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Sports and Politics: August 13, 2016 issue of Other Voices
August 13, 2016Sports in general, and the Olympics in particular, have never been free of politics. Allegations of bribery and cheating had already been part of the Olympics for centuries before that noteworthy day in 67 AD when the judges proclaimed the Emperor Nero winner of the Olympic chariot race even though he had been thrown from his chariot and failed to complete the race.
No doubt the judges who crowned Nero were keenly aware of his proclivity for executing those who displeased him. In the modern sports era, survival and success depend largely on the favour of corporations, whose power to provide or withhold funding and sponsorships now shape every aspect of sport, including athletes incomes and lifestyles. It is now difficult to remember that only a few decades ago, corporate logos were strictly forbidden at Olympic events, while athletes were prohibited from accepting any kind of payment for their involvement in sports. The corporate conquest of sports closely parallels the corporate colonization of nearly all aspects of modern life. Accompanying this in recent years has been the increasing injection of militaristic content into sports spectacles. In Canada, hockey games are now commonly preceded by rituals honouring militarism. In the United States, similar spectacles have been staged for years.
In this issue of Other Voices, the Connexions newsletter, we feature resources which remind us that resistance to the commercialization, corporatization, and militarization of sports is also part of our heritage. We recall the International Workers Olympiads which took place between 1925 and 1937, and the workers sports organizations which flourished in a number of countries.
With the Rio de Janeiro Olympics under way, we feature an analysis of the way a constitutional coup is being carried out in Brazil while the attention of the media is on the sports spectacle in Rio.
We also look at the extraordinary witchhunt under way against Russian athletes. Various sports federations have taken the unprecedented step of banning Russian athletes from entire sports, not for anything the individual athletes themselves have done, but to punish the Russian government. The pretext for these bans is a hurried report by a Canadian lawyer which claims that the Russian government (or, as the media routinely say, Putin) carried out a mass doping program. While there are undoubtedly Russian athletes who used performance-enhancing drugs (as there are in many other countries), most of the evidence underlying these sweeping allegations is based on the word of one man, a former Russian coach who now lives and works in the United States. Russian officials and athletes were not interviewed and were not given any opportunity to give their side of the story. Nor were Russian athletes given the opportunity to undergo drug tests to determine whether they had in fact taken performance-enhancing drugs. They were simply banned without any pretense of due process. Meanwhile athletes from other countries, such as the United States, who have used banned drugs in the past are being allowed to compete.
Distracted though we are by sports, we do have some other content in this issue, including an analysis of the recent coup attempt and counter-coup in Turkey, and a story about a movement for conscious food in Bolivia.
In the Organizing section, we remember the women of Greenham Common, whose nineteen-year protest at a British nuclear weapons site developed new ideas about organizing and civil disobedience.
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