[Marxism] The 2016 Summer Olympics and the BRICS

Joseph Green jgreen at communistvoice.org
Sun Aug 21 11:08:39 MDT 2016


>From the Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list
August 20, 2016
RE: Sports mega-events and the BRICS

--Neo-liberalism and the 2016 Rio Olympics--

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are coming to an end. Sports can be exciting, 
and millions of people love to watch mega-events like the World Cup or the 
Olympics. But unfortunately these games aren't organized simply for the love 
of sports. They have involved big business and nationalist competition. Huge 
amounts of money are spent on these events, large profits are made by 
capitalist interests, and the masses of people have been left to pay the 
bill. For example, the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal left the city with a 
debt of about $1.5 billion dollars: it took 30 years, until 2006, for the 
debt to be paid off.

These mega-events are also used to promote neo-liberal transformation in the 
host cities. This is pointed out in a chapter of the book "BRICS: An 
Anti-capitalist Critique" (2015), which is an anthology edited by Patrick 
Bond and Ana Garcia. Most of this informative book deals with the economic 
nature of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), and the 
political nature of their governments. The articles show that the BRICS have 
developed one characteristic feature of imperialism after another, and they 
tend to call the BRICS "sub-imperialist". There is, for example, lots of 
material on how the BRICS are falling like wolves on Africa and exploiting it 
to the hilt in a ravenous race that resembles the notorious "Scramble for 
Africa" by the traditional imperialist powers. For example, we see how the 
BRICS look to Africa for the extraction of natural resources, while regarding 
Africa as a market for the industries of the BRICS. But Chapter 12, written 
by Einar Braathen, Gilmar Mascarenhas and Celina Sorboe, takes time off for 
sports; it is entitled "Rio's ruinous mega-events" and deals with the world 
sports spectaculars.

It points out that in recent years not just Brazil but "all the BRICS 
countries have invested enormous financial resources and political prestige 
in hosting mega-sports events" (BRICS, p. 186). These events are supposed to 
be an economic boon to the people of these countries, and especially to those 
in the host cities. But in reality they have helped wash away barriers to 
neo-liberalism: "As existing institutional frameworks are overruled to 
respond to the needs of international sponsors and private interests, the 
Olympic bid books become the _de facto_ urban planning documents in host 
cities.  ...  the overriding of institutional guidelines and the 
implementation of a neoliberal regime can only happen by unifying the city 
around a common project." (p. 188)

Brazil's sports mega-events have been the 2014 FIFA World Cup (soccer), held 
in 12 Brazilian host cities, the present Summer Olympics in Rio, and the 
coming Rio Paralympics. As a result, 12,000 people in a number of 
working-class and poor neighborhoods have faced relocation (Jonathan Watts, 
"Favela residents protest forced Olympic relocation by blocking Rio roadway," 
Guardian, April 1, 2015, 
theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/01/rio-olympics-protest-vila-autodromo-relocati
on). Also democratic rights have been restricted in Rio's favelas, partly in 
the name of providing security for the mega-events. To make this acceptable 
to the local population, promises were made that social projects would be 
completed as part of the preparation for the mega-events, but many promises 
were broken. This was one of the causes of the giant demonstrations several 
years ago when "millions of Brazilians took to the streets in June 2013 in 
what became the largest street demonstrations in recent history. What started 
as a protest against a price hike in public transportation in Sao Paulo 
quickly escalated to mass mobilisations against the massive public sending on 
stadiums and infrastructure related to mega-events while the quality of 
public services remains precarious. They also revolted against the violence 
used by the police force to quell the demonstrations". (p. 195)

It was the Brazilian administration of the Workers' Party of Luis Anacio Lula 
da Silva and Dilma Vana Rousseff that won the right from the world sports 
governing bodies to hold these events, and that -- until the current 
political crisis -- carried out the preparations for them. It carried out 
these mega-events in the same general way that every other country has. 
Holding these mega-events is one way that the host countries pledge loyalty 
to the neo-liberal system; it's a way in which the bourgeoisie of the host 
cities gets an international stamp of approval. It is part of a "central 
strategy for cities in the South branding themselves as 'global cities'." (p. 
186) Clearly this refers to global cities of the world bourgeoisie. By taking 
part in this strategy, the Workers' Party showed that it was adhering to the 
basic economic framework of neo-liberalism, even as it implemented a number 
of social programs with the money from the oil and commodity booms. When the 
oil and commodity booms deflated, the economy went into crisis, as Brazil was 
still just a typical capitalist economy. Other chapters in "BRICS" show that 
the giant Brazilian companies acted just like the giant companies in 
traditional imperialist countries, and that the Brazilian government, 
including during the period of Workers' Party administration, spurred this on 
and helped extend Brazilian exploitation in Africa and elsewhere.

by Joseph Green <>

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