Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Games - Who Gives a Caber's Toss

The modern Olympics are the brainchild of French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin, an eccentric Anglophile who grew up feeling shamed by his country’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. On a visit to England as a young man, de Coubertin was impressed by the Rugby School’s physical-education program and considered it an example of one of the critical factors in the 19th-century expansion of British power and part of the magic formula for Britain’s imperial dominance. “Organised sport,” he came to believe, “can create moral and social strength” — and make men more likely to win wars than lose them. Coubertin was a straightforward adherent to the Social Darwinism of his time: "the superior race is fully entitled to deny the lower race certain privileges of civilized life". De Coubertin tried to start physical-education programs in French schools, with the goal of restoring his country’s honor. When that effort failed, he set out to organize an international competition, based on the ancient games near Mount Olympus, that would take place in a different country every four years. The first competition was held in Athens in 1896. The “Fundamental Principles of Olympism” are today embodied in the Olympic Charter, which explains that “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.” Writing about the Olympic Charter, Matthew Syed, a former Ping-Pong champion who competed for Great Britain in two Olympic Games, posed a question: “Is there, in the history of human literature, a document more spuriously idealistic, more breathtakingly drunk on its own self-importance?”  Coubertin was delighted by the enthusiasm shown by Nazi Germany in its preparations for the Berlin Olympics of 1936: "illuminated with Hitler’s strength and discipline", and they served as a model for subsequent Games.

Equally enthusiastic was Coubertin’s protégé, and later IOC President, the American property tycoon Avery Brundage, telling a Madison Square Garden rally in 1936: "We can learn much from Germany. We, too, if we wish to preserve our institutions, must stamp out communism. We, too, must take steps to arrest the decline of patriotism."  The 20,000-strong rally ended by singing "The Star-Spangled Banner", "Deutschland Uber Alles" and the "Horst-Wessel song"*. As IOC president from 1952–72, Brundage was an enthusiast for apartheid South Africa and had fondness for the fascist Franco, holding the IOC’s 1965 congress in Madrid where the Generalissimo made the opening speech. Indeed the late Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president from 1980 to 2001, was a Falangist who regarded himself as "one hundred per cent Francoist" up to the dictator’s death. The Olympics as we know them today were most profoundly shaped by Samaranch, first Marquis of Samaranch, Grandee of Spain. Samaranch began his career as an official in the authoritarian government of General Francisco Franco and ended it as president of the International Olympic Committee. Under Samaranch, the I.O.C. was transformed from an amateur athletics organization with only $200,000 in cash reserves into a celebrity showcase with tax-free annual revenues running into the billions. Samaranch engineered the Olympics’ first international corporate-sponsorship deals. He also opened the Games to professional athletes—allowing superstars such as Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong to compete. The value of the television rights to the Olympics went through the roof. (The TV rights to the 2010 Winter Games and this summer’s Olympics were bought by 29 different networks worldwide, for a total of $4 billion.)

The official representation of  sports and other athletic activity center around its physical health and character building. The vast resources laid on for physical education in schools and colleges and national and municipal programs are justified by appeal to the presumed increase in quality of life or in moral character for participants. The Olympic Games are widely viewed as a chance for countries to showcase their fastest, strongest, most skilled and disciplined athletes, a time when political, economic and cultural differences are set aside and individuals are judged on personal merit alone. But the reality is often quite different if we consider the incidence of injuries to which undermines the claim of better physical condition as a result of participation. The kind of muscles used and the development of them may have no real lasting effect on quality of health.  The use of drugs to train and repair players as well as for controlling pain so one can play while injured also calls such a rationale into question. And the physical deterioration of players after they cease playing suggests that this health benefit is transitory. And as far as the moral character thee is widespread cheating by coaches and players built upon  envy, cynicism and hypocrisy entailed in commercialize competitive sports, as well as the sometimes abusive behavior of the spectators.  Another  understanding of sport is its solidarity.  There can seem no greater solidarity than dozens, thousands, millions thinking, doing and feeling the same things in the same place at the same moment. Small towns, large cities, entire nations, male bonding groups and even father-son relationships make use of sports and games to define, to celebrate, to expand and to reaffirm a special to-getherness for those assembled to participate or to observe, expressing itself through tribal displays of songs and chanting, feasting and drinking. In a conflict-ridden society such as our own where each is the natural enemy of another and  competitors for jobs, for land and resources, where there are class antagonists and ethnic opponents, where ever more people are impoverished, such solidarity activity is important in masking of these antagonisms. Class antagonisms, ethnic hatred and national hostilities can be assimilated to the harmless competitive in sports. Yet when the game is over, the enthusiasm dies and disharmony reassert itself. The structures of privilege, inequality and oppression are left intact.

At the 100 m sprint times for the last Olympics, the winner of that race set a new world record, the difference between 1st and 2nd place was 0.2 seconds. The difference between 1st and 10th was 0.34 seconds. Is it really worth getting impressed about that a man is a fraction of a second faster than his rival? Or that somebody can throw some object further than another person?  How is one declared a winner and the other a loser when both are superior examples of athletic excellence. If two teams are tied in the last minute of extra time and it is a penalty shoot-out, it may make exhilarating drama but places sports in the theatrical entertainment framework rather than demonstrate merit.

Track and field events have their origins in inter-tribal, inter-feudal and inter-capitalist warfare. Field events such as the shot put, javelin,hammer throw and archery all come out of the weaponry of feudal warfare. The marathon, the hurdles, the sprint and the relay recapitulate the structure of field communication in the various military encounters between low tech armies from the wars between city-states in ancient Greece to the crusades through the feudal wars. The modern assimilation of sports to military goals came in 1811 when the Germans were occupied by the armies of Napoleon.  The mass calisthenics which later came to be associated with the Hitler era, were encouraged as prelude to the overthrow of the French oppressors by German patriots. In our times, sports is shaped more by the commercial needs of capitalism. The most significant structural change in modern sports is the gradual and continuing commodification of sports. This means that the social, psychological, physical and cultural uses of sports are assimilated to the commercial needs of capitalism.

People from poor countries seldom do well in swimming since they usually don't have access to swimming pools, and the same is true for diving. In the 2008 Olympics, the first five winners of medals for swimming were the United States, Australia, Great Britain, Japan and Germany. "Most sports accomplishments require a fair amount of social and financial support for training, facilities and travel. This means that better off countries are usually doing better." William Orme, a spokesperson for the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index Unit, told IPS. The U.S. won a total of 110 medals in the 2008 Olympic Games, making it the top performer . At the same time, the United States ranked fourth in the 2008 Human Development Index, with a high score of 0.907. Conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, whose athletes left Beijing without any medals at all, scored a very low  0.24 on the HDI. Haiti, still recovering from the effects of its devastating 2010 earthquake, has only qualified two athletes. The country has not won an Olympic medal since 1928. Most young people participate in some kind of sports, but when they can go to school, they do it in a more organised fashion. And when they are healthier, they perform better. To be sure , there are exceptions. Ethiopia being one in running events. Running, though requires no special equipment and does not need infrastructure and  can therefore be performed by anyone regardless of his or her socio-economic status. For the Olympic Games to be genuinely open and democratic requires vast improvements in health care and education for the Third World participants

.There is also the phenomenon of "muscle drain" in which talented athletes from poor countries are wooed by wealthy sports clubs abroad. (The head coach of Britain's athletics team says foreign-born athletes competing have been told to learn the words to the national anthem.) The muscle-drain phenomena is most widespread in football, a sport in which the high transfer rates that European players can demand from clubs make them resort to the much cheaper alternative of importing players from developing countries. "Young people look for a better life. Sports is a field where a huge income jump is possible, and thus they are attracted to try it," Thierry Graf, who served as president of the Ethiopian-Suisse development association Sport - The Bridge.

The Price
Gordon Brown when he was Blair’s chancellor of the Exchequer, told Tessa Jowell, “We’re not going to be able to build schools or hospitals if you do these Olympic Games.” she hired economists to conduct a full-scale feasibility study, they too shot her down. “The quantifiable evidence to support each of the perceived benefits for mega-events is weak,” the study concluded. “They appear to be more about celebration than economic return.” A recent poll carried out by Reuters, 23 out of 27 economists believed that the Olympic Games in London would not bring long-term benefits. The polled economists also said British Prime Minister David Cameron was too optimistic when he said the sporting event would generate £13 billion. The cost of the Games estimated at the initial bid in 2005 was £2.37bn. Today, it stands at £11bn according to official figures. Olympics critic Julian Cheyne of Games Monitor calculates costs at £13bn. A Sky Sports investigation included public transport upgrade costs, catapulting the price tag to £24bn. These are vast sums. The Health & Social Care Bill, the Welfare Reform Bill, Workfare, all these vastly unpopular policies have been pushed through parliament on the basis of the context of austerity. More than one million shop and distribution workers face being "bullied" by big retailers that extend Sunday opening hours during the London Olympics and Paralympics, the GMB union has warned. The GMB wants "Olympic premium" pay for those required to work longer, particularly in London. The union wants workers there compensated for the extra time it will take to get to and from their employer. There are also claims that staff will be pressured into working longer shifts. The GMB is calling for a system that will ensure that anyone working additional hours during the Olympics will have done so on a voluntary basis. Meantime, members of the Olympic Family must also have at their disposal at least 500 air-conditioned limousines with chauffeurs wearing uniforms and caps. £10.25 million will be spent Oyster cards to provide free travel for 370,000 people involved in the Games. London must set aside, and pay for, 40,000 hotel rooms, including 1,800 four- and five-star rooms for the I.O.C. and its associates, for the entire period of the Games.

The Dubious Sponsors
Olympics is big business. There is an expensive machine behind the Games that is funded by corporate sponsors. Sadly when these sponsors are selected, money talks much more loudly than values. The IOC's so-called TOP sponsors pay at least $100m each for 10-year contracts, while Tier One sponsors for the London Games alone have paid around £40m each. London 2012 organisers have raised £700m from domestic sponsors towards the £2bn cost of staging the Games.

The Olympics branded ‘the greenest ever’ is being sponsored by BP, responsible for one of the biggest oil spills in history. Allegations against BP include that they fund human rights abuses and death squads in Columbia; one community leader described their impact as creating poverty, militarization and environmental disaster. Last year a BP led consortium was found guilty by the British Government of breaching human concerning the security on a pipeline that stretches over Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Dow Chemicals, have a long history of profiting from death, they produced Napalm for the Vietnam War and were involved in the manufacture of Agent Orange; both these weapons are still having adverse effects on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and have steadfastly refused to adequately compensate the victims of one of the deadliest pollution disasters, the Bhopal gas leak in India where 10000 died and tens of thousands crippled, are sponsoring this Olympics.

 The mining company Rio Tinto has a terrible legacy of death and ecological destruction that it brings to the games. The Norwegian Government in 2008 sold its shares in the company and explained that it was due to its participation in the Grasberg Mine in Papua New Guinea, the largest gold and third largest copper mine in the world.Tribal leaders, Human Rights campaigners and ecologists have accused the company of promoting the genocide of the local indigenous peoples, mainly the Amungme and Kamoro, whilst destroying thousands of acres of their rainforest lands, polluting vast swathes of the forest and river systems, sponsoring military repression, human rights abuses including torture and desecrating their sacred spiritual relationship to the land. One Amungme community leader asserted that, "If we were seen as human… they would not take the most valued property of the Amungme, just as we have never taken the property of others… I sometimes wonder; whose actions are more primitive"

Arcelor Mittal faced protests about their plans to build a steel plant in India, which will have an vast ecological impact and destroy the lives, lands and livelihoods of the rural population. Lloyds TSB is accused of providing banking services for the manufacturers of cluster bombs, which are outlawed by international law. Likewise, EDF and General Electric are involved in the proliferation and manufacturing of nuclear weapons.

The Olympics said to promote a healthy active lifestyle for young and old, is being sponsored by McDonalds, partly responsible for our obesity epidemic. In fact, the world’s largest McDonalds is being built in the Olympic Park. Nutrition expert on obesity, Prof Terence Stephenson criticised  allowing companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds to sponsor the London 2012 Olympics "sends the wrong message. They clearly wouldn't be spending the money if they didn't benefit from being associated with successful athletes,"

 And then there are the Paralympic Games, being sponsored by ATOS, the company that hounded many of our country’s physically disabled and mentally ill people as they undergo strenuous and stressful work assessments to drive them back to work when still physically unfit to do.

The Martial Games

Militarised fortressification has become standard procedure for host cities and London is no exception in being turned into a fortress this summer. 23,000 G4S private security officers will be operating during the London 2012 Olympics and a naval battleship, HMS Ocean, berthed in the Thames, surface-to-air missiles at the ready and 17,000 military personnel, thousands above troop levels currently deployed in Afghanistan. The US declared it will send its own security to London, including 500 FBI agents. Lightweight aerial drones will hover above while "combined firearms response teams" – elite police units replete with snipers – roam below. Ground-based air defence systems could be deployed as part of a multi-layered air security plan, including Typhoon fighter jets and helicopters, which will protect the skies over London during the Games.Surface-to-air missiles are set to be deployed on top of residential block of flats. A device which can be used as a "sonic weapon" will be deployed. The Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) emit a beam of pain-inducing tones. It has been successfully used aboard ships to repel Somali pirates.

Proclaiming that politics has no place in sport and with the IOC’s official charter forbidding the expression of anti-Olympic dissent, stating in Rule 51, "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".  Little-noticed measures passed by the Government and introduced by the Olympics Act of 2006, passed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, supposedly to preserve the monopoly of official advertisers on the London 2012 site. But the law has been drawn so widely that it also includes 'non-commercial material' - which could extend its reach to include legitimate campaign literature will allow police officers and Olympics officials to enter private homes and shops near official venues to confiscate and seize any protest material..  Breaking the rules could land offenders with a fine of up to £20,000. Civil liberties groups compared the powers to those used by the Communist Chinese government to stop political protest during the 2008 Beijing Games.

Protecting Copyright and the Monopoly
Amazingly, in the Queens Jubilee year it has been agreed that wherever the Olympic flag is displayed, it MUST fly higher than the Union Jack. So much for patriotism!

London must cede to the I.O.C. the rights to all intellectual property relating to the Games, including the international trademark on the phrase “London 2012.” Although mail service and the issuance of currency are among any nation’s sovereign rights, the contract requires the British government to obtain the I.O.C.’s “prior written approval” for virtually any symbolic commemoration of the Games, including Olympic-themed postage stamps, coins, and banknotes.

The Spectator, publicized excerpts from the Olympic Games contract said the “British authorities have cravenly agreed to let the I.O.C. create what is, in effect, a state within a state.” The contract requires British customs officials and London police to confiscate all non-licensed goods bearing the Olympics name or logo, be they fake T-shirts or marzipan renderings of the five Olympic rings on cakes in bakery windows. To help officials do this job, the contract stipulates that “brand protection teams” must be formed to roam the city. Inside Olympic venues, spectators may not “wear clothes or accessories with commercial mes­sages other than the manufacturers’ brand name.” London must ensure that there is no non-official propaganda or advertising in the airspace above the city while the Games are going on, and for two weeks prior. No Olympic venue, and no access routes to any Olympic venue, may be decorated in any way “that would conflict with or cause a breach of any” official Olympic corporate sponsorship. London must “obtain control of all billboard advertising, city transport advertising, airport advertising etc. for the duration of the Games and the month preceding it to support the marketing programme” of the I.O.C.

Attention is increasingly turning to what many legal experts consider to be the most stringent restrictions ever put in place to protect sponsors' brands and broadcasting rights, affecting every athlete, Olympics ticket holder and business in the UK. Pub landlords will be banned from posting signs reading: "Come and watch the London Games from our big screen!" The Games organisers Locog insists the protections were essential to secure the contracts that have paid for the Olympics, but some fear the effect could be to limit the economic benefits to the capital's economy – and set a precedent for major national celebrations in future. Since the Sydney Games in 2000, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has required bidding governments to commit to introducing bespoke legislation to offer a further layer of legal sanction.
In 2006, accordingly, parliament passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, which, together with the Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act of 1995, offers a special level of protection to the Games and their sponsors over and above that already promised by existing copyright or contract law. A breach of these acts will not only give rise to a civil grievance, but is a criminal offence.

A spokeswoman of Locog said: "If we did not take steps to protect the brand from unauthorised use and ambush marketing, the exclusive rights which our partners have acquired would be undermined. Without the investment of our partners, we simply couldn't stage the Games."
Paul Jordan, a partner and marketing specialist at law firm Bristows, which is advising both official sponsors and non-sponsoring businesses on the new laws says "It is certainly very tough legislation. Every major brand in the world would give their eye teeth to have [a piece of legislation] like this. One can imagine something like a Google or a Microsoft would be delighted to have some very special recognition of their brand in the way that clearly the IOC has."

As well as introducing an additional layer of protection around the word "Olympics", the five-rings symbol and the Games' mottoes, the major change of the legislation is to outlaw unauthorised "association". This bars non-sponsors from employing images or wording that might suggest too close a link with the Games. Expressions likely to be considered a breach of the rules would include any two of the following list: "Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve". Using one of those words with London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver or bronze is another likely breach. The two-word rule is not fixed, however: an event called the "Great Exhibition 2012" was threatened with legal action last year under the Act over its use of "2012" (Locog later withdrew its objection). A photoshoot promoting EasyJet's new routes from London Southend airport was also interrupted by a Locog monitor after local athlete Sally Gunnell was handed a union flag to drape over her shoulders. According to reports, Locog felt this would create too direct an association with her famous pose after winning Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992 (British Airways, rather than easyJet, is the airline sponsor of London 2012). Twitter has already agreed to work with Locog in barring non-sponsors from buying promoted ads with hashtags like #London2012. The Chartered Institute of Marketing called the restrictions around the London Games too draconian and raised concerns "that a precedent will have been set which unduly prohibits businesses tapping into current national and societal events".

John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the clampdown by Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) on use of symbols and terminology had gone too far. "Locog appear to have lost all sense of reasonableness and proportion," he said. "Given that the Games were 'sold' to the taxpayer as a boon for the UK economy, small firms should feel the London Olympics are an opportunity, rather than a threat. We carried out a detailed survey of our members in January that revealed a mere seven per cent of small businesses thought the Olympic Games would benefit them while a quarter thought they would damage trade."
University of Derby was forced to take down a banner which read, "supporting the London Olympics", while bakers at the British Sugarcraft Guild were told that using the logo on cakes was unacceptable. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said Locog were "overzealous to prevent anyone from using the word Olympics".
More than 75,000 firms that have done work to deliver London's Olympic Games are subject to a 12-year gagging order preventing them from talking about the work they have done, even on websites, denying them recognition for their work in building the Olympic Village and providing other goods and services. Suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors had to sign up to a "no marketing rights suppliers' protocol". In fact , firms cannot even acknowledge that they have worked on the Olympic event, obliged to forard all enquiries to Locog! The ban affects a range of firms, from major infrastructure companies that have built roads and stadiums to smaller sub-contractors that have provided services such as security and plumbing.The rules are designed to protect the rights of high-spending sponsors during the 10 weeks of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Manufacturers - Ethical Sourcing?
Mirna would love to go to the London Olympics, but the airfare alone would cost her half a year's wages. The closest she'll come is stitching jackets and T-shirts emblazoned with the 2012 logo. "Ethical? I don't think so. The only privilege is we work harder than ever." On hearing that the London Games are being vaunted as the most ethical ever, Ms Hadijah laughs and looks bemused. "If we only work 40 hours a week, with no overtime, things are really tight," she says. "And I'm single. What about people with families?"

Olympic-branded gear – to be worn by British athletes and Games volunteers – is being manufactured for Adidas in sweatshop conditions in Indonesia, making a mockery of claims by London 2012 organisers that this summer's Games will be the most ethical ever. The Independent has uncovered widespread violations of workers' rights in Indonesia, where nine locally owned and managed factories have been contracted to produce Olympic shoes and clothing for Adidas While the German company – which unveiled its Stella McCartney-designed kit for British athletes last month – hopes to make £100m from its Olympic lines, the mainly young, female factory employees work up to 65 hours (25 hours more than the standard working week), for desperately low pay. They also endure verbal and physical abuse, they allege, are forced to work overtime, and are punished for not reaching production targets.None of the nine factories pays its employees a living wage – about 20 per cent higher than the official minimum wage – one of the cornerstones of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code, an internationally recognised labour code adopted by the Olympics organising committee, Locog. Workers struggle to survive on pay as low as 5,000 rupiah (34p) an hour, skipping meals to save money, and sending their children away to be looked after by grandparents.

The ETI base code – which Locog says must be complied with by all companies supplying goods to Olympic licences – also stipulates freedom of association. Yet workers allege that some unions are not given bargaining rights by Adidas's Indonesian suppliers. At PT Shyang Yao Fung, in the industrial city of Tangerang, west of Jakarta, 10 workers were suspended a month ago – and face being laid off – because of their union activism, they believe. Even for those with jobs, conditions at Taiwanese-owned Shyang Yao Fung – which produces women's sports shoes – are poor, according to workers. While business has been slow lately, employees – whose basic pay is 1.53m rupiah (£105) a month – have in the past been asked to work five hours of overtime a day, they claim.

"The management says that overtime is compulsory," said Sobirin, 32, wolfing down a plate of nasi goreng in a Tangerang café. "And there are many times when workers are working without payment on overtime, or are not paid properly. Every day there's a worker who passes out because they're exhausted or unwell."

At another Tangerang factory, PT Panarub Industry – Adidas's main global supplier of football boots, and outfitter of some of Britain's Olympic footballers – workers are proud to have shod David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane. However, in common with workers at other factories, they say they face intense pressure to meet production targets.

"It's hard to get permission even to go to the bathroom; we're tied to our seats,"
said Yuliani, a 23-year-old seamstress, speaking metaphorically. "If you're forced to go, the pile of work becomes so high that you get shouted at by the production line leader. They call you a dog, brainless, uneducated. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our lunchbreak to reach the target."

Her colleague, Ratna, added: "If the leader gets really angry, they throw the shoes in front of the workers. Once on my line I saw a worker get hit by a shoe."

Some workers described being slapped in the face and having their ears pinched by managers. At PT Pancaprima, in Tangerang, supervisors use a loudspeaker to berate production lines hourly for failing to meet targets. "It's humiliating," said Margi Wibowo, 41, who works in the warehouse.

At PT Golden Castle, in Jakarta, workers have to eat their lunch outside, squatting on the ground, near a rubbish tip. "It's really smelly sometimes, and it's near the port, so it's very dusty," said Surati, 32. "When the wind blows, the rice gets mixed up with the dust."

The sweatshop allegations follow the resignation of Meredith Alexander, one of Boris Johnson's "ethics tsars", over the awarding of a stadium contract to Dow Chemical, the current owner of Union Carbide Corporation, responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. None of the Indonesian employees had heard of the ETI base code, and none knew about Locog's complaints mechanism, set up to enable workers to report labour violations. This is hardly surprising – as recently as February, Locog had yet to disseminate its information material in factories, and had translated it only into Mandarin.

 Four of Adidas's Indonesian suppliers pay less than the minimum wage for the garment industry. Adidas said in a statement that only one company paid less. It added that excessive working hours were "an exception, not the norm," and that overtime had to be voluntary. In relation to Shyang Yao Fung, the company said it had learnt only three days ago that "several" union officials had been laid off, along with 150 other workers, "due to a factory downsizing". It said it was aware only of isolated cases of harassment or abuse, and was "disturbed" by the allegation of workers being locked up for not meeting targets.

Official Olympic clothing sold by Next is claimed to have been produced in sweatshop conditions in Sri Lanka. Workers at the company's factory in Sri Lanka allegedly receive poverty wages and are forced to work excessive overtime and to meet unrealistic, ever-increasing targets. Next denies the claims but has launched an investigation.Next's Sri Lanka factory employs 2,500 people making, among other items, London 2012-branded jackets, blazers, shorts and T-shirts. Employees claim they are routinely forced to work 60 hours of overtime a month. Staff also claim they have no contracts and frequently face being laid off with no notice, with management threatening to sack them if they join a union. Workers who have protested were victimised, researchers found. Typical wages for working 12-hour days were found to be about 12,000 Sri Lankan rupees a month (£58). Other abuses cited included agency staff made to work for 18 hours at a stretch – day shifts at the Next factory, followed by overnight shifts in a different factory next door. Such workers also say that their wages are often paid irregularly. Playfair says there is evidence that staff are deliberately recruited from poor areas to ensure an illiterate and compliant workforce. Anton Marcus, joint general secretary of the Free Trade Zones and General Services Union in Sri Lanka, said: "This is forced labour."

The International Olympic Committee talks of “building a better world through sport" but the real truth is that they reinforce acceptance of the present exploitative world. War on Want said thousands of people around the world were working long hours on poverty wages in appalling conditions to make Adidas goods. War on Want sweatshops campaigner Murray Worthy said: "Around the world, thousands of people making Adidas goods face appalling conditions, poverty wages and excessive working hours, with little dignity or respect. This is exploitation. Exploitation of workers is not ok, no matter where they are. Adidas must take responsibility for the workers who make their clothes."
Since London won the Games bid are school sports, the budget for which has been cut from £162m to just £35m, resulting in thousands of sports coaches and co-ordinators being sacked; free swimming for under-16s and over-65s; County Sport Partnerships, which lost £3m; and Cycling England, which was funding 18 towns to improve cycle routes when it was shut. Last December the Government dumped its target of getting one million more Britons playing sport by 2013, when it became clear participation was levelling off or falling in most mainstream sports. Swimming saw the biggest drop in participation, with 435,000 fewer people taking to the pool regularly in 2010-11 than in 2007-08. Numbers also fell in tennis, football and rugby. Among those aged 16 to 19 – a key target group – overall sporting participation fell by more than 100,000 to 825,900.

As Chomsky points out "common folk" with little interest in politics demonstrate astounding knowledge about sport. "People know a tremendous amount. They know all sorts of complicated details and enter into far-reaching discussion about whether the coach made the right decision yesterday and so on. These are ordinary people, not professionals, who are applying their intelligence and analytic skills in these areas and accumulating quite a lot of knowledge and understanding....There are also experts about football, but these people don't defer to them. The people who call in talk with complete confidence. They don't care if they disagree with the coach or whoever the local expert is. They have their own opinion and they conduct intelligent discussions. I think it's an interesting phenomenon...The gas station attendant who wants to use his mind isn't going to waste his time on international affairs, because that's useless; he can't do anything about it anyhow, and he might learn unpleasant things and even get into trouble. So he might as well do it where it's fun, and not threatening -- professional football or basketball or something like that. But the skills are being used and the understanding is there and the intelligence is there."

Time for the Olympics was for the high jump!

* See here for more Nazi connections to the Olympic Games

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“So as the openning ceremony celebrates miners strikes, the Jarrow March, the suffragettes, and Liberty’s Sami Chakrabarti carries the flag, outside the police are punching and arresting more than 100 people (is there any confirmed figure yet?) for daring to collectively ride bicycles. It seems like the performance of these ‘British’ values is at the expense of the reality on the streets outside. Solidarity with all those on the Critical Mass last night.”
The above words were posted by Kevin Smith on facebook. The “share” button was removed.