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Like many forms of popular culture, sport has its own distinctive forms of history telling, but few are as powerful as the myths that dominate discussion of sports mega-events, especially the Olympic Games.
Jules Boykoff’s Power Games, an engaging revisionist history of the modern Olympics, builds on his recent explorations of Olympic protests in Vancouver and London. It is particularly timely, as the Rio Games show clear signs of militarisation, an intensifying clampdown on civil society and the reinforcement of Rio’s power elite. Boykoff places Rio in a history of struggle, as the most recent example of what he calls ‘celebration capitalism’. This is akin to Naomi Klein’s ‘disaster capitalism’, with a sport-induced state of exception encouraging a euphoric condition accompanied by public guarantees of expenditure, transfer of public assets to private control through public-private partnerships, and new technologies of surveillance and securitisation. This is not neoliberalism in action, but a ground-clearing exercise for neoliberal policies and practice.
‘Celebration capitalism’ adds power to this investigation of the Olympics’ imperialist basis, the challenge from the women’s and workers’ games of the 1920s and 1930s, cold war tensions, civil and human rights in the 1960s, Denver’s 1972 plebiscite rejecting the Winter Games on cost and environmental grounds, and dissent over growing corporatisation and the Games’ role in social cleansing of host cities. This history links the Rio Games with its football World Cup as celebration capitalism in action. It concludes with a clear agenda for reform of the Games, addressing issues of hosting, athletes’ rights and the Olympics committee’s democratic deficit.
Recent Olympic hosting discussions have seen several cities’ bids halted by citizen-based resistance campaigns. As sporting mega-events become the focus of a growing number of activists, Power Games provides the basis for those campaigns to be better informed and more effective in building transnational, persistent activist links. For the rest of us, celebration capitalism is a vital lens through which to better read the world.
The collapse of Carillion is only one small part of a larger story of decades of economic mismanagement
Laura McDonald writes that universities should not just be finishing schools for the wealthy or disciplinary institutions churning out docile workers.
A floundering alliance of Blairites is trying to reinvent itself for a Corbynite age. By Tom Costello.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann explains why decades of occupation and oppression have led some people to call Israel an apartheid state.
International Women's Day is set to be marked by strikes from "paid work in offices and factories, or unpaid domestic work in homes, communities and bedrooms."
Laurie Laybourn-Langton writes that measuring the economy is political - and economic measurement dominates politics.
David Scott argues that our prison system represents a human rights disaster, and reformist solutions can't tackle the root problems.
A deeper engagement with culture can strengthen our democracy, taking political projects beyond electoral impact and festival memes into a whole new world of radical, lasting change.
Ruth Tanner writes that revelations about Oxfam's behaviour in Haiti are shocking, but not surprising.
The actions of Oxfam officials are horrendous - but gutting foreign aid funding just puts more people at risk, writes Daniel Gibson.
For All, By All
The latest issue of Red Pepper asks - how do we invite, support and nurture greater public participation so that our cultural capabilities are empowered beyond the crushing logic of market fundamentalism?
‘We are hungry in three languages’: The forgotten promise of the Bosnian Spring
Ruth Tanner looks back at a wave of protests which swept through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
It’s time for a cultural renewal of the left
Andrew Dolan writes that we need to integrate art, music, films and poetry into our movement, creating spaces where political ideas are given further room to breathe.
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