The Olympic Dream: Reconfiguring ‘Place’ and ‘Space’ Through Growth Machine Politics

By Kimberly Baker.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Olympic dream incites many powerful visual images of atheletes competing in idealic settings, graciously stepping up to the podium to accept medals of achievement, that we as a nation take pride in as a shared experience of creating champions from our every day lives. However the Olympic dreams’ reality is much different than the images we first imagine.

This paper begins with exploring the critical discourse of the representation of “place” as a “consumable commodity” through growth machine politics. By examining the preparations of the Olympic and Paralympic games in Vancouver, Canada, we can gain a better understanding of the social/political impacts of visually packaging a city for consumer consumption.

For example, Vancouver’s initial bid for the 2010 Winter Games incorporated an aggressive and sophisticated mobilization of images that packaged our city in symbolic terms in order to win. The intention of this strategy was to cultivate economic gain through tourism, political agendas and transnational investments. The stakeholders, International Olympic Committee (IOC), Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC), national and provincial governments and the business communities began to transform the urban landscape into the ideal utopian city. However this reconfiguration of space and place impacted local urban communities by causing displacement of local residents and increased homelessness.

Results of this exploration identify the power of the visual image as a transformative agent upon the urban landscape. Additionally this paper identifies IOC’s requirement of host countries to have in place copyright legislation that provides the Olympic committee with extreme power over visual symbols and language linked with the Olympics.

Keywords: Olympic Dream, Reconfiguring, Place, Space, Growth Machine Politics

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.223-236. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.783MB).

Kimberly Baker

Artographer, MA Student, Art Education, Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Kimberly Baker is an Artographer and educator whose work explores researching historical and contemporary culture, expanding upon cultural theories in written text and presenting these findings in a visual art form. This pluralistic approach allows for an intricate, thorough art practice that can serve as a valuable and insightful vision of cultural history both past and present. Currently she is investigating the international phenomenon of digital graffiti through research and art practice. Her creative process is driven by the desire to propagate relationships with people and communities through the investigation of global issues, of which implications ultimately shape our collective destiny. Kimberly’s work has been shown in British Columbia and her writing has been published in multiple Canadian publications. Kimberly is the Education Program Specialist with the Surrey Museum. She holds Honours BFA from Emily Carr University and is currently pursuing a MA in art education at the University of British Columbia.


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