Making the World Safe for
The Sydney 2000 Olympics and Beyond
Helen Jefferson Lenskyj
DANGER! You have just been handed an illegal leaflet containing unAustralian sentiments, from an Olympics criminal … The Olympics – keeping Sydney safe for global capital.
On 17 September 2000, members of the Sydney-based Anti-Olympic Alliance challenged Olympic legislation by handing out illegal materials to visitors at a downtown plaza that had been designated an Olympic ‘live site’ and, hence, one of the many areas of the city subject to the full force of new laws controlling public behaviour. The protesters' message was clear: the Olympic Games serve the interests of global capital first and foremost.
This was not, of course, the first time that anti-Olympic activists had made the important connection between the Olympic industry and global capitalism, or had challenged Olympic sponsors for their complicity in environmental destruction, human rights abuses, and the widening gap between rich and poor countries, and between rich and poor within a country. In the words of one Salt Lake City protester, the central problem with the Olympics is ‘the role that transnational corporations are playing in bankrolling, selling, and exploiting the athletic competition’. The best tactic, in this critic's view, is ‘to directly, continually, and unabashedly screw with the advertising and marketing attempts of Olympic corporate sponsors’ (Nutrition, 2001).
Just as anti-globalization protesters condemned the virtually unfettered power of transnational corporations, many of which boasted greater assets than those of small nation-states participating in Olympic sporting competition, antiOlympic critics argued that the IOC itself shared some of the most repressive features of these global giants. For example, as an autonomous, unelected body, the IOC has the power, through Rule 61 of the Olympic Charter, to shape domestic policy, at least in the short term, by requiring host cities (and by