Monday, April 18, 2016

Sport is glitz and shadows

Olympic rings Budapest Olympics

Sport, it is glamour, it is excitement, it is power. But it is also doping, corruption and homes bull-dozed to make way for stadiums.

The horrors emerging from Qatar of migrant workers dying and journalists arrested for talking about it. The seemingly never-ending doping scandals in athletics or tennis.

I read an article last night by Jules Boycoff which digs into the shadows behind the glitz of Rio2016.

One section jumped out: “There’s no getting around the fact that billions are being spent on the Olympics at the same time that hospitals are being shuttered and education funding is being slashed.

“With great fanfare Olympic organizers announced $500 million in spending cuts earlier this year. But the Brazilian government recently cut three times that amount from its health and education budgets.”


Is this really what we want to celebrate?

I remember the Beijing Olympics and that incredible Bird’s Next stadium, but how many people were displaced to make that happen? Friends who lived in Beijing at the time said unknown thousands lost their homes, and thousands more had their homes swathed in hoardings to hide the poverty.

Clean air that is such a rarity for Chinese people was guaranteed for the athletes – by closing factories around Beijing for months before the Olympics. Did those workers get paid? Who knows?

This article by Dave Hill looks at London2012 and its legacy for the people in the East End around it. The writer looks at how the stadiums are being used, but cannily when it comes to the real estate points out that land-owners and investors are smiling but not necessarily your average Joe.

Talking to local politicians, he writes:

“Newham’s executive mayor Sir Robin Wales says: “The government has walked away from legacy. We’ve been given some of the biggest cuts in the country, as have Tower Hamlets and Hackney. So that’s masses of money taken out of the East End.””

Olympic rings Budapest Olympics
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And behind all of this again you have the PlayFair movement – looking at the wages and working conditions of the people making all that expensive athletic gear.
We need to keep an eye on this full picture. We can’t live in a bubble where sport is just this glorious thing unfettered to human reality.
Run, jump, and shout for your favourites but remember what’s going on in the shadows too. 

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