughtful introduction to the Olympic Games and is therefore essential reading for anybody with an interest in the Olympics or the wider relationship between sport and society.


"In this timely study, [the authors] address how sport mega-events, specifically the Olympics, have evolved to become global spectacles with far-ranging effects on people, places, and politics … The reader does not have to be a student of the Olympic movement to enjoy this book … Recommended.", DW Hill, Choice magazine

"Understanding the Olympics makes a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of Olympic-related literature by providing a diverse and wide ranging discussion of the Olympics from various perspectives. […] This book is an interesting and informative read for everyone interested in the Olympics. It covers a number of topics that would not usually be associated with a discussion of the Olympics, which encourages reflection and debate." Leigh Robinson - School of Sport, University of Stirling

"an extremely engaging and informative introduction to the Olympics … a useful and accessible tool for academics, students and generally interested readers alike through its appealing combination of conceptual/theoretical ideas, facts and statistics, as well as anecdotal evidence drawn from the authors’ wealth of experience and knowledge in the field of sport", Katharina Lindner, Leisure Studies

Table of Contents

Timeline Introduction Part 1: The Olympic Games and London 1. London, the Olympics and the Road to 2012 2. The IOC and the Bidding Process 3. Television and the commercialisation of the Olympic Games Part 2: From Out of the Past 4. Reviving the Games 5. From World’s Fairs to Mega-events Part 3: The Spectacle of Modernity – Towards a Postmodern World? 6. The Internationalist Spirit and National Contestation 7. The Politics and the Games 8. Festival, Spectacle, Carnival and Consumption 9. Level Playing Fields 10. The Olympic Games and Urban Development: Imagining and Engineering Cities and Sport Spectacles. Conclusion

About the Authors

John Horne is Professor of Sport and Sociology at the University of Central Lancashire, UK.

Garry Whannel is Professor of Media Cultures at the University of Bedfordshire, UK.

Subject Categories

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