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Marshland, dreams and nightmares on the edge of London

‘Marshland, dreams and nightmares on the edge of London’ by Gareth E Rees is not a book about the Olympics! But it is about the ongoing struggle over Hackney Marshes and the open space on the east of the River Lea. In 1892, 3,000 local people tore up rails laid by the East London Waterworks Company. In 1985 a campaign group called Save the Marshes succeeded in beating off the attempt by the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority, the supposed protector of the Marshes, to allow quarrying on Walthamstow Marshes. Then in 2005 London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and battle was joined once again in the most recent round in the continuing struggle between local people and railway, water and quarrying companies, housing authorities and developers and now the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Rees is not an activist. He is largely absent from the drama unfolding around him. He reluctantly takes a leaflet from a Leyton Marsh protester and has some ‘bad, selfish thoughts’ wishing they would all go away, protesters, construction workers, Chinook helicopters, and let him get on with walking his dog. He has his own slight confrontation with the stupidity and arrogance of authority when he is barred from taking Hendrix onto Hackney Marshes at the time it was fenced off as ‘private property’ for Hackney’s Radio One event. He walks away wishing he could say he did more to protest.

Rees’s account starts with his recent arrival in Clapton from distant Dalston. He is looking for somewhere to walk his dog, Hendrix. But Hendrix is attacked by a bull mastiff and Rees ends up being held by his ankles by the mastiff's owner as he reaches down into the depths of the River Lea to rescue his cocker spaniel, paddling unsuccessfully against the current. This is Rees’ strange baptism into the mysteries of the Marshes on the east of the Lea, the Marshland of the title, on the edge of London.

Marshland is autobiography, psychogeography, mythogeography, history, personal journey, psychedelic discovery, even a soundtrack. Rees turns the landscape and the Lea into actors as people and nature fight back. With his illustrator, Ada Jusic, he conjures up the secrets and history of Hackney and its edgelands. The Lea Valley was an industrial powerhouse with a record of industrial invention, the first powered flight on Walthamstow Marsh, the dash of Lotus, the diode, the first light bulb, the first monorail, all lovingly remembered in the Pump House Museum at South Access Road. But the Marshes are also a hangout for criminals, drug users, drinkers, ravers and, during the War, people trekking to get away from the bombs. Rees combines edgy underworld encounters with fantastic stories of bears, crocodiles, sabre tooth tigers and religious cults. He has dreams of the Marsh, of a micro nation on a narrow boat which rescues a man who becomes a bear, of time travelling water engineers transported from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century who become entangled with the unfolding drama at Leyton Marsh, and nightmares, of strange fires which spread across London and of a biomass experiment at Matchmakers Wharf.

Rees discovers and explores a world, a wilderness, threatened by property development, the spread of concrete, brick and tarmac. It’s a losing battle, over the years the Lea has been tamed, its flow slowed by canals and locks. Indeed it may be worse than he imagines. Rees rejoices at the surging river as it tumbles over the sluice below Lea Bridge Road but sadly doesn’t seem to be aware of the new dam and lock at Three Mills which have ended the tidal flow that used to reach up to Hackney Marsh. The Olympics are something new. This is big money, big power coming east. After a brief protest the Manor Gardens Allotments are shunted off to Marsh Lane Fields, the ODA pushes aside protesters, who bravely lie down in front of lorries at Leyton Marsh, to build their unnecessary temporary Basketball Arena. Dourly Rees records how Leyton Marsh is left waterlogged after the white windowless arena is dismantled and how construction at Essex Wharf next to Leyton Marsh marks the arrival of property developers on the east side of the Lea. Having brought us up to now Rees’ unclassifiable narrative ends with a future water apocalypse brought about by those in the city terrified of the inhabitants of the Marsh.

Except it doesn’t….. But then Marshland, published by Influx Press is that kind of book.


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A Wider Social Role for Sport

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Sport is perceived to have the potential to alleviate a variety of social problems and generally to 'improve' both individuals and the communities in which they live. Sport is promoted as a relatively cost-effective antidote to a range of problems – often those stemming from social exclusion – including poor health, high crime levels, drug abuse and persistent youth offending, educational underachievement, lack of social cohesion and community identity and economic decline. To this end, there is increasing government interest in what has become known as 'sport for good'.

A Wider Social Role for Sport (2007) presents the political and historical context for this increased governmental interest in sport's potential contribution to a range of social problems. The book explores the particular social problems that governments seek to address through sport, and examines the nature and extent of the evidence for sport's positive role.

The book illustrates that, in in an era of evidence-based policy-making, the cumulative evidence base for many claims for sport is relatively weak, in part because research into the precise contribution of sport faces substantial methodological problems. Drawing on worlwide research, A Wider Social Role for Sport explores the current stage of knowledge and understanding of the presumed impacts of sport and suggests that we need to adopt a different approach to research and evaluation if sports researchers are to develop their understanding and make a substantial contribution to sports policy.

Fred Coalter is Professor of Sports Policy at the University of Stirling, UK.


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Olympic Dreams: The Impact of Mega-Events on Local Politics

Matthew J. Burbank, Gregory Andranovich, Charles H. Heying,
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001, ISBN: 978-1-55587-991-4, pb

Investigating local politics in three U.S. cities - Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City - as they vied for the role of Olympic host, this book provides a narrative of the evolving political economy of modern mega-events.

..our concern is with the impact that mega-events have on the politics of American cities. We address the broad issue of how these events affect the governance of host cities by focussing on four questions:

  1. How and why do cities seek to host mega-events ?
  2. How are policy decisions concerning mega-events made ?
  3. What are the outcomes of hosting a mega-event ?
  4. What can the conduct of mega-events tell us about urban politics generally ?

View online at: Olympic Dreams

Amazon sponsored link


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The Five Ring Circus - Myths and realities of the Olympic Games


"The Olympic Games, once considered the pinnacle of athleticism and fair play, have become a cesspool of greed, backroom deals and the wholesale trampling of civil liberties. In Vancouver, preparations for the 2010 Games have had a substantial negative impact on the environment and have resulted in the 'economic cleansing' of the poor and homeless.

Five Ring Circus details the history of how Vancouver won the bid for the 2010 Games, who was involved, and what the real motives were. It describes the role of corporate media in promoting the Games, the machinations of Government and business, and the opposition that has emerged." (Back cover blurb)

"This book is the IOC and VANOC's worst nightmare. Five Ring Circus is a well-researched and challenging examination of how the Olympics is, at its heart, all about real estate mega deals, and making rich developers even richer. Christopher Shaw should get a medal for investigative journalism."
David Eby, lawyer, Pivot Legal Society

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Andrew Jennings: The Lords of the Rings, The Great Olympic Swindle

1992: The Lords of the Rings was a smash hit translated into 13 languages. The Lords and its disclosures of Olympic corruption and the fascist background of the IOC president changed world perceptions of the organization forever. Published in USA as Dishonest Games. Sports Illustrated lists it as one of the Top One Hundred Sports Books of all Time.

1996: The New Lords of the Rings: Olympic Corruption & How to Buy Gold Medals Top of the UK best-selling sports books list for five weeks and in top ten of all sports books published that year. Translated into German, Danish, Norwegian, Japanese and Spanish. Pirated in Chinese - twice, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in Korean.

2000: The Great Olympic Swindle The explosive story of organised crime and the Olympics, how the IOC fooled the world into thinking it reformed itself after the cash-and-sex-for-votes scandals - and the secret documents revealing how the IOC spent $2 million on American spin-doctors to mislead a pliant media.

2006: Foul! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote-rigging and Ticket Scandals Harper Collins


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The Beijing Olympiad, China's Human Rights Record and Western Orientalism

The Beijing Olympiad: The Political Economy of a Sporting Mega-Event, Paul Close, David Askew, Xu Xin.
Routledge, 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0415357012

There are grounds for assuming that the Beijing Olympiad may act as a catalyst in the re-alignment process within the Global Political Economy and, not unconnectedly, will provide a spur to important changes inside Chinese society itself, not least in the area of human rights.

After all, the Olympiad will be a convergence point, or focal event, for a cluster of major developments at and between the local, regional and global levels of social life.

The developments involved include the deepening institutionalization of Olympism at the global level; the global spread of the Western cultural account around the doctrine of individualism; the advance of market capitalism and liberal democracy on the global plane; the progress of globalization in conjunction with the consolidation of global society; and the rise of China as a regional and global political economy player and superpower.

It is because of the way in which the Beijing Olympiad will draw together in a highly concentrated, dense and intense fashion these developments that the 2008 Games are likely to be not merely another sporting mega-event, but moreover the greatest ever mega-event, at least for the time being, with unprecedented internal and external social, economic, political and cultural consequences.

From an Introduction by Paul Close.

See More at: Play the Game

Amazon sponsored link


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Olympic Industry Resistance

Olympic Industry Resistance provides a critical update of Olympic issues in the post-bribery and post-September 11 era, as well as documenting the work of Olympic watchdog groups. It presents a detailed examination of the Olympic aftermath in Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney, and provides analyses of Olympic impacts and community resistance in Salt Lake City, Athens, Vancouver, and London, as well as in the unsuccessful bid cities of New York and Toronto.

Helen Lenskyj also tackles two new issues – Olympic education and athlete/role model rhetoric – in order to understand mechanisms used in the socialization of children and youth that lead them to think uncritically about sport and the Olympics. She demonstrates how assumptions about the positive relationship between children and adolescents, on the one hand, and sport and sporting role models, on the other, are firmly entrenched in schools and communities in most western countries, thanks to so-called Olympic education.

J. David Hulchanski
Director, Centre for Urban & Community Studies, Cities Centre
Professor, Housing & Community Development, Faculty of Social Work
University of Toronto

Click here to order from sunypress.edu

Or use Amazon sponsored link


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The Economics of Staging the Olympics, A Comparison of the Games 1972-2008

Holger Preuss (Professor of Sport Economics and Sportmanagement, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany and member of Research Team Olympia), Edward Elgar, 2004, ISBN pbk 1 8 4376 893 3.

Anal economic minutiae of the title subjects ( I have given his proper title as it appears in his book because it tells a story about his self-importance). Very much in the pocket of the IOC view.

Sadly boosted now by Prof Gavin Poynter of UEL, recent recruits to the Olympic consultancy industry. Contains masses of comparative 'economic' analysis though.

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See More at: The Economics of Staging the Olympics


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The Best Olympics Ever?: Social impacts of Sydney 2000

Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, 2002, SUNY, ISBN pbk 0 7914 5473 8.

Same readability problems as her earlier book but very informative nonetheless. She is Australian.

See also: Publisher

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Inside the Olympic Industry, Power, Politics and Activism

Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, 2000, State University of New York Press, ISBN pbk 0 7914 4756 1.

Very informative over a wide range of issues contained in its title. Difficult to read though.

It is like walking straight into a long running family fight. Full of a vast range of characters and passing references to many previous spats. Best taken in by reading the mercifully supplied conclusions at the end of each chapter first then choosing where you want to pitch into it for the detail of that part of the drama.

Amazon were flogging it off cheap.

See also: Publishers

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Read Online at: Inside the Olympic Industry


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Mega-Events and Modernity, Olympics and Expos in the Growth of Global Culture

Maurice Roche, 2000, Routledge, ISBN pbk 0 415 15711 0.

Excellent, well written historical account from their 19th century beginnings to recent. More political economy than economics.

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Read Online at: Mega-Events and Modernity


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Sports Mega-Events, Social scientific analyses of a global phenomenon

Edited by John Horne and Wolfram Manzenreiter, 2006, Blackwell, ISBN 10: 1 4051 5290 7

A recent collection of ten academic papers, plus an introduction, which gives useful updates about the ideologies which inform the Olympic Industry, the impacts of a range of recent sports mega-events, and current theoretical debates within academic research.

Part 1: Sports Mega-events, Modernity and Capitalist Economies

Part 2: The Glocal Politics of Sports Mega-events

Part 3: Sports Mega-Events, Power, Spectacle and the City

Their synopsis says:

Developments in new technologies of mass communication, especially the development of satellite television, have created unprecedented global audiences for events like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. The influx of corporate sponsorship money into sports 'megas' has provided an important source of income for host cities and the international organisations running world sports events. Sports mega-events are now seen as useful in the selling of all manner of commercial products and as valuable promotional opportunities for cities and regions, showcasing their attractions to global audiences and helping to attract tourism and outside investment.

The enthusiasm to host sports mega-events has grown massively in the past twenty years, but research has pointed out significant gaps between forecast and actual outcomes, between economic and noneconomic rewards, between the experience of mega-events in advanced and in developing societies. This collection of specially commissioned essays asks penetrating questions about why governments and cities compete for the right to host these major international sporting events? What are the tradeoffs and opportunity costs of doing so? Do such events ultimately deliver the benefits, economic and otherwise, that their proponents proclaim? This volume offers a distinctive and timely comparative analysis of the sociological, economic, and political significance of bids for, and the hosting of, sports mega-events throughout the world - Europe, Asia, North America, Australasia and South Africa.

The contents will appeal to an international readership in sociology, geography, economics, sports studies and sports management and cultural studies. The breadth of coverage and international composition of the specialist contributors makes this a compelling and substantive addition to the sociological literature in sport, leisure and popular cultural studies.

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See More at: Sports Mega-Events


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