Egos & Icons

Egos and Icons: Citizen Participation and Olympic Development on Bondi Beach

 

There is a growing field of social sciences literature that seeks to explain hallmark events and the community’s reactions to them.  Hallmark Events, also known as mega events, are generally considered to be large, usually one-off sporting events such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, Formula One Grand Prix or cultural events including Expos and the World’s Fair.  Although interest in the subject has increased significantly since the Sydney 2000 Games, there is relatively little critical analysis that reviews the policies and procedures of hosting a hallmark event on a host community.  This book examines the Sydney Olympic Games on Bondi Beach and traces the events and their impacts on both Bondi residents and the event.

That Bondi Beach should host the beach volleyball competition, formalising the casual matches conducted regularly by visitors to the Beach, appeared to be the perfect solution to the IOC’s late decision to include the event in the event program.  However, this one kilometer strip of sand, was to become the site for the fiercest battle in Sydney’s Olympic preparations.

Bondi Beach Life Guard Tower

Bondi Beach Life Guard Tower

The anti-Olympics lobby fought the proposed volleyball stadium for Bondi Beach and employed the media to present their message better than the ‘pro’ group.  Two of the protestors, members of the New South Wales Green Party and running for election, had the Party’s media relations and expertise at their disposal.  The frequent press conferences held on Bondi Beach and were accompanied by near daily media releases.  This provided the Bondi groups with resources that they would be less likely to have managed this effectively without The Greens’ links with the media.  Although the Olympic Coordination Authority (OCA) and New South Wales Minister for the Olympics, Michael Knight, issued regular media statements and gave interviews to various media outlets in response, they did not achieved comparable coverage.  The protest groups, as has been observed elsewhere (Scammell, 2000), were also far more proficient at conveying their message across the internet.  Beyond the reaches of the Sydney suburb, the protestors were mostly labeled NIMBYs, even by the local media.

Bondi Beach has different meanings and associations at different levels.  A site that operates on different levels, appealing to different groups requires an event management system that acknowledges this.  The management of Bondi Beach by Waverley Council operated in this social context manner until they were invited to host the beach volleyball competition that required them to prioritise the requirements of a small group of wealthy international visitors.  Bondi Beach locals consider it as an egalitarian space, and with the perception of its privatisation for profit some residents felt compelled to react.  One long term resident and council member and involved from the start, disputed the claims that it was NIMBYism.

“This is a beach for everyone and we want to keep it that way.  Particularly at a time when we’re going to have so many more tourists and visitors here.” 

(Neeson, 6th August 2004).

Dear (1992) defines NIMBYs as residents who want to protect their turf (pp. 288).  But the concept has negative interpretations that intimate a community’s comprehensive rejection of any type of development or change of use at all (Barlow, 1995; Quah and Tan, 1998; and Smith and Marquez, 2000).  Burningham (2000) suggests that the label NIMBY should be abandoned.  Recommending that those concerned with managing, mediating or resolving local disputes should also steer clear of the simplistic and inflammatory language of NIMBY and engage with the diversity and complexity of local concerns and interests (pp. 56).  I have described the sacred nature of sites and their importance to local culture.  Bondi is the epitome of this phenomena, thus it represents a unique venue for cultural policy research. This research explores the events on Bondi Beach, in Waverley Council Chambers and in the media as well as looking beyond the claims of NIMBYism to develop an understanding of the significance of Bondi Beach and its importance to its users as a cultural icon and a public policy debate.

This book explores the relationships between local and state politicians, protest groups and their members and representatives of the Sydney Olympic organsing committees, and their impacts on the delivery and hosting of the 2000 Olympic Beach Volleyball competition on Bondi Beach. The book investigates the motivations for the demonstrations and argues that this was not NIMBYism alone but the contempt for cultural values and transgression of sacred space that prompted such vigorous protests.

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