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In Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be, Mark Perryman offers a timely reminder that sport and politics are always intertwined, and this has been just as true of the Olympics as other major sporting events. He argues, however, that a significant change began in 1984 in Los Angeles, as sponsorship and product placement started to gain greater prominence. By the time of the 1996 Games in Atlanta – the home of Coca Cola – global corporate interests had completed their takeover and aligned the proprieties of the International Olympic Committee to their own.
The book, a collection of short essays, goes on to explain how little evidence there is for the alleged benefits – everything from tourism and jobs to regeneration and increased participation in sport – of becoming a Host City. In unpicking the fallacies that demolish ‘the entire promise of the Olympics as something socially benevolent’, it provides a helpful summary of arguments familiar to critics of this summer’s Games.
What I find less convincing is the idea that this critique provides the basis for an ‘alternative Olympianism’. Perryman offers ‘Five New Olympic Rings’ to reform the Games. These include decentralising the hosting from cities to nations, and making individual events more open and more of them free-to-watch. The fifth of the new principles is the disconnection of the Games from corporate interests. Perryman is right to argue that the commercialisation of sport is not irresistible, but I see little evidence of a groundswell of grassroots opposition in defence of a genuine ‘Olympic spirit’.
More than other events, the Olympics historically has been the plaything of a tight, mainly European clique, an almost arbitrary gathering together of different, largely minority sports. Perryman’s ideas would undoubtedly make a positive impact on the nature of the Olympics as a participatory event. But he seems unclear where the pressure for change, pressure strong enough to topple the powerful commercial interests that control the IOC, might actually come from.
Nonetheless the book is an enjoyable polemic – and after a summer of relentless hyperbole about the London Olympics, it will come as a welcome relief to many Red Pepper readers.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Governments are manufacturing a new 'enemy within', write Yasser Louati and Malia Bouattia
The online currency started as an alternative to the failed financial system – but as a huge bubble inflates and bankers board the bandwagon, Tom Walker argues bitcoin has drowned in greed
Oliver Lemon explores what a 'robot tax' could look like, and whether it's an idea whose time has come.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism