“Athletic Foundations” conference, London, 18 June 2012

The Open University in London will host a half-day Olympics-inspired conference on June 18th 2012 from 5pm-8pm. Coordinated by Dr Aarón Alzola Romero of the Department of Classical Studies in association with the Olympics 2012 Humanities programme, this event explores how athletic events draw influence from heritage, thus allowing modern individuals and groups to construct, reinvent, consolidate and project their identities by establishing links with their past. The approach is multi-disciplinary, combining contributions from history, sociology, classics, anthropology, archaeology and political sciences.

Everybody is welcome. Attendance is free but places are limited.
Please e-mail a.alzola-romero@open.ac.uk to reserve a place and you must register by 13 June. See the conference website for details of the programme and online registration.

Date and time: June 18th 2012, 5pm – 8pm

Venue: The Open University in London, 1-11 Hawley Crescent, Camden, Conference Room 2.

Conference abstract
Modern athletic events, and in particular the Olympic Games, are rich in references to heritage. Opening ceremonies, the presentation of awards and the structure and rhythm of the competitions themselves provide communities with opportunities to express shared values, showcase achievements and articulate aspirations. The manifestations of identity that result from these events are often linked with references to ancestral cultural traditions. Activities like the reading of Pindaric odes in the Athens 2004 Olympics, the planting of the spear in Florida’s American football games or the performance of Haka pre-match dances in New Zealand serve as emotive symbols and ritualise forms of behaviour that are frequently cemented in the perception of a shared past.

Sporting contexts are powerful media for the manifestation of identity. Representations of shared traditions and common origins are combined with strong feelings of affiliation aroused by the performance of individual athletes in competition. Sporting prowesses become social projections of collective pride, inspiring reactions that range from banal nationalism to controversial cries of protest from sectors of the community that regard themselves as under-represented or oppressed. Television and streaming online video take the live images of these events (and the reactions that they generate) across the globe, enabling dialectical relations at an international level.

This half-day conference explores how athletic events draw influence from heritage, thus allowing modern individuals and groups to construct, reinvent, consolidate and project their identities by establishing links with their past. The approach is multi-disciplinary, combining contributions from history, sociology, classics, anthropology, archaeology and political sciences.

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