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If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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The Commonwealth Games unravel

India’s rush to complete construction for the Commonwealth Games is coming at a steep price for ordinary Indians argues Dave Zirin in Socialist Worker.

IT STARTED as the British Empire Games in 1930. It still begins with an official message from the Queen that travels by hand from Buckingham Palace. It still culminates with a tribute to the British military that would put the old Red Square parades to shame.

It is the Commonwealth Games (CWG), and its goal from the outset has been to use sports to create goodwill between the United Kingdom and the various outposts of ye olde empire.

As the Rev. Astley Cooper first proposed in 1891, a “Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival every four years [could act as] a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire.” Today, this sporting festival involves 71 countries and a series of games that spring from the UK, like lawn bowling, rugby seven and netball.

I don’t know if the CWG has created goodwill, but as the 2010 Games are set to start in Delhi, we are getting a very good understanding of empire, at least the 21st century variant.

The games are teetering on the edge of an unprecedented implosion and the problem isn’t just that India, a country where 46 percent of the children are underweight, is spending $2.5 billion on athletic facilities alone.

The problem is not just that India, a country, where 42 percent of the people live under the World Bank poverty line of $1.25 a day, promised $100,000 to every country’s delegation to secure the games (what is called in less refined circles “a bribe.”) And the problem is not just that this state of affairs raises the question about whether India, with all it’s nouveau economic might, should be playing footstool for the inert Queen’s “Empire Games.”

The games might not go on because the CWG facilities, built at great economic and social cost, have been flagged as a serious health hazard. In preparing the various arenas, dozens of workers have been grievously injured in accidents due to faulty materials and equipment. Last week alone, a ceiling collapsed at the weightlifting venue and a bridge crumbled outside the main staging ground, Nehru Stadium, injuring 27.

Commonwealth Games President Michael Fennell expressed in writing his “great concern” over the current situation. “Many nations that have already sent their advanced parties to set up within the village have made it abundantly clear that, as of the afternoon of September 20, the Commonwealth Games village is seriously compromised,” he said.

Mike Hooper, the CWG chief executive, sniffed, “The village is filthy…one can’t occupy the rooms. There is building dust and rubble, and the toilets are not working. Reports of excrement being found are true…[It’s not fit] for human habitation.”

The chairperson of the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales, Anne Ellis, raised the unprecedented prospect of canceling it altogether. [We will see how London handles the 2012 Olympics for example, and recoil anew without the comfort of xenophobia.]

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THERE IS more than a little dollop of paternalistic racism in CWG officials’ assessments of Delhi. The critiques that matter, though, come from inside of India where the Commonweath Games are called the “Corporate Wealth Games.”

Currently, India is suffering through one of the worst-ever outbreaks of Dengue Fever, which spreads through mosquitoes, exacerbated from a particularly harsh monsoon season. Pranav Jani, an American professor living in Delhi, wrote, “Many are saying [the outbreak is due] to the massive digging and construction from the upcoming CWG.”

You will hear CWG officials complain about Dengue. You will hear athletes raise it as a health concern and decline to compete. But you won’t hear their complicity.

Regardless, if the CWG bureaucrats want to vacate responsibility for the state of affairs every day, the Indian press discusses the problems in grand detail. This is the first time India has ever aimed to host an event of this magnitude. The country’s leaders are aiming to accomplish what China did with the 2008 Olympics, South Africa with the 2010 World Cup, and what Brazil hopes to do with the 2016 Olympics–namely, demonstrate that they are willing to pull out all the stops to raise their international prestige at putting on a good show.

There is a reason why the so-called BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are the 21st century hosts for these elaborate sporting spectacles. One reason is that they are willing to do whatever it takes to make the games happen. That means repression. That means massive debt for public works projects.

In China, we saw the price of this, with 2 million people displaced from Beijing. In South Africa, a million-strong public sector strike marks the hangover after the party. In Brazil, a police helicopter was shot down over the favelas, in October 2009, just south west of an Olympic Zone. In Athens, before the 2004 games, anywhere between 40 and 150 construction workers died as the International Olympic Committee deadlines hovered.

In India, we see similar stories. As Ravi Chaudhary reported:

On the 7th of July 2010, during work hours, a government funded demolition team took bulldozers to the Yamuna Khada school (funded by donations) in order for it to be ruthlessly demolished. Those who attended and worked at the school were given three hours to vacate the property with no alternative. Police were present along with the construction teams and were seen destroying whatever could be demolished by hand in order to put fear into local residents. Many were removed with physical force.

And yet, the world has looked away, because the trains have always run on time. To put it another way, the games went off without a hitch and the body count was ignored. Just as in 1968 in Mexico City, when hundreds of students and workers were killed before the games and the world looked away, it is seen by organizers as a plus–not a minus–that such extreme prejudice can be introduced with impunity.

In India, we are seeing how this process of rapid-fire development on the quick has crossed the line that divides the development from the spectacle. Now not only are dissidents and workers endangered, the athletes themselves are imperiled as well. For the first time since the Second World War, the show may not go on. But this time, the war is the show and the show is the war.

First published at TheNation.com.

Dave Zirin is the author of Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love and A People’s History of Sports in the United States, as well as two collections of his sports writings, Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports and What’s My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States. He is a columnist for TheNation.com; his writings are also featured at his Edge of Sports Web site.

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Comments

Comment from peter piper
Time October 1, 2010 at 8:24 am

apart from denigrating the British Empire (“they only gave us sewers, roads, maps, goverannce, education, police, and infrastructure…”), this article is essentially correct. money should have been spent on the poor, not useless show off stadiums

Comment from John
Time October 1, 2010 at 11:30 am

And poverty, death and destruction…

Comment from Bernard
Time October 1, 2010 at 11:45 am

What is going to happen in Perth in November 2011 for the CHOGM meeting which Rudd and Smith wave willed to be there.