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The Olympic Games varied layers of Cultural Programming

 As we all continue to be enthralled by the latest events at the Olympic games, our latest Guest Blog by Dr Beatriz Garcia from University of Liverpool, talks about the Olympic Games’ varied layers of cultural programming. “. This Blog is part of a on-going series, where researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts that relate their analysis to the Olympics.

Dr Beatriz Garcia

Dr Beatriz Garcia. Picture credit Dr Beatriz Garcia

Dr Beatriz Garcia is in Rio throughout the 2016 Olympic Games, as she has done since 2000 across nine Olympic cities.

The focus for Beatriz is one of the Games shiftier components: the often confusing and hard to pin-down ‘official’ Olympic cultural programme or Cultural Olympiad.

Rio is the first summer Games host city that has decided to break with the tradition started by the Barcelona 1992 organisers in 1988, when they decided to launch their cultural programme just at the end of the Seoul Games and develop it over four years (an Olympiad) so as to explore different themes in the lead up to their Games. In Rio there has been no four-year Cultural Olympiad, and there was not a clear cultural and arts hand-over from London 2012. Instead, we find a collection of separate short programmes, mostly happening during Games time in 2016, and led by two main entities:

  • the Municipality of Rio, through the Secretary of Tourism, which have commissioned the Olympic Boulevard programme
  • the International Olympic Committee (IOC), through its Foundation for Culture and Olympic Heritage which, for the first time at an Olympic Games, is taking the lead on a series of high profile artistic initiatives.

The culture team at the Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee were also aspiring to present the programme ‘Celebra‘ to highlight cultural and arts expression across Rio. However, budget constraints and branding tensions have prevented the programme from reaching its full potential. Despite some early attempts at presenting an eclectic collection of mini-festivals and art ‘pop-ups’ (an increasingly popular concept worldwide, fuelled by social-media), during Games time, this programme is noticed by its absence. Instead, the main legacy of the Celebra team will be two Olympic staples, coordinated by the IOC and used mainly as a Games heritage referent for the future: the official ‘Olympic Film’ and a series of ‘Olympic Posters’.

Given the lack of an official Cultural Olympiad with a dedicated website and brochure, visitors and residents remain largely unaware of the points of connection between a range of cultural expressions inspired by the Olympic Games. However, interesting cultural interventions are shaping the Olympic city and merit a mention.


Olympic Art in Rio 2016: Highlights

Olympic Boulevard:

Olympic Boulevard - Credit Beatriz Garcia

Olympic Boulevard – Credit Beatriz Garcia

Following a tradition started in Atlanta in 1996 and presented most successfully in Sydney 2000 and London 2012, Rio is hosting a series of LiveSites to enable people without tickets to the sporting competitions to celebrate collectively. The site in Porto Maravilhas is the largest LiveSite in Olympic history and has acted as a catalyst to regenerate a previously derelict area in the city. The area is now host to the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by ‘starchitect’ Santiago Calatrava, and a series of large graffiti artworks, most notably, this piece by Brazilian artist Kobra, which has gone into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest piece of graffiti by a single artist.

  • Museum of Tomorrow - Credit - Dr Beatriz Garcia

    Museum of Tomorrow – Credit – Dr Beatriz Garcia

    Large Graffiti by Artist Kobra - Credit Beatriz Garcia

    Largest Graffitti by single artist Kobra – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Artists in Residence programme

  • The IOC has funded the first Artist in Residence programme at an Olympic Games, featuring French graffiti artist JR as well as German writer Tilman Spengler and American vine artist Gerald Andal. The work of JR
    Picture Credit - Andy Miah

    By French Graffiti Artist JR -Picture Credit – Andy Miah

    has been particularly successful given its high visibility in key city locations and its capacity to engage the general public. Read the Olympic Artist in Residence by Beatriz Garcia.

National Hospitality Houses

  • This is one of the most popular offerings in the Olympic city for those who have no tickets to sport. These Houses do not consistentlyoffer cultural or artistic expressions but are viewed as a way for local residents to ‘travel the world’, while in their city and attract large queues.


    National House – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Other cultural activity taking place but with low visibility includes:

  • Olympic inspired programming throughout Rio cultural museums, galleries, theatres and concert halls. This work was originally framed under a new scheme, Passaporte Cultural, offering opportunities to follow city-wide art circuits. However, the scheme had to beinterrupted. Exhibitions such as Utopian Design, documenting a century of Olympic graphic design are, in place, for those keen and able to find the information.
  • Linkages with artists from the next summer host, Tokyo 2020, through the work of sculptor Mariko Mori and her ‘sixth Olympic ring’
  • Continuation of the artist-led Olympic Poster tradition, resulting in 13 posters by 13 Brazilian contemporary artists

Overall, despite the achievements, a series of important challenges remain for cultural programming in the Olympic city. The most important one is the lack of unified branding and denominations for Olympic related cultural programming, which makes much of this activity invisible to Olympic fans. The hashtag #olympicArt has been suggested as a means to tag activity but, so far, the take up is slow and of mixed relevance.


National House – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Rather than be exposed to unique, provocative and meaningful cultural interventions, a majority of Olympic fans and local residents will be exposed instead to generic entertainment and corporate promotions from the Olympic sponsors. These kinds of activities are highly visible in all key city spaces and in the areas surrounding the Olympic venues, such as Olympic Park. This is a lost opportunity at a time when people from all over the world come together and the host city – as well as Olympic Movement heritage stakeholders – have a chance at taking a global platform to tell their story. Dr Beatriz Garcia is observing how this varied (fragmented) cultural programme evolves and how its narrative progresses, both through official and unofficial (online, user-led) channels.

This work informs her long-term research on the cultural dimensions of the Olympic Games and the role art and artists can play in shaping Olympic narratives and broadening up Games-time voices from a local, national and international identity point of view. Follow up stories can be found at:





Oly Design - Credit - Beatriz Garcia

Oly Design – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

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Funding Opportunities in Horizon 2020’s Societal Challenges for Indian Participation

Horizon 2020


This brief note highlights opportunities for cross-disciplinary research with Indian researchers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), research institutions and universities under Horizon 2020 created by a recently agreed co-funding mechanism between the European Commission and the Government of India’s Department of Bio-Technology (DBT), by which DBT (subject to a positive evaluation) could fund Indian researchers collaborating in projects selected for funding under specific calls around biotechnology.

Within the calls agreed are some ‘flagged’ by the European Commission as challenges that require the inclusion of social science and humanities (SSH) research. The following lists the topics upcoming under the 2016/17 Work Programmes for Horizon 2020 which have been identified by DBT as priority areas for collaboration:


‘SSH-flagged’ topics available for Indian participation


Opening Date Closing Date
1st Stage 2nd Stage
BIOTEC-07-2017: New plant breeding techniques (NPBT) in molecular farming: multipurpose crops for industrial bioproducts* 11/05/16 27/10/16 04/05/17
SC1-PM-07-2017: Promoting mental health and wellbeing in the young 29/07/16 04/10/16 11/04/17
SC1-PM-08-2017: New therapies for rare diseases* 29/07/16 04/10/16 11/04/17
SC1-PM-10-2017: Comparing the effectiveness of existing healthcare interventions in the adult population 29/07/16 04/10/16 11/04/17
LCE-06-2017: New knowledge and technologies 20/09/16 n/a 05/01/17
SFS-34-2017: Innovative agri-food chains:  unlocking the potential for competitiveness and sustainability 04/10/16 14/02/17 13/09/17
SFS-35-2017: Innovative solutions for sustainable food packaging 04/10/16 n/a 14/02/17
BG-08-2017: Innovative solutions for improving the safety and dietary properties of seafood 04/10/16 n/a 14/02/17
SC1-PM-17-2017: Personalised computer models  and in-silico systems for wellbeing 08/11/16 n/a 14/03/17

Further Information about Indian participation in Horizon 2020

European Commission India Country Page:


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Soft Power, Cinema and the BRICS

As we start to follow the Olympics, a number of researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts relating to this topic.  Welcome to the second of such presentations, which also feature on the AHRC Website, where events, case-studies, features and the latest funding opportunities may also be viewed.

In this guest post written by Professor Stephanie Dennison from the Faculty of Arts Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds , she demonstrates how their AHRC Funded  project on Soft Power, Cinema and the BRICS Brics(BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has kept their interest in such matters and how this has influenced their observation of Brazil Braziland the Olympics.

In 2009 The Economist announced Brazil’s arrival on the world stage with a cover depicting Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ Statue literally ‘taking off’. Its economy was buoyant, it had already been confirmed as host of the 2014 World Cup, it was brokering new international partnerships, such as those that would lead to the formation of the BRICS, and, in the midst of such international profile-raising fervour, Rio de Janeiro won the race to host the 2016 summer Olympics. It was precisely at this time that Brazil began to be included in discussions on soft power, a term coined by Joseph Nye to describe a new trend in International Relations according to which nations gain favour based more on attraction and their persuasive ability than by military intervention  and sanctions (hard power). By 2012, Monocle magazine was declaring that ‘the sun is shining on brand Brazil’. Now, within days of the start of the Rio Olympics, the picture is quite different: Brazil is in its worst recession in 25 years, the elected president has been removed from power by way of an ongoing and legally suspect process of impeachment, and criticisms in both the international press and by a wide range of Brazilians of different political persuasions of the preparations for the summer Olympics have been relentless.


Members of the AHRC research network Soft Power, Cinema and the BRICS are keenly observing both the impact in the international media and within Brazil of the Rio Olympics. We can already see that, despite Brazil’s habit of equating cultural diplomacy with reputation management, which itself derives from a long history of being misrepresented on screen and in print, there has been no such drive coming from official circles in Brazil to correct, challenge or even reflect on the relentlessness of the criticisms aimed at the country in the run-up to the Games. This may well be explained by the Games being a municipal and State-focused initiative, where, for example, the World Cup wasn’t, and also by dint of its association with the Workers Party, who were in power when the Games were awarded to Brazil, and whose legacy the interim government seems determined to overturn. There is also nothing new to bashing Olympic hosts (London being no exception). But, it’s what comes next that promises to be particularly meaningful for our research: unless an unprecedented infrastructural failure takes place (which is highly unlikely at this stage) soft-power gains stand to be made by Brazil from an opening ceremony that captures the imagination of an international audience, and from the performance and medal success of Brazilian athletes. To date neither of these aspects has been the subject of interest of the international news media.

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After Brasília: the modern city in Brazil, 1960 to the present

Lina Bo Bardi, MASP, São Paulo (1968) - Kindly Supplied by Richard Williams

Lina Bo Bardi, MASP, São Paulo (1968) – Kindly Supplied by Richard Williams

As we approach the Olympics, a number of researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts relating to this topic.  This is the first of such presentations, which also feature on the AHRC Website, where events, case-studies, features and the latest funding opportunities may also be viewed.

In this guest post written by Professor Richard Williams , Head of History of Art & Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures from the Edinburgh College of ArtUniversity of Edinburgh, he talks about his research project on After Brasília: the modern city in Brazil, 1960 to the present.  This was an AHRC Funded project that explored the architecture of the Brazilian city after the inauguration of the planned capital city, probably the greatest single monument to architectural modernism. It paid a lot of attention to the big cities of the south east of the country, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, exploring high rise landscapes there, the phenomenon of the favela, and the concrete monuments of so-called Paulista Brutalism, a kind of architectural parallel evolution which produced, quite independently, work that looks a lot like the buildings on London’s South Bank.

Oscar Niemeyer,Edifício Copan São Paulo (1952-61) - With thanks to Richard Williams

Oscar Niemeyer, Edifício Copan São Paulo (1952-61) – With thanks to Richard Williams

At the time the project was done, Brazil’s architectural profile was relatively low – it aimed to bring to attention again sites that had been for some years neglected by the international architectural media.

Brasilia Supreme Federal Court

Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, Praça dos Tres Poderes, Brasília (1960) – With thanks to Richard Williams

It also explored the larger phenomenon of modernization. Brazil’s spectacular modernist architecture was matched by similarly spectacular investments in hydroelectric production, agriculture, air transport, and (sometimes) roads. At various points in the twentieth century, at least in image, Brazil could claim it was the most modern country in the world.

That modernization tended to come at a cost. The construction of Brasília arguably led to decades of debt, coupled with hyperinflation, and political instability in various combinations. It certainly produced a city that played out the country’s manifest contradictions: a pristine and organized central city surrounded by a much larger, and much poorer, informal one. Modernization in Brazil in the twentieth century seemed always to bring with it its opposite, so what it sought most to abolish, the sight of poverty, always returned.

That story has been repeated, in updated form, endlessly in the media coverage of the World Cup in 2014 and most recently with the preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games, in which massive infrastructural works have been surrounded by talk of disease, corruption and financial collapse. While the media representation of Brazil’s cities still tends to the catastrophic, as ever, the project helped restore architectural interest in them: they have a boldness, scale and complexity that makes them truly global property.

Paraisópolis favela, São Paulo, c. 2009 - Kindly supplied by Richard Williams

Paraisópolis favela, São Paulo, c. 2009 – Kindly supplied by Richard Williams


Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, Praça dos Tres Poderes, Brasília (1960)

Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, Praça dos Tres Poderes, Brasília (1960). With thanks to Richard Williams.


Oscar Niemeyer, Casa das Canoas, Rio de Jameiro (1951)

Oscar Niemeyer, Casa das Canoas, Rio de Jameiro (1951) With thanks to Richard Williams.

Additional Links kindly supplied by the author:

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4th Equip Academic Research Symposium, India

Equip Logo

EU- India Social Science & Humanities Platform


Equip No2

Delegates of the academic symposium – Photo Courtesy of India-Attitude

In this blog, Jessica Collier, Portfolio Manager in the Languages, Literature & International Engagement team at AHRC, talks about the 4th EqUIP academic symposium, which was hosted by AHRC and took place in Gurgaon, India between the 28-29th June 2016.

EqUIP – EU-India Platform for the Social Science and Humanities – is the first research collaboration platform between India and the EU specifically dedicated to Social Science and Humanities.

One of the key objectives of EqUIP is to support the networking of European and Indian researchers as well as identifying opportunities and priorities for future research collaboration between Europe and India.

This objective is being pursued mainly through the organisation of a series of six EqUIP Symposia. The forth symposium, which was hosted by AHRC, focused on exploring themes around the broader area of ‘Social Transformation, Cultural Expressions, Cross Cultural Connections and Dialogue’. Over 50 delegates from both Europe and India attended the event; these included academics who were experts in this field and funding partners involved in EqUIP.

Format of the 1st Day

A warm welcome was provided by the Director of RCUK India, Dr Nafees Meah, Dr Reena Marwah, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and Adam Walker from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Dr Jacqui Karn, the coordinator of EqUIP, from the Economic and Social Research Council Council presented a brief introduction to EqUIP. Followed by Professor Nandini Das, from the University of Liverpool, who acted as an expert convenor of the symposium, delivered a key note speech highlighting the main aims of the symposium.

Networking Session Contd

Networking Session. Photo Courtesy of India-Attitude

Once introductions were completed, the delegates were invited to take part in a networking session, which allowed each academic from India the opportunity to meet and briefly discuss their work with each academic from Europe.

The afternoon consisted of presentations from both academics in India and Europe, followed by three thematic discussions,

Networking Session

Networking Session. Photo Courtesy of India-Attitude

whereby academics were asked to discuss the themes in more detail, identifying research priorities under each theme. The themes that were discussed were as follows:

  • Historical, economic, social, political and religious linkages between Europe and India across time and space
  • Cross-cultural communication and creative expression
  • Migration, diaspora and cultural diversity


Thematic Group Discussion

Thematic Group Discussion . Photo Courtesy of India-Attitude

Format of the 2nd Day

On the second day of the symposium delegates were asked to reflect and discuss within their groups the opportunities and challenges associated with collaborative research. Finally, the delegates were then asked to rank the research priorities identified on the first day of the symposium.

Ranking research priorities which were identified in Thematic Group Discussion Picture 2

Ranking research priorities which were identified in Thematic Discussions. Photos Courtesy of India-Attitude

Ranking research priorities which were identified in Thematic Group Discussion

Findings of the symposium will soon be made available on the EqUIP website.

Equip Logo

EU- India Social Science & Humanities Platform


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Highlight Notice: UN International Decade for People of African Descent in the Research Networking Scheme

Highlight Notice

AHRC has launched a highlight notice, running until 31st June 2016, addressing research issues connected with the International Decade for People of African Descent

The UN cites the need to strengthen national, regional and international co-operation….and full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent.  The highlight notice is aiming to encourage relevant research networking proposals.

For details of how to apply or current highlight notices please visit the Website 

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Highlight Notice: International Development in the Research Networking Scheme

Sustainable Development Goals

AHRC has launched a highlight notice, running until 31st May 2016.  This is part of a range of activities supporting the contribution Arts & Humanities research can make to international development.

The aim of this highlight notice is to encourage research networking proposals which explore the contribution that arts and humanities research can play in debates about international development and/or to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For details of how to apply or current highlight notices please visit the Website 



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