When Context Means Everything: Practices and Meanings of Pin Exchanges at the Sochi Olympics

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Anton Kazun


This article examines the practice of swapping Olympic pins among participants, staff, and guests of the 2014 Olympic Games. The study is based on data obtained through participant observation by the author during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The observed phenomenon is unique because of its short-term nature, the closeness and high emotional pitch of the context in which it occurs, and the involvement of representatives of many different cultures. The author concludes that the practice of pin exchange consists of several distinct forms that hold different meaning for participants (corporative, expanded, collection-oriented, speculative, and imitative forms of exchange). The practice of pin exchange significantly transformed over the course of the Sochi Olympics, as it passed through various stages (renewal, infection, epidemic, parade, and museum). During the exchange process some Olympic pins come to hold subjective value for participants and acquire their own “history.” As a result, some pins are excluded from the process of exchange. In Russian, extended summary in English.


Exchange, Olympic Pins, Olympic Games, Subjective Value, Material Culture, Collecting, Museums

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