Big Games and Empty Promises

The competition to host the Olympics can get as heated as the
games themselves. Politicians often promise better roads, larger
airports, and big tourism dollars to convince citizens to open
their cities to the Olympic torch. In Chicago, one of the
candidates to host the 2016 Summer Games, some residents don’t
believe the hype. Mischa Gaus of
In These Times reports that community
activists are skeptical of political promises of greater wealth and
development given the Olympics’ past effects on the poor in cities
such as Atlanta and Barcelona. As public housing advocate James
Pfluecke explains, the Olympics will ‘drain every penny from every
corner’ of the city.

Even smaller-scale sporting events, like last spring’s Cricket
World Cup (CWC), can take a toll on host cities. When the West
Indies were chosen to host the CWC, John Horne reports for
NACLA Report on the Americas (not
available online), organizers had hoped to reignite the dormant
popularity of West Indian cricket, once known as ‘calypso cricket.’
Horne writes that a series of exclusionary corporate contracts with
multinational companies including Pepsi-Cola, Red Stripe, and
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, undermined the games with locals
by banning musical instruments, large bags of food, and
nonsanctioned drinks at the events. Tickets to the events were
priced so high that, Horne writes, ‘it seemed a form of economic
recolonization was taking place.’ Instead of the promised influx of
foreign capital, Horne expects that the West Indies will be left
with sizable debt.

Despite such cautionary tales, cities continue to vie for the
rights to host big-bang sporting events. Rio de Janeiro, for
example, is currently hosting the Pan American Games through July
29. Luke McLeod-Roberts writes in another article for
NACLA Report on the Americas that the
Pan American Games are seen as a test of Rio’s candidacy for the
2016 Olympics, and ‘good security is viewed as crucial.’
BBC News reports that 20,000 police
officers have been deployed to combat the city’s gangs. During one
particularly bloody day of police drug raids, 19 people were
killed, raising the concerns of human rights groups

Privately funded paramilitary groups called milícias
are being deployed throughout the city, especially in its notorious
slums, for the crackdown. According to McLeod-Roberts, many of
these paramilitaries have a reputation for ‘brutal use of force
against alleged gang members and their friends and family.’ Some of
Rio’s residents support the presence of the milícias as a
necessary alternative to the ongoing war between police and gangs,
but others, like Rio state governor Sérgio Cabral, have decried
them as an unacceptable ‘parallel state.’ For their part, even
residents who appreciate the increased security of the
milícias wonder what will happen once the Pan American
Games are over.

Go there>>
Olympic Hustle

Go there, too >>
Paramilitary Games

And there
World Cup Cricket and Caribbean Aspirations: From
Nello to Mello

And there >>
Pan American Games open in Brazil

Related Links:

Related Links from the Utne Reader Archive:

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to
Utne Reader

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.