Page 1


Culture @ the Olympics issues, trends and perspectives

From Barcelona 1992 to Sydney 2000: Approaches to Cultural Olympiad design and managementi Beatriz Garcia Originally, the Olympic Games were supposed to blend arts activities with the sports competitions.

and festivals in 1952), they have remained marginal to the Olympic Games festival.

The Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the Modern Olympics in 1896, which was inspired by the ancient Greek tradition of athletic and music contests that were held throughout Greece from 776 BC to 395 AD. De Coubertin repeatedly expressed his vision of the Games as a marriage of sports and the arts, signifying an ideal combination of the strength of body, mind and spirit.

This paper reviews the difficulties with implementing and promoting a cultural program whose mission is to be perceived as an integral part of the Olympic Games. Evidence of the many existing problems with the current planning and management of the programs is provided by looking at the apparent success of the Barcelona’92 Cultural Olympiad and comparing it to the 1997-2000 Olympic Arts Festivals leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

The Olympic Charter acknowledges this aspiration in section 44, where it states that the host city must develop a cultural and arts program alongside the sporting events. However, in spite of the persistent promotion by de Coubertin of the necessary integration of the arts within all Olympic sport practices, and despite the constant re-invention and adaptation of the cultural program’s structure and themes to the demands of the environment (they were initially held as arts competitions but were transformed into exhibitions

Barcelona 1992: Myth and Reality The Barcelona ‘92 Games remain a key point of reference for those interested in the Olympic phenomena and, especially, for all candidate host cities. The problems associated with Atlanta’96, both in regards to the general Games organisation and the Olympic Arts Festivals management specifically, reinforce an expanded idea of

Culture @ the Olympics, 1999: vol. 1, issue 2, pp. 5-16

Barcelona as the best, recent example to be followed. The overall success of the Barcelona project has led many observers to conclude that all 1992 Olympic programs were equally successful. When considering the Games’ cultural impact, the originality and grandeur of the opening and closing ceremonies and the unprecedented dedication to showcasing and celebrating Barcelona’s city life has supported the general impression that the Olympic cultural program had fully achieved its goals. In this sense, it is important to distinguish the Games’ broad cultural project, which encompasses all activities assisting in the process of experiencing and celebrating the Olympics - including sporting competitions (Moragas 1992) – and the Games arts festival or Cultural Olympiad specifically, as it is defined by its organisers. This paper questions some wrong assumptions about the Barcelona Cultural Olympiad to emphasize the precarious situation of this aspect of the Games and assist in understanding the difficulties now faced by the Sydney Olympic Arts Festivals. Aims and objectives of the Cultural Olympiad The Barcelona’92 cultural celebrations set a new precedent in Olympic cultural programming and established the

model of the Cultural Olympiad (CO). This involved the organization of arts and cultural events over the four years separating the previous Olympic Summer Games (Seoul ‘88) from the Games to be hosted in the city in 1992. Guevara (1992) explains this ambitious decision by referring to the organisers’ strategic intention to use the Games to improve the city’s urban landscape and assist in its international projection beyond the Games staging period. Guevara identifies three major objectives in the Barcelona CO project: 1. Achieve maximum participation and involvement from citizens and cultural agents (entities and institutions) in the creative dynamic generated by the Olympic staging process 2. Strengthen the new tradition and modernity links that had been developed since the start of the Olympic project and confirm the city innovative vocation (…) 3. Stimulate a greater international awareness of the Olympic event as a whole (…) and expand worldwide the cultural reality of Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain” (Guevara 1992, section I)Spanish in the original According to the CO director, Barcelona aimed to stand out as a

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


cultural capital in Europe comparable to Paris or London (Subirós 1991). To achieve this, the city’s greater challenge was to profit from its “great historic wealth of culture” at the same time as generating “the capacity of innovation in a country where there are poor natural resources but great creative resources” (op. cit.: 84). As such, an important stereotype to challenge was the traditional idea of a monolithic Spain where all there is to be found is “sangria, sun and beaches, long siestas and bullfighters” (ibid). The ambition to overcome these stereotypes was central to the definition of programming themes, as explained in following sections.

it has been challenging for Australia to overcome the lack of confidence typical of a young, post-colonial nation.

Sydney has also opted for a four year cultural project, the Olympic Arts Festivals (OAF), and has defined the program objectives as follows: To reflect Australia's diverse and dynamic artistic life and the powerful influences driving and shaping its cultural make-up, among them: indigenous cultures, geography and landscape,

immigration and Australia's physical place in the world as a vast island continent of the Southern Hemisphere (SOCOG 1995) To demonstrate the best of the arts in Australia and the Oceanic region to Australians and the rest of the world and leave a legacy of awareness of the wealth of talent Australia possess (SOCOG 1995) A fundamental aim underlining most statements relating to the Sydney OAF is the ambition to assist with shaping the image of a modern Australia on the world stage and overcome the traditional and, perhaps, exclusive association of the country with great landscapes and exotic wildlife. The limited overseas knowledge about Australian contemporary arts and the high expectations worldwide to learn more about the country’s Aboriginal cultures have been seen as a major promotional opportunity for the Olympic cultural program (Brown, pers. comm. 1999). However, it has been challenging for Australia to overcome the lack of confidence typical of a young, post-colonial nation, which has a long-standing attachment to the Anglo-Saxon traditions brought by its first settlers (Radbourne & Fraser 1997). With this in mind, the bid documents and most promotional material on the OAF have emphasized the cultural diversity of the country as one of

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


Australia’s most distinguished and promising characteristics. Cultural program description and implementation The Barcelona Olympic cultural program started in 1988 and culminated with the “Olympic Arts Festival” in 1992, whose events were held at the same time as the sporting competitions. The overall cultural program was structured yearly with a thematic sequence. After the “Cultural gateway” in 1988 came the “Year of Culture and Sport” in 1989, the “Year of the Arts” in 1990 and the “Year of the Future” in 1991. In terms of work-authorship, every festival showed three levels of production control. The first included those activities organised by the CO team, the second included events held in partnership with other entities, and the third grouped those projects in which the group in charge of organising the CO did not participate, but supported either promotionally or politically (Guevara 1992, section II).

in 1992 most Olympic tourists were not able to identify Cultural Olympiad activities and complained about the lack of information. The implementation of programs proved more difficult than expected. In the years preceding

the Games, the numerous CO initiatives and partnerships assisted with building a sense of celebration and expectation for the Olympics among city residents and international observers, through the distribution of books, films and the arrangement of media activities. However, these events consumed a great part of the budget and put at risk the impact of the 1992 festivities. Research by Messing (1997) has revealed that, during the unfolding of the Games in 1992 most Olympic tourists were not able to identify Cultural Olympiad activities and complained about the lack of information. This was the case in spite of having a great memory of Barcelona´s festive and captivating environment (PP). Pffeicher (1998) adds that the average tourist, instead of developing an interest for these new activities, would rather tend to visit the city’s traditional cultural sites such as the Miro or Picasso Museums which were not truly part of the CO program. For Sydney, the ambitious bid promises have been transformed into an extremely varied and apparently comprehensive program of activities, including the following:

1. The first ever contemporary Aboriginal festival staged at mainstream Australian venues, in recognition of

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


the country’s first inhabitants (“The Festival of the Dreaming” in 1997) 2. A year long multicultural festival staged nationwide to celebrate and acknowledge the country’s diverse migrant cultures (“A Sea Change” in 1998). 3. A year long international festival showcasing Australian companies in the “five continents represented by the Olympic rings” (“Reaching the World” in 1999). 4. A two month-long Sydney festival staging “the best” of Australian and international artists and companies short before and during the Olympic Games sporting competitions (“The Harbour of Life” in 2000).

Similarly to Barcelona’92, the OAF has shown several layers of production control over the works presented in the program. Yet, while in Barcelona each festival would include both a main program designed and commissioned by OCSA and a peripheral one organised either in partnership or independently to the Olympic organisers, in Sydney, each festival has followed a different pattern. Most OAF’s funds and dedication have been focused on the Aboriginal festival in 1997 and the final “Olympic” festival in 2000. In contrast, both 1998 and 1999

festivals have been the result of compiling and applying the OAF logo to events by companies or institutions ready to present their works nationally or internationally, independent of the Olympic preparations. This option has allowed the OAF to keep the festival’s budget low and controlled, as requested by the Sydney Organising Committe for the Games (SOCOG), but it has also affected the thematic consistency of the programs and has diminished their promotional impact up to year 2000 (García 2000). Consequently, some of the OAF program key components, such as the celebration of diversity and migrant cultures (relegated to the low resourced 1998 festival) have not had the expected visibility or presence in the Olympic discourse.

Sydney Opera House 2000

More generally, the decision to not distribute funds and resources equitably has transformed the first and last festivals into the only true referents of the Sydney OAF. The 1997 festival being so far away in time, it appears that the events

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


likely to be remembered as part of the Olympiad will be the ones happening in the year 2000 exclusively. SOCOG seems to have foreseen this and, in order to secure a strong public attendance to the planned events, the focus for the final festival has been on renowned major national and international art companies to present their productions at Sydney’s cultural icon, the Opera House, which is considered a ‘must-see’ destination for most Sydney visitors. This decision may help to prevent the situation described by Messing in regard to Barcelona’s tourists in 1992, who did not attend or were not able to identify CO activities. However, the exclusion of community and ethnic based events and the refusal to exploit sites outside the city center plays against the original OAF mission statement to highlight the city’s multicultural reality and might result in a lost opportunity to change existing stereotypes. Festival management Originally, the Barcelona CO was meant to be managed through the Cultural Division of the Barcelona Organising Committee for the Games (COOB). Nevertheless, the appropriate location of the program was soon questioned as the CO four-year agenda implied the simultaneous development of planning and production, while COOB was structured to develop an important phase of planning prior to taking any action. Other

arguments for the independent nature of the cultural program were said to be a shared confidence on the self-funding capabilities of the Olympiad (Obiols 1988b, quoted by Guevara 1992). Therefore, on the 10th of November 1988, “Olimpiada Cultural Sociedad Anónima” (OCSA) was established as a private society of COOB counting on the participation of representatives from the principal Catalan and Spanish cultural institutions to act as councilors. This separation did not mean the complete segregation of OCSA from COOB, because OCSA depended legally on a consortium composed by many COOB board members and was presided by the Barcelona Major and COOB President, Pascual Maragall, who was also President of the Cultural Olympiad. However, OCSA and COOB did not always have an easy relationship. Important reasons were their different priorities in terms of operational objectives and the unavoidable dependence of OCSA on COOB final decisions in terms of budget allocation and sponsorship regulations. Alternatively, the separation of OCSA and COOB had some negative effects in terms of image associations. As Moragas explains, this separation, especially in the context of Barcelona or Catalonia, where the cultural sector is strongly intervened in by Public Administration, favored the relationship between OCSA

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


activities and the general city cultural policy. However, at the same time, it distanced these activities from the Olympic events themselves. As a result, the nationally and internationally acclaimed cultural Olympic image of Barcelona seems to have been more the effect of COOB’s Image and Communications Division than of the CO four year festivities. In Sydney, the department responsible for the Olympic Arts Festival is an integrated part of SOCOG totally dependent on the decisions taken by SOCOG General Board of Directors. It belongs to the area of Image, Special Events & Olympic Arts Festivals within the Games Marketing Division. The link to Australian cultural institutions is made through the influence of SOCOG´s Cultural Commission, an advisory group whose function is to act as a bridge between the Australian arts community and governmental bodies, and the SOCOG Board. The festivals’ project manager has referred to the integration of the OAF within SOCOG as positive in the sense that it should provide opportunities to benefit from the general Olympic Games communication campaigns and approach existing Olympic sponsors (Brown 1999, pers. comm.). However, the strong dependence of a four-year cultural festival on an organising committee focused on the preparations for a seventeen days event, has led to remarkable

dysfunctions, not only in terms of resources and budget allocation (see section below), but also in the way references to the CO are incorporated within mainstream Olympic communication campaigns. In Sydney, up to the beginning of year 2000, far from benefiting from the Games general communication strategies, the visibility of the OAF has depended on the efforts made by the program publicist and marketing manager, who are both placed apart from SOCOG’s main media relations and marketing departments. The effect of this lack of interaction has been quite similar to the Barcelona case, where the separation of OCSA from COOB diminished the association of Olympic cultural and sporting messages. However, it has demonstrated a further problem, since the OAF team are not a separate entity and are not, therefore, as strong as OCSA to create an identity of its own. Budget matters The Barcelona four-year program was valued at AU$51 million which broke down to approximately AU$12 million per year (Subirós 1991: 85). COOB was supposed to provide AU$35 million for the implementation of the CO program specifically (budget approved in May 88). The remaining AU$16 million were to come from different sources including Catalonia autonomous government and

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


Barcelona City Council that would provide AU$300,000 annually for the production of the “Autumn Festival”; sponsorship sources; the potential sale of TV rights; the commercialisation and reproduction of design and artistic works promoted by OCSA when compatible with the merchandising COOB general criteria, and ticket sales (Guevara 1992). However, after two years of cultural activities, the initial previsions had to be reshaped due to difficulties in finding sponsorship according to the very strict Olympic marketing guidelines. In words of Romà Cuyàs, OCSA Executive VicePresident, key reasons for funding difficulties were, In the first place there were many people looking for sponsors. In our particular case, we had the inconvenience that COOB had exclusivity contracts with its sponsors. Because of the corporative link between OCSA and COOB, (the above Olympic sponsorship arrangements) impeded (OCSA) access to the principal corporate sectors. Secondly, the companies sponsoring OCSA could not benefit from the special fiscal concessions alowed to COOB’92 sponsors or World EXPO Sevilla ‘92 sponsors [...). In the third place, all high level

contracts had to be assumed by the (OCSA) President, Pascual Maragall, but the Major agenda did not allow much time for OCSA matters” (Cuyàs interviewed by Guevara 1992- Spanish in the original) As a result of these problems, in 1991, COOB announced that AU$15m out of the promised AU$35m would not be delivered. This put OCSA into a marked crisis from which there was not a clear way out until the moment when COOB agreed to deliver AU$12.8m out of the AU$15m required. Since then, the focus was on securing the presentation of a basic cultural program, including the “Autumn Festival” and the “Olympic Arts Festival” to be delivered during the Games period in 1992.

In Sydney, an initial budget of A$51m was reduced to A$21 for the whole four year period (Good 1998). The 1997 festival received around A$7m while the 1998 and 1999 received from AU$1.5m to AU$2m each. Prior to establishing comparisons with Barcelona, it is important to note that, while the latter refer to all funding revenue, including governments and sponsors, the Sydney amount refer to SOCOG investment exclusively. In an effort to respond to the frequent demands by journalists and

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


researchers, Sydney festivals’ general manager, released an internal document providing some detail on the OAF external revenue. This included government grants for the 1997 and 1998 festivals amounting to AU$621,183 approximately, tickets revenue for the 1997 festival amounting AU$430,000 and an estimated total income of AU$27m for the year 2000 festival. In any case, the budget allowed for the OAF has been far inferior to that of Barcelona’92, especially as the Australian public bodies have not had such a great involvement in the festivals as the Catalan ones. In addition, the Olympic bribery scandals of 1998-1999 resulted in an important and unexpected sponsorship shortfall that led to radical budget cuts throughout SOCOG. As the OAF has not been seen as a key Olympic component compared to the sporting competitions, understandably, it has been one of the areas to suffer greater consequences. Conclusions The difficulties and dysfunctions associated to the specific environment of a host city and the organising committee for the Games (OCOG), tends to prevent them from changing the traditional trend towards low profile or hardly visible Cultural Olympiads. These difficulties have been equally prejudicial to cities as different as Barcelona and Sydney.

the role of the cultural activites is defined in extremely broad terms and no specific performance indicators are provided for the OCOG to follow. First, in Barcelona and in Sydney, there has been a large gap between the eagerness to propose activities for the CO program during the bid stage and the OCOG’s readiness to implement them. This gap might be a direct result of the ambiguous description of the cultural program in the Olympic Charter guidelines. The only clear statement in the Charter is that the cultural program is a compulsory element in the staging process of the Olympic Games (IOC 1999, rule 44). However, the role of the cultural activities is defined in extremely broad terms and no specific performance indicators are provided for the OCOG to follow. This situation has allowed a great freedom for interpretation. While it normally leads to very ambitious bid proposals, it is also the source of remarkable discontinuities in the OCOG’s commitment to realise them, especially when the question of budget and resource allocation is debated. Second, both the Barcelona and the Sydney cultural programs, whether they were organised by an independent institution or by

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


a department within the OCOG, have had difficulties to sustain their association with other Olympic activities and to benefit from the Games’ extensive promotional opportunities. This proves that there exists a conflict which prevents the integration of the cultural program within the overall Olympic Games preparations. Although the Olympic Movement is supposed to be a humanistic project encompassing “sport, culture and education�, the reality of the existing Olympic Games staging process shows a total predominance of sporting issues over the rest. This fact is also reflected in the operational structure of the OCOG. As a result, the team in charge of the cultural program tends to be structured almost independently with respect to the rest of the organisation. This provokes an understandable separation from the departments in charge of sporting competitions and from the departments in charge of Olympic ceremonies, marketing, communications, media and institutional relations. This dissociation of programs and activities has led to an unnecessary duplicity of resources.

Opening Ceremony at Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

Third, both Barcelona and Sydney organising committees have suffered from great difficulties to guarantee appropiate fundraising for their CO. This is due to the way the current Olympic marketing strategies have been designed. None of the fundamental sources of Olympic revenue, either the successful worldwide Olympic sponsorship program (TOP), the national sponsorship programs or the sales of television rights, include concrete references which favor "investment in" or "coverage of" Olympic cultural activities. Considering the low status of the cultural program when compared to such activities as the sporting competitions, the ceremonies and the torch relay, Olympic sponsors will almost unanimously tend to invest in these areas rather than in the CO. Moreover, the exclusivity principle that underpins all Olympic marketing arrangements, has traditionally limited the possibility of getting

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


alternative sponsors other than public entities.

interviewed by Beatriz Garcia (15 Sep 99)

These circumstances provide a case for a better regulation of the CO management and production system. More specifically, it calls for the creation of a more clearly defined IOC cultural policy that will protect and enhance such an important but misunderstood dimension of the activities represented by the Games. This policy should not impose limits on the creative freedom of the Olympic host city, but should help guarantee its applicability. For example, the policy should guarantee the commitment of the OCOG to the CO when promises are made at the bid stage.

Carl Diem Institute (Ed) (1966) Pierre de Coubertin, The Olympic Idea: Discourses and Essays, Editions Internationales Olympia, Lausanne

It should encourage a better integration (if not a fusion) of cultural, educational and sporting activities within the Olympic frame, especially through a better coordinated use of Olympic communication tools and possibly an improved interaction between the planned Cultural Olympiad and other programs such as the ceremonies, the torch relay or the Olympic education activities. Finally, it should facilitate the task of getting appropriate funds to realise the program, and this means the inclusion of new CO oriented clauses in the existing Olympic marketing guidelines. References Brown, K. Program Manager, Sydney Olympic Arts Festivals,

COOB (1993) Official Report on the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. The Means, Barcelona (vol. IV) Cuyàs, R. (1991) interviewed for “El principal problema de la Olimpiada Cultural es la escasez de tiempo” in: Diario el observador (19 Mar) Garcia, B. (2000) Opportunities and constraints for promoting the Cultural Olympiad. The case of Sydney1997-2000 Olympic Arts Festivals, (PhD dissertation) Autonomous University, Barcelona Guevara, T. (1992) Comparative analysis of the Cultural Olympiads from Mexico ’68 to Barcelona ’92 (University dissertation) Autonomous University, Barcelona Good, D. (1998) The Olympic Games’ Cultural Olympiad: Identity and management, (MA Thesis), The American University, Washington DC Hanna, M. (1999) Reconciliation in Olympism, The Sydney 200 Olympic Games and Australia’s Indigenous people, University of New South Wales, Sydney IOC (1999) Olympic Charter, IOC, Lausanne IOC (1998) Olympic Marketing Factfile, IOC, Lausanne

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney


Messing, M. (1997) “The Cultural Olympiads of Barcelona and Atlanta from German Tourists’ point of view” in: Coubertin et l’Olympisme. Questions pour l’avenir, (17-20 Sep) CIPC, Le Havre

Games, Centre d’Estudis Olímpics, Univ. Autònoma, Barcelona, pp. 84 – 88

Moragas, M. (1992) Los Juegos de la comunicación. Las múltiples dimensiones comunicativas de los Juegos Olímpicos, Fundesco, Madrid

SOCOG (1995) Cultural Olympiad. Sponsor information kit, Sydney

Moragas, M. de (1992b) Cultura, símbols i Jocs Olímpics, Generalitat de Catalunya- Centre d’investigació en comunicació, Barcelona Obiols, M. (1988) “Haremos de Barcelona una capital cultural europea” in: Revista Catalunya Olímpica (Sep) p. 47 Obiols, M. (1988b) interviewed for “No existen precedentes” in: El Mundo Deportivo (Oct 7) Pfirschke,A.(1998) Struktur, Inhalt, Resonanz und gesellschaftspolitische Funktion der Kulturolympiade von Atlanta 1996 im Unterschied zu Barcelona 1992 und zur Konzeption von Sydney 2000, (MA dissertation) Univ. of Mainz, Frankfurt Subirós (1991) in Ladrón de Guevara, T. (Ed) Media and Cultural Exchanges. The experience of the last four summer Olympic

Radbourne, J.& Fraser, M., 1996, Arts Management, A practical guide, Allen & Unwin:, Sydney

SOCOG (1998) Communications and Community Relations, Sydney SOCOG (1998b) Festival of the Dreaming. Final report, Sydney SOCOG (1999a) A Sea Change. Final report, Sydney SOCOG (1999b) Harbour of Life. Complete guide to the Festival, Sydney SOCOG (1999c) Reaching the World. Complete guide to the Festival, Sydney SOCOG (1999d) Summary Budget: Olympic Arts Festivals. Figures from JDE, Sydney SOCOG (1999e) SOCOG revised Games budget. News Release, Sydney, 22 July Sydney Bid Ltd (1993) Sydney Bid Books White, M. (2000) Manager Olympic liaison, Australian Tourism Commission, Interv. by Beatriz Garcìa (March 2000).

Olympic Studies - University of Western Ontario Paper originally published in: Wamsley, K.B; Martyn, S.G; MacDonald, G.H. & Barney, R.K. (2000) 5th International Symposium for Olympic Research, International Centre for i

Garcia, 1999: From Barcelona to Sydney



Originally, the Olympic Games were supposed to blend arts activities with the sports competitions. and festivals in 1952), they have remaine...