Scientific programme

The 15th ‘Carrefour’ of sports history organised at the University of Rouen 29th-31st October 2012 seeks proposals for papers and sessions form French and English-speaking researchers to reflect on the Olympic Games and their organisation. The well-know ‘Carrefours’ series, which has been in existence for 20 years, have not yet dealt with this area of research. The celebration of the 2012 Olympics in London and the specialisation of the Research Centre for the Transformations of Sports and Physical Activities (CETAPS) at the University of Rouen offer a unique opportunity to invite scholars to reflect on this theme.

The welcoming, organisation and celebration of the Games offer a large research area around the ‘host city’, but is it possible to speak of one singular city when entire areas get prepared to host the Games? From the biding process to the celebration and its ‘legacy’, politicians, athletes, managers and the media interact in an Olympic calendar that is longer and longer, before, during and after the Games.

Until now, this research area has been investigated above all by economic sciences, geography and geopolitics. Much research has been done on the economic impact of tourism on the host city, region or country. Tourism and facilities are studied to interrogate the financial, social and cultural benefits for the people. The recent book edited by urban and heritage specialists John R. Gold and Margaret M. Gold suggests new opening for historical approaches to Olympic cities (Olympic Cities, City Agendas, Planning, and the World’s Games, 1896-2012, Londres, Routledge, 2007).

Olympic historians have focused on the foundation, values and political uses of the Games as well as on the institutional history of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The cities and the organisation of the Games themselves remain marginal research topics and are often only considered as part of monographs on specific celebrations.

On the occasion of this international conference, we hope that scholars will investigate this area of historical research and present new results on the following themes:

- The (successful or unsuccessful) biding process: who are the people who propose the bids? How do they deal with the potential sponsors and partners from politics, economics, culture, sport and the media? And what is their relation to the IOC? Which are their claims? What about unsuccessful bids?

The organisation period: how do the Organisation Committees get organised? Who are the organisers and which steps do they take? What are the funding sources?

- The backstage of the Olympic celebration: What are the tasks of the various people invited during the Games? How do they define the protocol, the opening and closing ceremonies, the competitions, the athletes’ and the spectators’ receptions? What is the part of (unpaid) volunteers and of employed people? What do we know about the socio-cultural programmes of the Games?

- What is left after the Games have gone? For several years now, the question of ‘legacy’ has become more important for public bodies, sporting federations and the IOC. This question applies for all Olympic celebrations in history. What have been the consequences of the Games on the city and its area, on the population and on national and international sport since 1896? What happened with the facilities after the Games? What is more the Olympic Games have come in a variety of versions since WW1: winter Games (Chamonix 1924), continental Games (Far Eastern Games 1913; Latin American Games 1922, Central American Games 1926, Balkan Games 1931, African Games 1965) The Paralympics were launched in Rome (1960). Greatest attention will be given to these events which allowed widening the panel of Olympic sports disciplines, the geographic area and the population of athletes of the Olympic movement. These competitions have often been considered of secondary importance and have largely been neglected by historians and researchers more generally. However, they do play their part in the identity of the Olympics and illustrate the conceptions on which Olympic sport is based.

Participants are invited to propose papers for the following working sessions:

1. The role of the cities: from the bid to the celebration

Many cities sought to host the Olympic Games: which cities have been proposed to host the Games since 1896? Who were the people behind the bids? What happens with unsuccessful bids? The necessity to create an Organising Committee appeared after WW1, illustrating the huge task a celebration implied for the organisers. How did the Organising Committees operate? Who were the partners and involved representatives? How did the Committee develop over time?

2. The competitions: performance, protocols and spectacle

The organisation of sporting competitions was widened and got more and more complex since the first Games of 1896. Debates have been numerous to integrate or reject new Olympic sports and performances were achieved with the evolution of sports disciplines, science and techniques. The Olympic protocol was established during the interwar period as an essential tool to make of the Olympic competitions an official, organised and original event around values which were often outdated but efficient and clear to the larger public.

3. Olympic Games: benefits and costs

Organising the Games has always been a permanent challenge for the IOC and its members, but also for the host cities and the country they belong to, including business, media and national and international sport. Political aspects of the Games have often been researched but what other aspects motivated people to get involved in the Games?

4. The people: spectators, participants, organisers

A large range of people get involved in an Olympic celebration. Athletes attract the main attention, but no less essential are organisers, trainers, spectators, press people and managers. These people get prepared for months before and after the Games. Who are these people and what are the consequences and legacies of their participation?

5. The Games and their space

Olympic Games need special spaces and venues and these have been more or less adapted to the purpose according to the celebrations. The quality of the venues in terms of architecture, urbanism, environment, etc. is decisive in the success of the celebration. Technical and symbolic aspects of the venues will be studied in this session.

6. After the Games: Olympic legacy

Since its foundation in the 19th century, the Olympic movement has been expecting the Games to leave benefits, both hard and soft. Every celebration inherits from previous experiences and the growth of the event has lead the organisers and the IOC to reflect more and more on the political, social, economical and environmental impacts of the Games. What are these positive and negative legacies?