Drawing on a five-year qualitative study on the impacts of the Olympic Games on homeless and marginally housed youth in two host cities (Vancouver 2010 and London 2012), this paper explores the instances of ‘symbolic violence’ perpetuated by the institutional infrastructure associated with the Olympics. Following Pierre Bourdieu’s use of the term, symbolic violence refers to the manner in which the young people turned dominant notions of what the desirable Olympic city looks and feels like into a sense of their own non-belonging and/or inadequacy, experienced bodily and emotionally. Feeling pressured to vie for elusive Olympic jobs and volunteer positions, and to be less visible to the thousands of tourist-spectators for the Games, youth in both cities reported a defiant mix of frustrated indignation and resigned acceptance that they did not ‘fit’ the image of the global Olympic city that organizers were trying to convey. The paper argues that this social harm, difficult to measure yet real nonetheless, is an important though unintended legacy of the Olympic Games for homeless and marginally housed youth living in its shadows. The paper also calls for a more sustained engagement with Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence in youth studies as a discipline.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Bourdieu, Homeless youth, Olympic Games, social exclusion, symbolic violence
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2016.1206868
Journal Journal of Youth Studies
Kennelly, J.J. (2017). Symbolic violence and the Olympic Games: low-income youth, social legacy commitments, and urban exclusion in Olympic host cities. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(2), 145–161. doi:10.1080/13676261.2016.1206868