Tag Archives: London 2012

London 2012 Paralympics – Spectatorship Through the Body

By Jen Turner

The opening week of the London 2012 Paralympic Games has witnessed an array of grit, determination, and World-Record-breaking sport from competitors across the globe.  As I write, Paralympic Team GB are in possession of 19 Gold medals, lying second in the table with 62 medals overall.  With 80,000 spectators at the Opening Ceremony and a predicted 215,000 per day entering Olympic Park, the Paralympics have been as successful in attracting a crowd as the Olympics themselves.  In a BBC report, London’s transport commissioner Peter Hendy said: “We already know the London 2012 Paralympic Games will see the most spectators in its history.”

However, the visual terminology concerning those who come to ‘see’ events has left a sour taste in the mouth of some disabled visitors to the games – a little at odds when we consider the kinds of athletes the Paralympics caters for.  Damon Rose’s BBC blog focuses on the limited commentary available for blind people, both at live events and on television.  Recounting his difficulty following the action at the blind person’s sport of goalball, he writes, “Oh, the irony that the only members of the crowd who can’t enjoy the blind football are those who can’t see”.  Interestingly, Rose also questions the appeal of goalball as a spectator sport for those who can see.  He explains that athletes rely on the sounds of other players and the bell in the ball.  With matches played in silence, the much praised London crowd might find the experience forces them to develop an unusual awareness of senses other than the visual.  However, as Rose discovered – for some, this merely allows the marvel of the Paralympic athletes to resonate.  “I thought the silence was amazing and it was fascinating the way the athletes felt their way across the court,” says Sue Lee, a retired teacher from Chelmsford.

A geographical focus on the sensory experience is provided by Longhurst, Ho and Johnston in their (2008) Area article. Focusing upon how different bodily experiences shape interactions with people and places, the article raises the importance of the body as a research tool.   As the human body is the primary vehicle through which all emotions and worldly interactions occur, its significance in generating and shaping meaningful interactions with place is great.  Thinking about this in relation to the Paralympic Games, how far will the sensory requirements portrayed by the athletes themselves impact upon the able-bodied spectator experience.  What is there to be learned from these alternative bodily experiences?

Longhurst, R., Ho, E. and Johnston, L., (2008) Using ‘the body’ as an ‘instrument of research’: kimch’i and pavlova, Area, 40.2, 208–217

Commuters urged to prepare for Paralympic Games, BBC News, 21 Aug 2012

Blind man watching goalball – silence please, BBC – The Ouch! Blog, 31 Aug 2012

‘Green and Pleasant’ Cultural Geographies: London 2012

by Fiona Ferbrache

London 2012 – this summer’s Olympic Games – may be drawing the eyes of the world to the UK’s capital city.  However, details released last week confirmed that the UK’s four nations (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) will be represented in the Opening Ceremony.  The ways in which these territories, landscapes and people will be represented have raised much subsequent interest.

On July 27, spectators of the Opening Ceremony will view a scene entitled ‘Green and Pleasant’. According to the artistic director, it is a creation intended to represent ourselves as a nation.  However, as an idyllic scene composed of rolling hills, rivers, and meadows with cows, horses and sheep dogs, this is also an idyllic geographical imagination. This typical ‘English’ countryside has evoked a range of responses, including those that question the reality of such representations.

Representations of people and places underpin the field of cultural geography and, in particular, cultural landscapes.  This theme also comes to the fore in the current issue of TIBG.  Peter Hulme (2012) in ‘Writing on the land’, critically examines geographical imaginations and literary representations of Cuba.  His paper reveals how the island’s geography has been reproduced through a range of metaphors relating to place (i.e. Cuba as a geobody), and political geographies enfolded within maps and novels.  These representations are shown to be powerful sources of material influence in and over Cuba.

Two further articles complement Hulme’s paper.  First, Radcliffe (2012) develops Hulme’s focus by exploring three themes as they relate to current geographical debates.  Second, a response by Reid-Henry (2012) closely examines the metaphors found in Hulme’s work.  Together, these pieces provide a comprehensive insight to Cuba’s imagined geographies, and the ways in which we might consider broader territorial and national representations.

Perhaps inspired by this work, will you be wearing your cultural geography hat when July 27 arrives?

  Hulme, P. (2012) Writing on the land: Cuba’s literary geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 37.3. pp.346-358

  Radcliffe, S. (2012) Relating to the land: multiple geographical imaginations and lived-in landscapes. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 37.3. pp.359-364

  Reid-Henry, S. (2012) Geography and metaphors: a response to ‘Writing on the land’. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 37.3. pp.365-369

  ‘Green and Pleasant’ – the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Mapping London 2012

By Kelly Wakefield

This week on the 27th of July, was the two year countdown to the start of the London Olympic Games in 2012.  With just 731 days to go (or at least there were when I started writing this) there has been growing support in London for the games.  According to a recent BBC article, Londoners are more supportive now than they were four years ago despite 55% believing the transport system won’t be able to cope. 

The official London 2012 website allows users to browse the sporting events by venue using an interactive map.  There are nine venues outside of London, five of which  are football venues and the rest will host other sports such as sailing, mountain biking and rowing.  The London venues numbering twelve are to be held in many existing arenas such as Wembley Arena, Earls Court and Wimbledon.  Some famous landmarks in the capital will be getting a temporary makeover for events such as triathlon set to be competed in Hyde Park and Beach Volleyball in Horse Guards Parade.  For some areas of London however, the landscape is set to change permanently.  Olympic Park containing the Olympic Village and seven venues will be a lasting legacy from the Games to East London and will be transformed into 2,800 new homes, including 1,379 affordable homes after 2012.

BBC, 27th July 2010, “London Olympics start in two years”

London 2012 Official Website, 27th July 2010, “Map, Explore”

London 2012 Official Website, 27th July 2010, “Venues”

Olympic Legacies: Branding the London 2012 Olympic Games

Sarah Mills

The official mascots of the London 2012 Olympic Games were unveiled this week.  Wenlock and Mandeville are animated characters who are supposed to be fashioned out of the last two blobs of metal during production of the Olympic Stadium frame at a factory in Bolton.  In their accompanying story, written by children’s author Michael Morpurgo, they are brought to life by a retired factory worker and embark on a journey to London.  The decision to choose these mascots over others (including an animated Big Ben and pigeons from Trafalgar Square) raises questions over whom or what represents the UK.  It is also an example of how branding and marketing (mascots, logos) are used to promote and remember both the Olympics and host cities.

In Geography Compass, John R. Gold and Margaret M. Gold examine the implications and significance of being an Olympic city.  The concept of urban regeneration here is crucial, as they note that “Winning the right to host the Olympic Games is widely regarded as the most significant prize on offer in the never-ending contest between the world’s leading cities for prestige and investment.”  The authors illustrate their discussion through the example of London’s East End – the site for the Olympic Park in 2012 – and the notion of ‘legacy’, a powerful metonym for the way in which Olympic games are discussed and judged in terms of ambition and success.

Read John R. Gold and Margaret M. Gold (2008) ‘Olympic Cities: Regeneration, City Rebranding and Changing Urban Agendas’, Geography Compass, 2 (1): 300-318

 Read The Guardian news story on the unveiling of the official mascots.

 Watch the story of Wenlock and Mandeville on the official London 2012 website: