I’m a little bit flabbergasted by this article I read on the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) website: The Olympic Games would be struggling for relevance if they hadn’t come to Rio
Here we have a white, privileged sports journalist from a rich nation writing about how “great” it is that the Olympics has gone to the “developing world”, that it’s refreshing to see a bit of grittiness such as a taxi driver peeing on the side of the road, and poorly paid construction workers taking home building rubbish for resale, pounding out his sentences on his Apple laptop while sitting in his 5 star hotel overlooking Copacabana Beach.
Meanwhile the country goes broke, lacking the finances to fix the collapsing education or health systems, billions having gone to building venues and infrastructure first for the World Cup two years ago, and now the Olympics, many of which will only be used sporadically if at all.
Many Brazilians are upset by the cost of the Olympics and believe the money could be better spent at a time when the country is struggling economically. [source]
The monolithic sporting complexes, dubbed elefantinhos brancos (white elephants) by local media, have been hit hard by Brazil’s financial crisis and many are now abandoned, face costly structural problems, and are even sheltering homeless Brazilians. [source]
The Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, the most expensive of the stadiums, is being used as a bus parking lot. The stadium cost $550 million to build, but without a top-division team in the capital it has little use after hosting seven World Cup games. [source]
The Brazilian government now spends almost US$200,000 per month to keep the stadium operational, and has begun to convert the area underneath the stands into office spaces for 400 public employees. [source]
I’m really pleased for this journalist – and many others – that they have a bit of “colour” they can add to their predominantly formulaic sports reports they’ll be submitting to their editors, offering them untold opportunities for creative headlines to gain the attention of the fleeting online reader. I mean, that’s what matters right?
I realise that I’m being a little hypocritical here, and that part of the problem are the fans like me that attend these events, as I did for the World Cup two years ago, or even those choosing to watch on TV with all the advertising dollars this generates. And that’s where these monolithic sporting organisations have us hooked, the love for the game(s) we have that often came from a time before it was ruled by money, now leveraged to suppress any murmurings that might arise from our conscience from time to time.
But everyone has a limit. As I keep track of the mounting deaths in Qatar from the construction for the 2022 World Cup, and watch the news reports of Russia invading neighbouring countries, and minorities in Moscow being attacked by Russian police, I do feel my love for the game of football being impacted. Not so long ago I held it as a dream to be able to travel to Russia to watch the next World Cup. Now I am questioning whether I should continue with this unrequited love in the face of these atrocities, whether it’s time to shout, “Enough!”
And after spending three months in Brazil in 2014, seeing first hand the poverty and lack of finances available to eradicate so many of the problems the majority of Brazilians face, and realising the absolutely farcical situation that had arisen by the country being awarded the two largest sporting events on the planet within two years of each other, my love for the Olympics is being similarly impacted.
If they want to hold the Olympics or the World Cup in a less developed nation – which in theory could be a laudable goal – then why not do so at a budget that is more inline with that nation’s economic situation? In this age of money a pipe dream I realise…
So what is it that I can achieve? Not much. I can feel a little better about myself by not attended or watching, give myself a pat on the back, perhaps event sleep easier at night. And maybe that’s all we can aim for?
But even as I recognise the potential pointlessness in my attitude, and in the act of writing this blog post that no one will read, something about the SMH article really bothered me. Once upon a time the objective of the journalist was to shine a light on these kinds of issues, to highlight those that took advantage of the “little man”, to fight for “truth” and “justice”. But it seems more and more that today’s media is all about making money, nothing more, nothing less. And that really doesn’t sit comfortably with me at all.