05 August 2016

End Games

Yet again, the oba oba around the Olympic Torch resulted in it being extinguished, robbed, and harassed. This is perfect metaphor for what the Games themselves have done to the city with the mayor suggesting that Cariocas stay at home so as not to get in the way of the IOC, tourists, and the military. The city feels as if it has undergone a military coup and the government has upped their estimates of security forces at Rio 2016 to 100,000. Gente, the USA invaded Iraq with 150,000, precisa de tudo isso?

The Games are over. They have no credible leadership, the competitions themselves are not between human competitors on a level playing field, but between cyborgs sent out by nation-states to wage proxy wars through their bodies. The business interests behind the spectacle are more rapaciously evident than ever, and the façades of sustainability have melted into the fetid lagoons of Barra da Tijuca. 

One month from now, this may be known as the "I told you so" Games. The city has said that it doesn't have money to finance the Paralympics, which is the only shred of decency left in this spectacular failure of a global party. The IOC has constantly rejected all calls to put the Paralympics before the Olympics, a position that is consistent with its cloistered, and tone deaf politics.   

The ongoing military operations in the city are primarily directed against favelas and the black, brown, and poor of the city have been excluded from this five ring party from the beginning. This is nothing new to the Games as this also happened in London, Sochi, Vancouver, Atlanta, and Beijing, but in Rio, a city defined by a lack of access to the basic rights of housing, air, water, sewage, safety, recreation, transportation, etc. the Games have doubled down on repression, despite the flowery rabbit-out-of-the-hat legacy tricks of paid consultants and other institutional puxa-sacos. 

This blog has been categorizing the abuses and insanities of this mega-event decade for a very long time. Back in 2010, I wrote:

the Olympics become a mechanism for transforming the space of the city while at the same time acting as a platform to project those transformations to the international community. The public investiture in mega-events is intended, on one hand, to provide world class facilities that cater to an international tourist class. On the other hand, it is a mechanism for accelerated infrastructural development wrapped in the politically neutral and universalistic discourses of sport. The transformations that mega-events wreak are permanent, impose temporary forms of governance that elide democratic institutions, install new and enduring surveillance and disciplinary mechanisms, while both creating and exacerbating unequal geographies of power within the city at large. This process will most likely mirror the urban reforms undertaken at the beginning of the 20th Century which "…never resolved the issue of social control entirely; instead, they merely introduced a new set of antagonisms and changed the contours of the struggle between those who were benefiting from the new Rio and those who were not" (Meade 1997: 122)

Sadly, this has played out even more poorly than I could have imagined. As the major global television networks turn to the geopornography of Rio's natural landscape to stuff their viewers with eye-candy and human interest stories, those very journalists who are parachuting in here on a fun junket are contributing to the problem that these events generate. NBC has reported record profits because viewers are interested in the problems of Rio, but without that network, the IOC would whither on the vine. 

These are, truly, the Exclusion Games, and this business model must end before it can carry on with its scorched earth policy, heralded by an Olympic Torch ritual invented by Nazis. 

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