Olympic legacies in the IOC's 'Celebrate Humanity' campaign: ancient or modern?

Joseph Maguire, Sarah Barnard, Katie Butler, Peter Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Olympics is a global event that acts as a carrier of cultural meanings that are available to international audiences and markets. Though the heritage of the Olympics is claimed to be derived from the ancient world, in fact the contemporary legacy is very modern. Indeed, such meanings, and the legacy thereby attached, are re-represented, distributed, and marketed by a media-sport complex predicated less on the concept of arete and much more on a consumption ethos. Here, the initial formulation, development and use of the 'Celebrate Humanity' programme is investigated. The programme was framed by the IOC marketing department as a way both to deflect criticism of the IOC and as one means by which to provide 'added-value' to the Olympic Partner (TOP) programme sponsors. This programme, and the wider Olympic movement, highlights the basic contradiction between the ideals of 'Olympism' and the realities of the modern Olympics in practice. The 'legacy' of the modern games is consumption. The legacy 'message' becomes embedded in a broader process of commerce whereby the media/marketing/advertising/corporate nexus is concerned less with the values underpinning Olympism per se and more with how such values can help build markets, construct and enhance brand awareness, and create 'glocal' consumers/identities. Celebrate Humanity is no exception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2041-2059
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


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