The Olympics: A Critical Reader by Vassil Girginov (ed.). London: Routledge, 2010. 452pp., £35.00, ISBN 978 0 415 44536 8
Article first published online: 10 JAN 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Political Studies Review © 2013 Political Studies Association
Political Studies Review
Volume 11, Issue 1, pages 121–122, January 2013
How to Cite
Cornelissen, S. (2013), The Olympics: A Critical Reader by Vassil Girginov (ed.). London: Routledge, 2010. 452pp., £35.00, ISBN 978 0 415 44536 8. Political Studies Review, 11: 121–122. doi: 10.1111/1478-9302.12000_75
- Issue published online: 10 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 10 JAN 2013
The revival of ancient Greece's Olympics at the end of the nineteenth century sparked what may be called one of the world's major social movements, manifested mostly in the four-yearly Games (which have grown in size and significance over the years), but also in the globally promoted values of Olympism, and a transnational institutional architecture steered by the International Olympic Committee. The rise of the modern Olympic movement has also been accompanied by the growth of an epistemic community – academics, scholars and scientists – specialising in Olympic topics that include its history, its political economy as a mega-event, its role in national and international politics, and various bio-medical questions (e.g. factors that influence sport performance).
The Olympics: A Critical Reader has mostly been compiled with this epistemic community in mind, raising issues that are of interest to a group who are knowledgeable about Olympism, and giving mainly critical accounts of the history and dynamics of the Olympic movement. The editor is himself well placed in the field of Olympic studies, with a strong academic profile. He has chosen to structure the Reader according to twelve questions that address various aspects of the Olympics, such as why, how and by whom Olympism is studied and taught, the origins of the movement, its power configurations, its relationship to national and sub-national identities, and its impacts. These questions are presented in sections, with each comprising a number of chapters. The editor has selected 26 well-known texts for inclusion, and he prefaces each major section with a brief introduction. There are also two original chapters by the editor, one an introduction to the Reader as a whole and a second that reflects on the role and meaning of Olympic studies.
The Reader may be summed up as informative and reflexive: it covers a good range of issues and in its selection of topics gives a generally representative overview of the field of Olympic studies. There is a strongly critical, even political, undertone evident in the selection of texts as well as in the intellectual and heuristic questions that the editor raises in his introductions. As with any compilation of this kind, the criteria for including some and excluding other so-called classic texts can be questioned. The editor has also been remiss about including some important works on Olympism by authors from the developing world; a broader geographical representation would have underscored the critical purpose of the Reader. There are also some niggles as far as editorial finishing is concerned, with typos and awkward phrasing in the original chapters. While these detract from the Reader's overall professional quality, its content will still be of use for those interested in critical viewpoints on the Olympic movement.