rioolympics

The Rio Games – Dancing with the Devils – the IOC and the Politics of Mekking Sport

Submitted by Pachamama

Barbados-Olympic-TeamMany years ago we often wondered why people like Steve Stoute, Erskine Simmons and another man employed at Barclays Bank were so interested in the International Olympic Committee (IOC). We have subsequently learnt why. Last night Barbados appeared to have taken its first gold medal as the golden jacketed team’s outfit emerged as arguable the best on display, says the NBC’s commentator, at the Games of the XXX1 Olympiad – the 2016 Summer Olympics.

From the times of the Romans, games have always been political. Sometime central to the overall political-economy. And as 45 world leader descend on Rio with national flags billowing and anthems playing, the 2016 Summer Games will be no different.

But this presentation can hardly detract from the unparalleled power of the officials of the IOC, the devastation it continues to cause, the authoritarian nature of this unregulated organization, answerable to no one but itself – as stateless actor wielding immense political and economic might.

The IOC has now imposed a number of refugee athletes marching under its own flag as an indication of its power. In the past there could be no athlete unattached from a national flag. The IOC’s flag now fills a perceived vacuum. Of course the whole notion of marching around these games came into being for the 1936 games in Berlin. Eighty years later 10,700 athletes still follow Hitler’s orders.

The Berlin games also gave us others departures from what happened previously representing a milestone. We had the introduction by Goebbels of the torch relay; the use of sport to make militaristic, nationalistic and political statements; as determinative of shifts in global power relationships.

For the Brazil games the IOC insisted that there should proceed despite an outbreak of the Zika virus, plummeting economic circumstances, the displacement of 70,000 poor people of Rio, a ‘coup’ which brought down the legally elected government of Dilma Rouseff and her replacement by the American-backed Michel Temer.

This has become the norm. The IOC has recently given the warmest embrace to a number of governments which are said to have less than democratic impulses.

The recent Winter Olympics were in Sochi, Russia. The 2008 Summer games were in Beijing. They will return to China sometime soon for Winter Games. These are examples of the impulse of not only the IOC but other world governing bodies for sport. Impulses purely guided by money, power accumulation and the absent democratic traditions.

These relationships benefit both parties. On the one hand, the IOC could make any number of demands from host countries. Countries able to enforce IOC wishes without popular objections. And on the other hand, countries could purchase international credibility, national prestige through means that were to be a replacement for war.

In was only at the Summer Olympics of 1976, in Montreal, that the modern runaway spending started. Games which were estimated to cost a few million dollars escalated to over 1.2 billion. Having discovered that nations were willing to go to any lengths to host the games an invisible market was constructed and fierce competition ensued.

Since 1976 the IOC continues to mandate the terms on which countries would be awarded games. Those terms always seem to include the presence of modern stadia; new infrastructures; new facilities for athletes; and so on. Costs could quickly go into several billion dollars. Countries like Greece, whose population does not play baseball, for example, was to construct new baseball stadia for the Athens Games of 2004.

For the Winter Games in Sochi a whole city was constructed by the Russian government. Sochi is sub-tropical, so elaborate construction was needed to make enough ice to meet IOC demands. Russia is said to have spent 60 billion dollars. Vast numbers of migrant construction workers were brought in from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and other neighbouring states. Some of whom died on the job because of bad construction practices and the absence of medical care. Beneath the glitz and glamour, the IOC does not want to know about these things.

For the Summer Games 2016 however, Russian athletes find themselves under the near unilateral sanction of Thomas Bach, the IOC president without a specific legally grounded determination, as if imposed by a global Caesar.

Yes, some people have long suspected that, especially under the old USSR, there was state involvement in providing performance enhancing substances (PES) to athlete’s. But to place a whole country’s athletes under a general suspicion seems extreme and is motivated by other geo-political issues.

Just a few years ago the IOC officials were taking Russian money, by way of bribes, but now they are willing to take money from the USA to embarrass Russia at a time of heightened hostilities. So the IOC officials’ revenues streams extend beyond infrastructural contracts for new stadia. Stadia the planning for which, must be approved by them.

The problem is that substantial parts of these infrastructures, after the games, remain unused. Maybe the Kensington Oval in Barbados is another example where expenditures seem not to merit usage derived.

In the case of the Rio Summer Games, the Brazilian government is estimated to have spent up to 10 billion US dollars. This at a time when economic performance is not at the 8% growth rate which exited when the games were ‘awarded’. It’s more like 3%, at best, currently.

The games come as widespread social unrest mounts, with demonstrations happening daily in several cities including Rio; where the ‘interim’ president has an approval rating of less than 2%; a president willing, at a time of economic disaster, to employ ultra-austerity to further suppress the Brazilian people.

It is not as if the masses of poor, largely Afro-Brazilians have not already made sacrifices in the declining availability of health care, the declining availability of education, the acceptance of a militarized police force in the favelas, the notion that one in five murders in Brazil comes at the hands of the police. And we could go on and on.

But none of this concerns the IOC. These stateless, unelected officials continue to hawk these games for their own enrichment, expressions of power. There are no differences between the revelations about FIFA and the ingrained bribery central to the day-to-day operations of the IOC.

Official bribery at the IOC comes at all levels. The process of getting the award of games, the award of broadcast rights, by of IOC officials in contracting arrangements and by local or city officials using the games to distribute largesse and as a platform for higher office as is the case for Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Peas.

But there are many other levels of stealing from the public associated with these games. The Mayor of Rios found it inconceivable that his family member could not bid for a project associated with the games and for which he had ultimate responsibility. A project built so badly that it faces structural failures.

The housing units for the athletes was to be turned into low income dwellings for the poor whose previous accommodations were destroyed to make way. These will be instead sold as exclusive condos for the very rich.

Brazil showcased these game as environmentally friendly and promised to replant many trees to replace millions of hectares of forest that have been destroyed over decades but at the same time the re-acceptance of golf as an Olympic sport means that new courses were to be constructed for the Brazilian elites after the games.

Sociologically, we are talking about a country which has vast disparities in wealth distribution, official racism of the Iberian typology, a vicious classism, near slave-like conditions in-parts and more. Given all this, the IOC should not be proud to present these games as a moment of uplift. Is there anything about the Olympics that we should be proud about?

Yes! There are many beautiful and ugly aspects of the Olympics.

At Rio, the American gymnast Gabby Douglas will be competing against her country woman, Simone Boyles, to make history.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and American Michael Phelps will be doing likewise. We are sure several other memorable moments might yet emerge. As social activists, we are particularly interested in moments like that demonstrated by John Carlos at the Mexico Games of 1968. Carlos has asked for a show of solidarity with the poor and an accurate accounting for the past.

Back in the 1920’s women staged alternative games to prove that they were not to be discriminated against. We also had Workers of World Games in the period thereafter.

And there are other moments of enrichment as well. We expect the women of the American WNBA to continue to make statements in support of Black Lives Matter movement after defeating the efforts of that association to fine them for such displays.

Carmelo Anthony is also likely to make some statements about that movement. Serena Williams is already on record as being critical of Donald Trump, indirectly.

Over several decades the IOC has ruled that political speech is to be a no-no. Athletes are banned from being critical of sponsors. Banned from criticizing the IOC. We would not expect absolute compliance.

These are to be parts of the contributions of athletes to the ‘feel good’ marketing of the ‘successes’ derived when disaster capitalism intersects with neo-liberalism and produces austerity.

Given all these circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these games are an instrument to release the high-pressured valve of social discontent brewing around the world, they always have been. Up to now they have had remarkable success. But time is longer than twine.

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24 Comments on “The Rio Games – Dancing with the Devils – the IOC and the Politics of Mekking Sport”

  1. Exclaimer August 6, 2016 at 6:17 PM #

    “Olympics media village built on ‘sacred’ mass grave of African slaves

    Descendants of slaves accuse developers of riding roughshod over history by destroying archaeological remains at site where journalists will stay for Games”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/21/olympics-media-village-sacred-grave-african-slaves-rio-games

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/dec/30/brazil.mainsection

    Like

  2. David August 6, 2016 at 6:33 PM #

    What kind of world do we live that explains spending billions on stadia and 100 miles away one can experience unimaginable slum areas.

    Like

  3. Gabriel August 6, 2016 at 6:49 PM #

    David
    It is the Iberian racist attitudes at play here.Santo Domingo,Cuba,all of Central and South America display this racism towards their fellow man and that’s why it will not be tolerated in Barbados any longer.Barrow said years ago,if he had his way he would take all the white Bajans out in a barge and at the appropriate distance,pull the plug and send them to hell.

    Like

  4. Well Well & Consequences August 6, 2016 at 7:35 PM #

    Canada is still in debt with the winter games held there in the 70s…every country that hosts these Olympic games stay steeped in debt…..Brazil will never recover until maybe the next century.

    Like

  5. Well Well & Consequences August 6, 2016 at 7:42 PM #

    “Almeida said the centre would be devoted to the memory of the community’s slave ancestors. “Their blood that was spilled – I don’t want it to be in vain. We want to fight for our space, our rights and our traditions so that our ancestors can look and see that today we are living in a better place.”

    It would be nice if Caribbean people had that sense of respect and loyalty to their ancestors..

    It’s too much to ask of corrupt politicians however.

    Like

  6. BajanQueen August 6, 2016 at 7:56 PM #

    Gabriel it seems from what you say Errol. Barrow was a racist. And by extension you are too by making this point. Shame on you. You are clearly hypocritical.

    Like

  7. chad99999 August 6, 2016 at 8:43 PM #

    I would like to see those lazy, unproductive economists at UWI produce a detailed, comprehensive analysis of the quantifiable benefits and costs of this country’s participation in the Olympics.
    I suspect it only make sense for Jamaica and Grenada.

    Like

  8. Sargeant August 7, 2016 at 2:01 AM #

    I like the Olympics; I love the pageantry of the opening ceremonies BTW it was splendid this year but the Olympics are just another opportunity for the developed countries to show how “better” they are than the rest of the also rans by trying to win the Lion’s share of medals. In the Last few years they have introduced so many “bogus’ Sports that only “rich” nations play that this observer says to what end. This year they introduced Golf and the top players all found reasons to decline some citing Zika which could curb they ability to produce healthy offspring sometime down the road of course they can’t give the real reason “I am so wealthy who needs to go to Rio to bunk with some yob from nowheresville when I can go to Rio on my dime and get all the punani that I want”.

    The Olympics also provide an opportunity for the entitled in the Olympic family to wine and dine and try to look important in their overstuffed suits when they are selected to present medals to the victors. The drive to win medals gave us the East Germans who were “needle tough” and were so full of steroids that they should be subjects of medical studies to see the effects of steroids on the human body some 40 years on. The other nations cheat too but some haven’t been caught yet, the Ruskies were the unfortunate victims this year but individual athletes from other nations do exhibit that “higher, faster, stronger” ability that defies explanation if Flo Jo had lived would we be looking at her differently?

    This year the bread and circus show is in Rio, Brazil was formerly a third world country elevated to the first world and now it is back to somewhere in the middle but one thing for sure the rich are still rich and the poor still inhabit the favelas and the country will have one massive bill. Speaking of costs when Montreal was awarded the Olympics Mayor Jean Drapeau said “The Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby” at the end of the Olympics the city had a deficit of 1 billion dollars and a cartoonist featured a cartoon of a pregnant Drapeau in the Montreal Gazette. The Olympic stadium now torn down was dubbed “The Big Owe’ instead of “The Big O”. (Somewhere among my better half’s possessions is a gold coin minted for that celebration perhaps we could sell it to improve the family’s fortune.) The 1984 Olympics ran by Peter Ueberroth was said to be the first Olympics that turned a profit so it can be done but it would be interesting to know what part the 2004 Games did for Greece’s current predicament but I passed through Athens a little while ago and saw a stadium that was as much a relic as the Acropolis.

    I will continue to watch this year’s events and anticipate the Lightning man’s performance, will we see some US athlete try to revive Smith and Carlos actions of 1968 by donning a BLM shirt on the podium? For the country of Brazil, I hope that the economic burden is worth it as I hope the country is in good shape when I take my bucket trip sometime in the future to Bahia.

    Like

  9. Bush Tea August 7, 2016 at 7:51 AM #

    @ Pacha
    The Olympic Games represent the pinnacle of albino-centric philosophy.
    It takes the unquestioned social power of sport; the politics of competition; and the unmitigated greed of albino-centricity to create a spectacle of unmatchable scope….

    …Because of the sport focus, they are able to transcend ALL political boundaries…
    …Because of the political ploy of being ‘non-political’, they can dominate ALL cultures – even more so than the UN….
    …Because of the limitless money placed at their disposal, they attract the ‘Jack Warner’ types; the drug culture; the conmen …. all feasting off the talents of a small number of exceptionally gifted individuals …. and the gullibility of the rest of us bowls….

    Like practically everything else in this lost world, the Olympics have come to symbolise the principles of graft, greed, cheats and is now a global role model of albino-centric thinking.

    Expensive branding and PR is able to promote the glitz and glamour… and the talent…and the ‘beautiful infrastructure’….
    …What you have done here is to expose the dirty underbelly ..where the bribery, drugs, nepotism, stranded assets, bankrupt countries and millions of poor and hopeless brass bowls are left to grovel in the dirt while a few ‘IOC’ officials ride off into the sunset..

    The Local BOC and other sports bodies are even worse, ..not even bothering to invest any of their millions into any infrastructure or meaningful structures for athletes and sports enthusiasts … but helping these millions of lottery and other free dollars to ‘disappear’ annually into a dark hole without any public accounting or audit…

    How much longer could a CARING BBE allow such shiite to persist…?

    Like

  10. David August 7, 2016 at 7:56 AM #

    @Bush Tea

    Unfortunately we cannot buss this sweetheart arrange wide open if whistleblowers do not come forward.

    On Sun, Aug 7, 2016 at 11:51 AM, Barbados Underground wrote:

    >

    Like

  11. Donna August 7, 2016 at 9:23 AM #

    I haven’t tuned in yet. I probably won’t be able to resist the sprints but that’s all. There is no glitz or glamour than can make up for the mess that the staging of these events has become. Always the benefit of the few to the detriment of the many. Always. Not even a Bajan gold could fix that for me.

    Like

  12. Gabriel August 7, 2016 at 10:52 AM #

    Track and field events which I prefer to watch will be from Saturday 13th to 20th.100m women Final on 13th at 9.35p; 200m Women Final on Wed 17th at 9.30p; 100m men Final on Sunday 14th 9.25p, 200m Men Final on Thu 18th at 9.30p; 4×100 relay Women on Fri 19th at 9.15p and the Men immediately following at 9.35p all Bdos time.E&OE.

    Like

  13. Gabriel August 7, 2016 at 11:05 AM #

    Bajan Queen
    If sharing Barrow’s views of local albino-centrics so called renders me a racist,so be it.I will never subscribe to the view that a black man’s lot in life is to be a hewer of wood and drawer of water.I am sure there are millions who think likewise.Criminality is a well known trait of albino-centrics.Freeness is one of his guiding principles.Don’t pay for Labour or if you do pay starvation wages,keep them in subjection come hell or high water.

    Like

  14. David August 7, 2016 at 6:25 PM #

    Alert Alert

    So far Barbados athletes have not made it out of Heat 1.

    Like

  15. bookworm August 7, 2016 at 7:25 PM #

    “David August 7, 2016 at 6:25 PM #
    Alert Alert

    So far Barbados athletes have not made it out of Heat 1”

    There is no problem in that,they deserve their moment in the limelight. I do have a problem with the useless camp followers latching on to the athletes for a free visit to Rio.It may even be that some do not even deign to make an appearance in the Olympic park but spend their time visiting the sights.

    Like

  16. Pachamama August 8, 2016 at 6:16 AM #

    Maybe the Bajan athletes could receive gold medals if they stopped near the finish line and make sure everybody else crosses before them.

    That may have some significant import, worthy of gold.

    LOL

    Like

  17. David August 8, 2016 at 10:33 PM #
    Daily Mail

    15 mins ·

    This is what happens when the Olympic Games move on.

    Eerie photographs reveal the decaying sites of the past Olympic Games

    Like

  18. Pachamama August 10, 2016 at 7:11 PM #

    http://www.democracynow.org/2016/8/10/olympic_pride_american_prejudice_how_18

    Not just Jesse Owens

    17 more stood up to Hitler

    Like

  19. balance August 13, 2016 at 3:37 AM #

    “Gabriel August 6, 2016 at 6:49 PM #

    David
    It is the Iberian racist attitudes at play here.Santo Domingo,Cuba,all of Central and South America display this racism towards their fellow man and that’s why it will not be tolerated in Barbados any longer.Barrow said years ago,if he had his way he would take all the white Bajans out in a barge and at the appropriate distance,pull the plug and send them to hell”

    Gabriel no disrespect to Mr Barrow but I keep telling you not to place much reliance on his words .he said one thing to appease the grassroots base he was courting at the time and did another. The infamous public order Act and banning of Stokely Carmichael comes to mind.Sir Douglas Lynch the scion of plantocracy in those days and who would have been a passenger on the pilotless barge bound for hell is reported to have been a high ranking member of the DLP at the time and was an honorary pall bearer at Mr Barrow’s funeral.

    Like

  20. balance August 13, 2016 at 4:00 AM #

    Some years ago in 2012 on Barbados Underground I think it was Miller who wrote that Barbados has the capacity to produce just as many as just as good quality athletes as any other country, but our athletes don’t get the practical, emotional, financial, academic and athletic support which is needed.”
    I did not agree then and i do not agree now. Past criticisms of the expense involved in sending athletes to the Olympic games were always rebutted with the lame excuse that the exposure was good for the athletes even though officials always outnumbered performers.The pool of natural talent is somewhat limited in the athletic arena compared to cricket and the money could be best channelled in trying to restore cricket to its place of pride and industry in our national psyche.Whatever little improvement we make in athletics, it stands to reason that those ahead of us would further improve as well and we would forever be playing catch up. yes, prepari for athletics takes money, but it calls for natural talent too. If getting a medal in a dress parade is our greatest achievement at the games and is worthy of national headlines then what more can we ask for?

    Like

  21. In and Out August 13, 2016 at 8:54 AM #

    We wish Akela all success even if she doesn’t medal in Rio her future is brilliant . On her trajectory gold in Tokyo is on the cards. Her high jump yesterday was off she not only jumps higher but she will be in the open competition of high jumping. If she performs as she did yesterday she wont get far. The long jump is her pet event it puzzles she didn’t opt to enter the long jump as an individual event . She already won the junior world championship long jump. However she goes this gifted young athlete has made loyal Barbadians proud and brought true joy to the country. May the force continue to be with her.

    Like

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