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Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games Paperback – Jul 1 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (July 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865715920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865715929
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #531,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


The shiny rings of the Olympic Games have grown tarnished over the years as doping, corruption and other scandals rise to the surface. Those scandals are the tip of the iceberg, according to author Christopher Shaw, the lead spokesperson for several anti-Games groups.

Five Ring Circus details the history of how Vancouver won the bid for the 2010 Games, who was involved, and what the real motives were. It describes the role of corporate media in promoting the Games, the machinations of government and business, and the opposition that emerged.

Disturbing questions come to light:

  • Why does the IOC pay no taxes?
  • Who are the real estate developers behind the Vancouver bid?
  • Why are mega projects paid for with tax dollars?
  • What are the true costs of the Games?

The Olympic Games, once considered the pinnacle of athleticism and fair play, have become a cesspool of greed, backroom deals and the wholesale trampling of civil liberties. In Vancouver, preparations for the 2010 Games have had a substantial negative impact on the environment and has resulted in the "economic cleansing" of the poor and homeless.

This book is a cautionary tale for future Olympic bid cities, and will appeal to those concerned about the effects of globalization on many aspects of life.


About the Author

Christopher A. Shaw is a professor at the University of British Columbia. He is a founding member and lead spokesperson for the No Games 2010 Coalition and 2010 Watch.

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Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Heather MacKenzie on April 3 2010
Format: Paperback
As someone who Shaw would label a "soft opponent" of the Games, I do not admire the IOC but do admire elite athletes. I read this book after the 2010 Games were held, and wish I had read it sooner. It certainly enlightened me about what drives the Games (real estate development) and how the IOC and VANOC used a playbook from previous Olympics to manage protest over costs etc. I also obtained an understanding of why the Games have to keep moving on, rather than be more sustainable by re-using existing facilities and already built infrastructure.

While Chris Shaw is to be commended for the amount of research and effort he put into this book, I feel he shoots himself in the foot by being condescending to the point of slanderous in how he refers to people like John Furlong and Jack Poole, or how he discusses values like patriotism. To me the book would be much better with a good editor to insure that his important key arguments are not dismissed by the reader due to Shaw's lack of manners in describing people and aspects of our society that he doesn't like or agree with.

After experiencing the Games first hand, and after reading this book, I am willing to fight for cost accountability for the 2010 Games and to protest about future Games and the IOC -- but I would stick to the core issues of costs, sustainability, inclusivity, and IOC ethics. The anti-business "frame" of the author is not something I can embrace.

Despite my concerns, this book is a worthwhile read and presents point of views that we should hear more of in the mainstream media.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charles B. Dobson on Jan. 13 2010
Format: Paperback
Because the 2010 Games were coming to Vancouver I looked at all the recent books on the Olympics. This is by far the best book on the subject. It's so well written, it's hard to put down. The book reveals a lot about machinations behind the scenes, the link to real estate speculation, and how the glow of international sports acts as a perfect cover.
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Format: Paperback
"Five Ring Circus" is a book that brings up a couple of valid points. However they are surrounded by many fallacies and delivered in a very unprofessional manner. Shaw is on a vendetta to prove that every aspect of the Olympics is a sham and that the games have no place being held. Albeit, the Olympics do have some flaws; however the games do have many positive attributes that Shaw either dismisses these as "fluff" or simply chooses not to acknowledge them. This leads to Shaw alienating his recreation audience by not incorporating all the facts and by using such a bias slant. Shaw also alienates his audience by his unprofessional tone. This piece of literature is supposed to be based on intellectual grounds; yet Shaw insists on approaching the subject in an immature fashion. For example, early in the book, he dedicates an entire chapter to Jack Poole's smile. Shaw attacks Poole's credibility by discussing how his smile is "less a smile than a smirk, a curious twisting of the lips that seems to suggest he knows something you don't. And true enough he does." pg5. Shaw is making gross generalizations based on an individual's appearance, which is something that comes across, in writing, as shrewd and inappropriate. This book also tends to persist on itself as it is always relentlessly driving home the fact that the Olympics are bad. Shaw is biased against every aspect of the games, which tends to frustrate the reader. He takes insignificant arguments to far which in turn drowns out the themes that actually have some validity. Therefore, this writing only appeals to individuals who have already taken an anti-games stand and wish to reinforce their beliefs. Shaw's work would be much more effective if he kept to facts and left his personal beliefs behind. What the reader should take away from this piece is that the Olympics like many aspects in the real world are not as glamorous as they appear. Even the Olympics do not escape unethical media and business practices.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Roberta Burns on Jan. 29 2010
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinary book. Exhaustively researched and highly readable, it traces the connections between business and government that came together in BC to produce a massive run on the public purse through mega-project development under cover of the Olympics. The author also leaves no stone unturned in showing how the International Olympic Committee manages to maintain an image of purity while garnering billions in fees and sponsorships, paying no taxes, and remaining unaccountable to any authority. This book is full of jaw-dropping facts about the Olympics, both in history and the present. I would recommend it to everyone whose city is considering hosting the Olympics, anyone who cares about sports, and anyone concerned about how their taxes are spent.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alexander G. Mills on Oct. 19 2009
Format: Paperback
I read as far as page 16 and when I read: "The 9/11 Truth movement has attempted, recently with some success, to turn the frame, or at least to broaden it to include the notion that the US government was somehow culpable in the slaughter", I could not get any further.

I have many misgivings about the Olympic Movement and believe that the IOC is one huge jet setting club for political elites and opportunists, however, when I read the statement quoted above I closed the book.
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