“The Indigenous Moment”: symbolic inclusion of the ‘Other’ in the Sydney 2000 and Rio 2016 Olympic ceremonies

Joanne Pilcher, Adam Talbot

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Ric Birch, Director of Ceremonies at the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, described the section including Aboriginal Australians as “the indigenous moment”. In the seventeen years since that ceremony, many have criticised it for tokenism, which Birch’s comment underlines. Despite the tone of reconciliation Aboriginal people are still marginalized and largely live below the poverty line. Similar comments have been made about the Rio Olympic ceremony where dancers performed a passinho dance (which originated in the favelas) on a stage resembling the messy informality of a favela. In both ceremonies the cultures of these ‘othered’ parts of society were used to add diversity to the performances but these groups are otherwise excluded from and marginalised by the Olympic Games. Our project focusses on how uninformed outsiders understand the power dynamics at play in Australia and Brazil based on these opening ceremonies.

This collaborative project between a sociologist and design historian engages with three different methods (focus groups/object analysis/literature review to investigate how the inclusion of culture from marginalised groups in the Sydney and Rio Olympic ceremonies shaped international audiences perceptions of Brazil and Australia. The project crosses both sociology and arts research as we are considering both the experiences of marginalised groups as well as their cultural products. Our work culminated in a workshop disseminating the Olympic ceremony narratives and discussing ways to better represent the uneasy relationships between different societal groups in Australia and Brazil. We developed this project together through the University of Brighton’s Opposites Attract scheme and have found that collaboration has given both of us new ways to consider both this project and our own PhD research projects. We will weave our reflections on this process throughout the presentation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventTraversing Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Social Research - University of York, York, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 May 2017 → …


ConferenceTraversing Boundaries: Interdisciplinary Social Research
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Period25/05/17 → …
Internet address


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