Dr Beatriz Garcia is Head of Research at the Institute of Cultural Capital
“The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games will start in earnest tonight with what promises to be another grand Opening Ceremony.
“The international build-up to these Games has been dominated by discussion on gay rights due to the way current Russian law refers to homosexuality. Another controversy has touched on the delays in the completion of accommodation – particularly for the international media, a number of whom have found themselves without a room ready in the days preceding the Opening.
Shift of focus
“Focusing international attention on these kind of issues is relevant but doing so at the exclusion of any other story at times misses the many other aspects worth reflecting on before the start of the sporting competitions put everything else on the shadow and medal counting becomes every reader’s favourite sport.
“This is the 9th Olympic Games I have attended and the research I have focused on since the late 1990s has been on the cultural narratives surrounding each Olympic edition, in particular, the ways in which host cities and nations try to represent themselves from the moment they get awarded the Games.
“Beyond the ceremonies, other important cultural platforms range from the official Cultural and Arts programme (the Cultural Olympiad) to the way the city and sporting venues are ‘dressed’ (the look of the Games). As it was to be expected, Sochi is projecting a very different feel to London 2012. This is not just a Winter vs Summer experience, but what it takes to celebrate one of the leading world cities as opposed to introducing a little known Russian-holiday resort.
“While London emphasised a celebration of ‘new things’ throughout its cultural programme and was keen to experiment with its (for some, shocking) visual design concept for the logo and city banners, in Sochi the main emphasis is on the presentation of classic performances (ballet and music in particular) and the Games look is a clever adaptation of traditional Russian tapestries.
Innovate or replicate
“I am based in Sochi throughout the Winter Olympic fortnight and will be offering commentary on these and related activities, the way they connect (or not) with different communities, from local audiences to national and international visitors and the way they represent an innovation, a replicate, reminiscence or a challenge, to previous Games editions.
“Follow this analysis at the dedicated magazine I co-edit in my role as Head of Research at the Institute of Cultural Capital (see the blog section and Volume 16). There you will also find access to a selection of reports about the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad impacts and immediate legacies (see Volume 15).
“Reactions and suggestions for related cultural topics are welcome (@culturalolympic @beatriz_garcia, @iccliverpool)”