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NOlympians: Inside the Fight Against Capitalist Mega-Sports in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beyond investigates the intersection of the global rise of anti-Olympics activism and the declining popularity of hosting of the Games. The Olympics were once buoyed by myths of luminous prosperity and upticks in tourism and jobs, but in recent years these assurances have been debunked. Now more than ever, it’s clear that the Olympics have transmogrified into a political-economic juggernaut that arrives with displacement, expanded policing, and anti-democratic backroom deals.
Jules Boykoff – a former professional soccer player who represented the US Olympic soccer team – zooms in on Los Angeles, where the Democratic Socialists of America have launched the NOlympics LA campaign ahead of the 2028 Summer Games. Boykoff shows how DSA-LA’s anti-Olympics activism fits with the resurgence of socialism in the US and beyond.
Boykoff’s research, based on more than 100 interviews with anti-Olympics activists, personal experiences at protests in Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, London, and Tokyo, academic research, mass- and alternative-media coverage, and Olympic archives, is the backbone for this story of activists fighting against the odds and embracing the transformative politics of democratic socialism.
“The need for critical writing about the Olympics has never been more important and no one does it more effectively or incisively than Jules Boykoff. Here he shows us not only the potential harm of the LA 2028 Summer Games but the activists who are bringing this reality to light.”
— Dave Zirin, The Nation
“The Olympic City, like so much of capitalist speculation, rests on a lie, that of shared prosperity. Through a meticulous analysis of NOlympics activism, this vitally important and urgently needed book demonstrates how social movements are exposing this lie and challenging the structures of displacement and policing that accompany the Games. Essential reading, NOlympians is a hopeful vision of how transnational resistance can build democratic urban futures.”
— Ananya Roy, UCLA
“NOlympians is a timely reminder that the Olympics must end. Powerfully and precisely, Jules Boykoff introduces us to critical voices on both sides of the Pacific who are questioning the value of the capitalist mega-event. These voices are telling us that we no longer need the Olympics. This important book inspires us to listen.”
— Hiroki Ogasawara, Kobe University, Japan
“Jules Boykoff is a leading voice on the politics of mega-sporting events. In NOlympians, Boykoff brings us the voices of activists on the ground who are leading an inspiring fight against the Games, ultimately showing the power and possibilities of grassroots resistance in the face rampant and corrosive capitalism.”
— Amira Rose Davis, Penn State University
“In NOlympians, Jules Boykoff helps us comprehend the magnitude of the work of activists and advocates in protecting and preventing harm to different communities. His work forces us to re-examine the promises made by mega-events, and clearly see the benefits pocketed by organizers and their cronies. If you read one book on the subject of the societal, economic and environment degradation by mega-events, be it this. Boykoff’s work is essential to anyone wanting to understand this issue.”
— Shireen Ahmed, sports journalist and activist
“With NOlympians, Jules Boykoff confirms his standing as our leading political theorist of the modern Olympic Games. NOlympians is a carefully researched examination of on-the-ground activism that convincingly demonstrates that the seemingly all-powerful behemoth that is the contemporary Olympic Games, can, in fact, be contested, challenged, and potentially stopped if we engage in historically-informed collective struggle. With this remarkable new book, Boykoff has provided us with the conceptual tools to continue that transnational struggle against the Olympic machine. NOlympians is a must-read for anyone concerned for the future of activist politics on the socialist left, inside and outside of sports.”
— Ben Carrington, University of Southern California.
“In this vital book, Boykoff reveals the Olympic Games to not only be a neoliberal boondoggle but also a vibrant site of transnational activism and renewed socialist politics in the United States. Equally damning and inspiring, NOlympians is a must-read for left-wing activists, social justice scholars, and sports enthusiasts alike.”
— Thea Riofrancos, Providence College
“Progressive groups will consider this a useful guide to launching their own anti-Olympic campaigns.”
— Publisher’s Weekly
“The Olympics often exists in the abstract, a world of larger-than-life athletes and secretive closed-door IOC meetings, but the immediacy brought by this book shows how the Olympics affect people on the ground, and how it’s possible to fight back.”
Boykoff (Power Games), a political science professor at Pacific University in Oregon, examines anti-Olympics activism in this informed yet somewhat repetitive account. Focusing on the backlash to the planned 2028 Summer Olympics in L.A., Boykoff contends that growing public awareness of the economic downsides of hosting the Olympics and “dwindling bidder interest” have left the Games in a vulnerable place, which organizations such as NOlympics LA are exploiting to spread their democratic socialist message. Boykoff accuses the International Olympic Committee and host governments of laundering human-rights abuses (“sportswashing”); diverting public funds to the construction of “white elephant stadiums”; displacing poor and minority communities; militarizing local police forces; and, in the case of the 1984 L.A. Olympics, contributing to the death of a bald eagle from smog-related lung disease.
— Publishers Weekly, April 2020 (full review)
The Olympics often exists in the abstract, a world of larger-than-life athletes and secretive closed-door IOC meetings, but the immediacy brought by this book shows how the Olympics affect people on the ground, and how it’s possible to fight back.
— Rabble.ca, June 2020 (full review)
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent an unmistakable rebuke to the IOC.
‘“The fact is,” she said, ”that Incarceration of blacks in America, the killing of innocent black people by police and the gap in equity between the wealthiest Americans and black people is worse than it was 52 years ago when Tommie and John protested in Mexico. I will continue to be focused on these issues, more than worrying about the IOC who is detached from reality, and I will doing whatever I can to help because in reality, education and support for black youths and support for black businesses are ways to proactively improve black lives in America.”’
— The Nation, December 2020 (full review)
NOlympians is an excellent work of scholarship, whose strength lies in its diversity, bringing together insights from a range of social science disciplines to provide an excellent preview of the next decade of politics in Los Angeles. Boykoff’s writing is characteristically accessible, meaning this book will be useful for readers at any level, including activists in Los Angeles or other Olympic host cities as well as undergraduates studying the intersection between sport and politics. This, combined with impressive attention to detail and scholarly theorising also make it a valuable tome for any researcher working on Angeleno politics, the politics of hosting the Olympic Games, or the rise of the Democratic Socialists of America.
— Adam Talbot (full review)
Even if you are a fan of the Olympics, you may not be aware of the history of the IOC, the corruption and the damage that hosting Olympic games bring to the host city, even environmental damage, as forests have to be cleared for the Winter Games, for ski runs, venues and so on.
— Miramichi Reader, March 2020 (full review)
This excellent book relies upon strong empirical foundations, and Boykoff’s sharp arguments and well-written work make an extremely important, accessible and thought-provoking contribution to critical sport mega-event studies. Further, it also extends current debates on the dynamics of contemporary social movements in sports and the environments they operate within. In many ways, the book demonstrates exactly why sport mega-events remain important for social and political scientists to critically understand. For whereas the mega-event spectacles per se may merely last for three weeks, the bidding stage, build-up and post-event “legacies” (or, as Boykoff prefers to use instead of the inherently slippery “legacy” term: “promises and follow through”) impact host cities and their citizens for decades. This book serves as an important reminder of these realities and, as documented, sport mega-events intersect with politics and reflect wider everyday social issues including class, gentrification, securitization, and homelessness. While all this makes this book an important read for those possessing a pronounced interest in the socio-political study of sports, the book will also be an attractive resource for academics and students of urban studies, leisure studies and critical criminology, and resonate well with readers with a general interest in sport, cities or social movements.
— Jan Andre Lee Ludvigsen (full review)