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The game of winning the Games

The current obsession with winning the right to host sporting events has resulted in the 2014 Commonwealth Games being awarded to Glasgow. The news was greeted by the media with unalloyed joy. Politicians from all sides hugged one another, athletes proclaimed this as yet another opportunity for aspiring sporting types to win medals, the site of the proposed athletes’ village was declared to be an industrial wasteland and the project was described by one politician (does it matter which?) as ‘irresistible’. The watching media failed to debate the issues or provide any detailed information

It’s as if the London Olympic bid never happened. At last parts of the media and elements of the political opposition have started to probe the ‘certainties’ of the case for bringing the Olympics to London. It took the best part of a year and a half after the bid was won for either to start to look critically at the bidders’ claims. The Compulsory Purchase Inquiry, at which plenty of evidence was produced to challenge these claims, was largely unreported and ignored. Politicians on the various supervising committees in Parliament and the GLA failed to ask critical questions or receive proper reports until it was far too late to make any difference to the project.

Yet Glasgow is now treated as London was when its bid was won. There is little analysis of what is involved and who will be affected. Benefits from tourism are predicted even though tourism operators say they won’t occur. The usual claims are made about the benefits of the now obligatory ‘legacy’. The sites marked out for ‘regeneration’ are described as if they were wildernesses without people and devoid of any worthwhile activities.

Sport has long been the tool of dictators to keep the masses from thinking too hard about their plight. But politicians of all kinds have not been averse to enjoying the reflected glory of being associated with sporting prowess. Now winning the Games is a key ploy of spin doctors in the modern game of media management and electoral control.

There is an eerie synergy between the ‘a’political sports administrations which declare sport has nothing to do with politics and who threaten to ban athletes who might be tempted to make some kind, any kind, of political protest, as the British Olympic Committee has recently decreed, and the machine politics of modern states like Britain. It is astonishing that such an edict should be issued in a supposedly democratic society, as if dissident athletes have no right to self expression. To be accused of being ‘against the Olympics’ by the supporters of the cult is to be put in a category of non-person akin to a medieval heretic! But with even serious media playing the role of cheerleader to these projects it is hardly surprising they acquire such mythic status.

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