15 August 2016

Piles of Olympic bullshit

This morning, Roger Cohen of the New York Times wrote “These Olympics are good for Brazil and good for humanity, a needed tonic. Watch Usain Bolt or Simone Biles and feel uplifted.” This may be true for him, but for anyone with a minimally critical perspective on what has happened in Rio over the last decade of mega-event hosting, this is unadulterated bullshit.

When I say bullshit, I mean bullshit as a rhetorical category as defined by Henry Frankfurt in his seminal essay “On Bullshit”.*  Bullshit, according to Frankfurt, is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts that falls just short of lying. And while it may be true that watching athletes perform on the global stage can give the sofa-bound Cohen an uplift in difficult times (especially for USAmericans watching their “democracy” unravel), Rio 2016 is so full of institutionalized violence, violations of human rights, transfer of public lands and finances to private companies, bullet filled black bodies, and corruption scandals of Herculean proportions that Cohen’s “uplift” stinks from 5,000 km away.

Cohen’s saccharine apology for transferring billions of public funds into private hands to give him a happiness bump is one of the well-established methods of dropping a load of bullshit on the growing Olympic pile. To Cohen’s deliberate misrepresentations of reality I would add the following gems from Tania Braga, the head of sustainability of Rio 2016, who dropped a load at a recent conference called Mega-Sustainability:

“Rio 2016 is contributing to global sustainability by undertaking a carbon mitigation program that invests in the reforestation of cattle farms in Mato Grosso, offsetting spectator emissions, participating in a stray dog and cat program and promoting tourism in favelas.” While she might not have been lying, the idea that carbon offsets in Mato Grosso can in any way compensate for the internal combustion of Rio 2016 is risible.  

Another rounded stone within Braga’s remarks was revelation that Golf Digest magazine awarded the Rio 2016 Golf course with a sustainability medal of some kind. How is it possible, in any sober consideration of the word, that a golf course in a wetland that removed an environmentally protected area and will host 20+ residential buildings where every apartment will have 2-3 cars could possibly be environmentally sustainable? Ditto with the LEED classification for the massively expensive Museu da Amanhã, the same classification given to the Mané Garrincha Elefante Branco in Brasília. Obviously, it’s bullshit.

The examples of Olympic bullshit are legion, creating a rich loam with which future events will be fertilized. Here’s an example of bullshit from LA 2024:

Yet within the lava-like flows of bullshit are some shiny truth gems, bits of undigested roughage that we can shine up and hang around our necks as b.s. bling. For instance, in response to the empty arenas of Rio 2016, the organizing committee said that they had met their financial goals and would “teach underprivileged children Olympic Values” by giving tickets away. That is to say, Rio’s children will learn that a multi-billion dollar international corporation will only give away tickets to an event from which they have been structurally excluded (and that their parents have financed through taxes), after the organizing committee’s self-imposed financial targets have been met and they need to recuperate some of the symbolic capital of the Games by having young black and brown faces in the stands. This isn’t bullshit, it’s truthiness.

And when the diving pool at the Maria Lenk swimming center turned green, the Rio 2016 response was that “Chemistry is not an exact science.” Indeed. The robbery of USAmerican swimmers gets more media attention than the death of kids and cops in Rio’s favelas, Guanabara Bay is more, not less, polluted every day, and just because there hasn’t been a full scale disaster we can wait for the Lords of the Pile to declare Rio 2016 a commercial, social, political, and environmental success. And among all this flying bullshit, the IOC won’t step in to finance the Paralympic Games as their members each pull down $900 a day, enough to fly all the Paralympians to Rio.

And more bullshit is yet to come, with retrospective films, sports business conferences, disappearing legacy promises, and a looming spectre of urban and social unraveling after the bullshit gets flushed, untreated into the South Atlantic.

* Thaddeus Blanchette and Ana Paula da Silva employed the concept of bullshit to very good effect by in an article entitled “On bullshit and the trafficking of women: moral entrepreneurs and the invention of trafficking of persons in Brazil.” Dialectical Anthropology 2012 36(1): 107-125.

No comments:


2014 World Cup Rio de Janeiro Maracanã FIFA 2016 Olympics 2016 Summer Olympics Eduardo Paes CBF Copa do Mundo 2014 Rio de Janeiro Olympics Ricardo Texeira World Cup 2014 Vasco da Gama 2010 World Cup White Elephants mega-events APO UPP BRT Brazil football Flamengo Lula Orlando Silva violence ANT Aldeia Maracana Carlos Nuzman Dilma Eike Batista Rio 2016 Sergio Cabral 2007 Pan American Games Campeonato Carioca Corruption IOC Jerome Valcke Novo Maracanã stadiums BOPE BRASIL 2016 Brasil 2014 Engenhao Joao Havelange Maracana Policia Militar Vila Autódromo Aldo Rebelo Botafogo Henrique Meirelles Medida Provisoria Metro Revolta do Vinagre Sao Paulo Sepp Blatter World Cup 2010 forced removal Carnaval Elefantes Brancos Fechadao Marcia Lins Minerao Morumbi Odebrecht Porto Maravilha Rio+20 Romario Security Walls South Africa South Africa 2010 TCU Transoeste protests public money public transportation slavery transparency x-Maracana Andrew Jennings Argentina Audiencia Publica Barcelona Brazil Carvalho Hosken Comitê Popular Confederatons Cup Copa do Brasil 2010 Cost overruns Crisis of Capital Accumulation EMOP FERJ Favela do Metro Fluminense Fluminese Fonte Novo IMX Jose Marin Leonel Messi London 2012 Marcelo Freixo Maré Museu do Indio Olympic Delivery Authority Perimetral Rocinha Soccerex Transcarioca bicycles consumer society debt idiocy militarization transportation 1995 Rugby World Cup 2004 Olympics 2015 Copa America Banco Imobiliario Barcas SA Belo Horizonte Bom Senso F.C. Brasilerao CDURP CONMEBOL Champions League. Mourinho Complexo do Alemão Copa Libertadores Cupula dos Povos ESPN England FiFA Fan Fest Istanbul 2020 Jogos Militares John Carioca Kaka Manaus McDonald's Obama Olympic Village PPP Paralympics Providencia Recife Russia Salvador Soccer City Taksim Square Tatu-bola Urban Social Forum Vidigal Vila Olimpica War World Cup Xaracana attendance figures cities corrupcao drugs estadios football frangueiro futebol mafia planejamento urbano police repression porn privitization reforms shock doctrine taxes 201 2010 Elections 2010 Vancouver Olypmics 2013 2018 World Cup 2030 Argentina / Uruguay ABRAJI AGENCO ANPUR ANT-SP Amazonia Ancelmo Gois Andrade Gutierrez Anthony Garotinho Arena Amazonia Arena Pernambucana Athens Atlético Paranaense Avenida das Americas BID Barra de Tijuca Blatter Brasil x Cote d'Iviore Brasileirão 2013 Brasilia Brasilierao Bruno Souza Bus fares COB COI COMLURB CPI CPO Cabral Caixa Economica Canal do Anil Cantagalo Celio de Barros Cesar Maia Chapeu Mangueira Chile 2015 Choque do Ordem Cidade da Copa Class One Powerboat Racing Clint Dempsey Comite Companhia das Docas Copa do Brasil Corinthians Cuiabá Curitiba Dave Zrin David Harvey Der Spiegel Eastwood Edge of Sports Escola Friendenrich Expo Estadio Expo Urbano FGV Fonte Nova Gamboa Garotinho Geostadia Ghana Globo Greek Debt Crisis Greek Olympics HBO Hipoptopoma IMG IPHAN ISL Iniesta Internatinal Football Arena Invictus Istanbul Itaquerao Jacque Rogge Jefferson John Coates Jose Beltrame Julio Grondona Julio Lopes Julio de Lamare Knights Templar Korea Lei Geral da Copa MAR MEX Manchester United Mangabeira Unger Maracanã. Soccerex Marina da Gloria Mexico Milton Santos Molotov Cocktail Mr.Balls Neymar Nicholas Leoz Nilton Santos Olympic Flag Olympic Park Project Oscar Niemeyer Pacaembu Pan American Games Parque Olimpico Pernambuco Plano Popular Plano Popular do Maracana Plano Popular do Maracanã Play the Game Pope Porto Alegre Porto Olimpico Porto Seguro Portuguesa Praca Tiradentes Preview Projeto Morrinho Putin Qatar Quatar 2022 RSA Realengo Regis Fichtner Roberto Dinamite Russia 2018 SETRANS SMH Santa Teresa Santos Sao Raimundo Sargento Pepper Security Cameras Smart City Sochi 2014 South Korea Stormtroopers São Januário São Paulo Teargas Templars Tokyo 2020 Tropa do Elite II Turkey UFRJ/IPPUR URU USA USA! Unidos da Tijuca United States government Urban Age Conference VVIP Via Binário Victory Team Vila Autodromo Vila Cruzeiro Vila do Pan Vilvadao Vivaldao Volta Alice Wasteland Workers' Party World Cup 2018 Xavi Zurich apartments atrazos barrier beer bio-fuels bonde capacities civil society comite popular copa sudamericana crack crime dengue dictatorship estádios favelalógica feira livre fiador flooding freedom of information furos geral graffiti guarda municipal host city agreement identity infrastructure ipanema istoe labor rape riots schedule school shooting security segregation social movements stadium state of exception supervia tear gas ticket prices torcidas organizadas tourism traffic tragedy trash trem-bala velodromo wikileaks xingar