Between Tightness and Looseness: The politics of the London Games in light of the Beijing Games

A seminar as part of the Sport Business Centre Seminar Series

Given by: Hans Bonde, Professor, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen

Clore Management Centre
Room G01
Malet Place (off Torrington Place)
London WC1
Friday 14th June 2013 at 6pm

For directions click here

This event will operate under “Chatham House Rules” – no external reporting without the permission of the speakers


Professor Hans Bonde from the University of Copenhagen will be presenting on the findings of his research on a comparison between the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing (2008) and London (2012). His analysis will show how, alongside the mandatory rituals of the Olympic liturgy, a more informal structure has evolved that allows the host nation to present core cultural values to the outside world as well as to its own citizens. Even though the last two Olympic Games were staged by very different political systems, one a single-party state and the other an old parliamentary system, the structuring principles were rather similar: a celebration of the heads of state, of the host nations’ historical contribution to the world community, of the protection of society, of memorial politics and of integration related to, for instance, gender, ethnic origins and disabilities. In addition, the tendency to omit embarrassing details from the nation’s past or present understandably holds true for both Olympics.

However, his analysis will also reveal that, alongside this homogeneity, important dissimilarities are to be found. The Queen tended to lift the London Games out of the party-political sphere and into the ceremonial, royal, glamorous sphere, which without doubt made the subsequent political messages easier to swallow for an international public, especially in comparison with Hu Jintao’s and the Chinese Politburo’s traditional expressionless statesman look in the red box. In addition, it was obvious that Danny Boyle made implicit comments on the perfectly synchronised Beijing Games with their control of every detail, the use of performers recruited from the military and the highlighting of Confucian-inspired state loyalty. With the London Games’ emphasis on the welfare state, women’s liberation, multiculturalism and human rights, Danny Boyle clearly envisioned Britain as the cradle of the Western liberal ideals of an open and tolerant society.


  • Bonde, H., Gymnastics and Politics (Museum Tusculanum Press, 2006).
  • Bonde H., Niels Bukh – A Visual Documentation (DVD in Japanese, English and Danish, Museum Tusculanum Press, 2007).
  • Bonde H., Football with the Foe (University of Southern Denmark Press, 2008).
  • Bonde, H., The Politics of the Male Body in Global sport – The Danish Involvement (Routledge, 2010).


Hans Bonde (b. 1958), Danish historian, professor at Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Copenhagen University.

Hans Bonde has proved to international academia that, during the great cultural struggles between the Anglo-Saxon and the European continental world from circa 1900 to 1940, Danish gymnastics became a key exponent for continental Europe’s attempt to maintain a cultural precedence over British competitive sport. Leading Danish educationalists gained international fame through their daring male aesthetics, introducing into the norms of gymnastics the notion of men touching men, of rhythmic expression of the male body and of the exposure of the naked and sensual male body in public.

He has contributed to the field of “politics and sport” through demonstrating the latent political dimension of corporeal culture. Following his earlier PhD doctoral dissertation, he defended in 2001 his full doctoral dissertation (dr.phil.), a work published in an English version in 2006 investigating relationships between irrational corporeally-based displays of power and politics. The thesis was that the charismatic and extremist Danish right-wing gymnastics organizer, the internationally renowned Niels Bukh, was far more dangerous to democracy, since he chose not to seek political influence via the established parliamentary party system, but instead sought to build an extra-parliamentary power base through his enormous influence on Danish youth culture, and through his ability to create symbols of sensuousness for a highly disciplined international vitalist youth.

In 2007, he published another monograph Football with the Foe: Danish sports under the Swastika. He demonstrated how the German authorities had used sport as an important propaganda aspect of their foreign policy during the Second World War: furthermore he demonstrated how Denmark, as the main occupied country and in contrast to occupied Holland and Norway, conducted an extensive mutual sporting exchange with Germany, with the result that sports became the largest cultural sector in Denmark to collaborate with the Axis powers.

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Contact details

For further details on this seminar series contact:

Sean Hamil
Department of Management
Birkbeck College
Malet Street

Tel: 020-7631 6763

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