By Tony Attwood
Huge gatherings of sports fans for international events. Great fun. Big TV event. Why not?
Well, if the current round of huge gatherings is anything to go by, the answer is because they can be rather troublesome.
We have the Euros in France organised by Uefa, a body that is renowned for its incompetence in dealing with corruption and racism and which recently threw out its own president for corruption.
We have the Olympics in Rio run by the Olympic Committee which has been deep in scandals since the Salt Lake City fiasco in 1998 when it was revealed several members of the IOC had taken bribes, ten members of the IOC were expelled.
In 2006, a report said the Japanese city of Nagano provided millions of dollars in an “illegitimate and excessive level of hospitality” to IOC members, including $4.4 million spent on entertainment alone.
In August 2008, the IOC issued demands that Tibetan Protest videos on You Tube be taken down. You Tube refused.
Before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games, the IOC decided not to hold a minute of silence to honour the 11 Israeli Olympians who were killed 40 years previously in the Munich Massacre as the IOC President said it would be “inappropriate” to do so.
And I haven’t even come to the World Cup in Russia organised by Fifa and its follow up in the desert sands.
So let’s have a little look at the Euros, Olympics and World Cup, and then consider what conclusions may be drawn. Remember that these are not three events specifically picked because they support my thesis, but the three biggest international sporting events across a four year period.
At the current Uefa event in France you will have heard of the civil disturbances between the police and fans. Hardly any need for me to go into that. And you probably know that France is ravaged by strikes because the government in trying to change the long standing labour laws, against the wishes of many workers. Then there is the fact that France is on full scale highest level terror alert. And they are putting on an event organised by Uefa.
In case you have missed it, Air France pilots are set to go on strike from June 24 to 27. And you may have been distracted enough by the football to note that protesters have been throwing stuff at the police in Paris in the labour laws dispute.
The UK’s government has a strong warning for anyone going to France at the moment, which says, “Due to ongoing threats to France by Islamist terrorist groups, and recent French military intervention against Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), the French government has warned the public to be extra vigilant and has reinforced its own domestic and overseas security measures.”
So that is France. Labour disputes, fighting fans, insecure stadia, riot police, and jolly chirpy commentators in the studios chattering away as if all is right with the world. What about Rio?
Rio has multiple problems. The city has just declared itself to be a state of “Public Calamity”, and has issued a warning of the total collapse of security, health and transport.
Among other situations, one particularly unpleasant warning from Associated Press says “athletes will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human faeces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games”.
Meanwhile the cost of the 2016 Olympics has risen by $99.3 million since August due to rising costs of supplying temporary power and seating at venues. Quite how they missed that off the list originally I don’t know, but they’ve just found the extra bill.
The trouble is Brazil is in deep recession, inflation is over 11%, and hospitals have been forced to close units and turn away patients as money runs out.
The opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics is on 5 August. Meanwhile there is a massive corruption scandal going on relating to a cartel of engineering firms siphoning taking money out of the state oil firm Petrobras. In the lower house of Brazil’s Congress, many of the members are themselves under investigation for corruption, and the President has been impeached over the budget accounts.
All five engineering firms involved in building work for the Olympics are under investigation for price fixing. The Supreme Court has a backlog of some 50 politicians to investigate on charges that they received bribes.
And that’s before we consider the Zika outbreak. The virus is generally focussed in northeastern Brazil, away from Rio, and mosquitoes are not particularly active in August, so maybe this isn’t too great an issue, although of course for any pregnant women who get the virus the results are utterly frightening and awful. And there is a risk of Olympics travellers carrying the virus back to a vulnerable home country. There have been calls to stop the games because of the risk, but of course this isn’t happening.
Meanwhile corruption allegations in Brazil have now taken in the stadiums built for the 2014 World Cup. That one will still be running when the WC opens in Russia.
But let us move on to… athletics. The head of the International Association of Athletics Federations is Lord Coe, one time runner, one time Conservative MP and two times Olympic gold medallist. He has now been accused of misleading MPs about his knowledge of the anti-doping scandal which in the words of the BBC “has paralysed athletics”.
A BBC programme alleges that his Lordship was “sent an email outlining how a Russian marathon runner was asked to pay £360,000 to cover up drug offences – a year before he told a Parliamentary select committee that he “was certainly not aware” of the allegations. .
Amidst other revelations it is said that Coe became president of the IAAF with help from ex-IAAF consultant Papa Massata Diack, who is now wanted by Interpol for his role in the doping scandal. Coe denies any wrongdoing.
The IAAF has announced that Russian track and field athletes will be banned for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following allegations of state-sponsored doping after Wada the drug monitoring agency claimed 73 of 455 tests on athletes could not be collected, and 436 tests were declined or cancelled, as it tried to monitor the Russian situation.
And since we are now with Wada let us not forget that Uefa recently refused to ban a footballer found with a forbidden substance in his blood, because if didn’t like the Wada list of banned substances. Effectively Uefa is now outside Wada regulations.
Uefa has recently threatened to disqualify England and Russia from Euro 2016 if there is any further violence by fans in an attempt to distance itself from its own inability to provide safe stadia for the events. Uefa has admitted there were issues with segregation of fans, and promised security would be “strengthened”.
So, maybe it is a coincidence that Fifa, Uefa, the IOC, and IAAF are all mired in the deepest controversy. Maybe it is a coincidence that the Euros, the Olympics and the Word Cup all have problems.
Or maybe all the money spent on stadia could be spent on public health improvements. Maybe we didn’t have to donate London’s Olympic Stadium to the club formally known as West Ham.
And maybe one day (and I know this is an awful lot to ask but I can dream) one journalist in one newspaper would actually say, “hang on a minute – Olympics, Euros, World Cup, corruption – could there be a common thread running through all of us? Should we always be giving such massive support for these events which are corrupt and leave countries bankrupt, the rich even richer, and the poor even poorer?” Should we pack TV studios with grinning faces who carry on as if everything is ok?
But sadly, for the moment, it seems little Untold sits on its own. Mind you, maybe the fact that we do raise such things occasionally is why we get quite a large audience.
Insult of the day…
You peasant swain! You whoreson malt-horse drudge. (Taming of the Shrew)
(The insult of the day appears on the home page most mornings).
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