Brazil: World Cup’s Nationalist Hype Fails to Curb Struggle Against Displacement

Dispatches From Brazil’s World Cup:  Real Estate Frenzy Provokes ‘Psychological Attack’ to Oust Favela Residents
Dave Zirin, The Nation, on June 18, 2014
Graffiti on the walls of Vila Autódromo. On the Brazilian flag, instead of "order and progress", "freedom" is written across the iconic blue globe. June 17, 2014. (Photo by the author)

Graffiti on the walls of Vila Autódromo. On the Brazilian flag, instead of “order and progress”, “freedom” is written across the iconic blue globe. June 17, 2014. (Photo by the author)

 

Before returning to the favela Vila Autódromo for the first time since 2012, I had already been told that the community would not look the same. As a friend said to me, “It will resemble a perfect smile with several teeth knocked out.” Vila Autódromo is situated just yards away from the site of the 2016 Rio Olympic village, and Olympic planners as well as construction interests have long targeted this close-knit community for demolition. Located on an achingly beautiful lake, where glittering new high-rise condominiums have sprouted “seemingly overnight”, the city’s business and political leaders see prime real estate, with pesky favelados in the way of their development dreams.

Despite a fierce resistance to their removal that has stymied the efforts of Olympic planners, I had heard before arriving that 150 of the 500 families living in Vila Autódromo had left. I expected many of their homes, places I had visited, to now be piles of rubble. What I did not expect was the absence of trees. Continue reading

Brazil: The Circus costs Plenty, so No Bread for the Hungry

Sporting Mega-Events

What the Protesting Brazilians Learnt from Their BRICS Compatriots

The legendary Pele got an earful from the hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets of Brazil who refused to heed his appeal to “forget” the protests and support the national football team. Unthinkable as it is, does it indicate that popular protests have finally overcome their inability to challenge the sporting mega event, that the modern-day “circus” is now seen for what it is: a scam of massive proportions?

Sharda Ugra (Sharda.Ugra@espn.com) is senior editor, ESPNcricinfo.com and has been a sports journalist for almost 24 years.

This article was published last week in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website. This article is the expanded and revised version of what appeared on the Quartz.com website, http://qz.com/98428/deceit-fraudand- fi rst-world-problems-brics-graduated-tothe- sports-big-leagues-and-now-regret-it/

On the night Brazil beat current world champions Spain to win the Confederations Cup football final, Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari was asked a loaded question. About what it was like playing football at a time Brazil was shaken by street protests, some violent, against institutional corruption and lopsided public expenditure. Scolari responded with fury. “Not my area”, he said and, after asking the journalist if he was English (which he was) barked, “So what happened before the Olympics over there? Maybe you want to take a look at your own country before saying there’s something wrong with mine.”

The Confederations Cup victory aside, June 2013 will go down as the winter of Brazil’s discontent, sweeping along in the heart of its anger, football and the Rio Olympic Games of 2016, the two events expected to pitch-fork the country into global acclaim. These two Brazilian sporting showpieces, the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have, however, turned into something else.

Putting Futebol in Its Place

A crowd of 5,000-odd that protested near the Maracana Stadium on the night of the Confederations Cup final, was drowned out by cheering fans and street parties that followed the victory. The days leading up to the final, though, had been different: 50,000 clashed with police a few miles from the stadium in Belo Horizonte where Brazil and Uruguay were playing their semi-final. In the capital Brasilia, there were peaceful yet more symbolic protests on the day, where the crowds kicked footballs over a police cordon towards the Brazilian parliament, the Congress.

Scolari’s churlish reply about the London Olympics and “not my area” was his instant retort following his team’s emphatic and impressive win. Until that, Brazil’s players had been far more sympathetic to the protestors with its rising star Neymar, saying in his Instagram microblog, “I want a Brazil that is fair and safe and healthier and more honest”. Once the flush of the Confederations Cup victory has died down (along with Scolari’s anger), the questions asked by Brazilians throughout June are bound to return. The first protest had centred around bus and metro fare hikes in Sao Paulo, but in the space of three weeks, the outcry around the country grew over failing social services, rampant corruption and misplaced expenditure. The crowds grew from tens of thousands to those totalling a million-strong on 20 June in many cities, with the World Cup and the Olympics turning into symbols of everything wrong with the government and the country’s elite. Continue reading

Is the US Olympic System as Abusive as China’s?

[In war times, xenophobia reaches new levels in distorting and fueling hatred toward successful challengers of US domination.  And xenophobia displays an especially prominent role in the media coverage in Olympic years, belittling and denouncing any strong competitors of the US in sports.  David Zirin describes how this played out, this week.  — Frontlines ed.]
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The spectacle of the 2012 London Olympics should be subtitled: “the bashing of the Chinese Athlete.” Yesterday, Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times published a much discussed piece called “Heavy Burden on Athletes Takes Joy Away From China’s Olympic Success.” In it, all kinds of “concerns” are raised about the toll “the nation’s draconian sports system” is taking on the country’s athletes. It tells tales of poverty, loneliness, and despair amongst China’s sports stars once the cheering has stopped. Their athletes are described as being exploited by an unfeeling government monolith that acted as a surrogate family until they were no longer of any use. Parents of China’s Olympians are quoted saying, “We accepted a long time ago that she doesn’t belong to us. I don’t even dare think about things like enjoying family happiness.” Other parents tell of not being able to recognize their own children after years apart.

The other dominant story about China are the continuing unfounded allegations that 16 year old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen took performance enhancing drugs to win gold. Executive director of the American Swim Coaches Association John Leonard called Shiwen’s world record 400-meter individual medley swim “disturbing.” He is also continuing to describe her closing freestyle leg of 58.68 seconds, as “impossible.”

There have been a series of ugly articles about Shiwen, none uglier perhaps than a piece by UK’s Daily Mail’s David Jones titled, Forging of the Mandarin Mermaid: How Chinese children are taken away from their home and brutalized into future Olympians. Not “trained” but “brutalized.” Continue reading

Delhi’s Common-poverty games

In preparation for the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhi is bursting with expensive construction and renovation projects. But these measures may further cripple the already struggling Indian economy, says Michael Arthur

Sticker from a protest site near the Commonwealth Games Village site. The largest environmental impact of the preparations, which may cause a permanent and irreversible damage to the Delhi ecosystem is the construction of the Games Village complex on the floodplains of river Yamuna.

Michael Arthur

14 June 2010

Few would describe Delhi as a calm and peaceful city. But the noise pollution has reached a crescendo recently as construction workers toil day and night. This October, once the baking north Indian summer has eased, Delhi will stage the 2010 Commonwealth Games. In a city where millions live in utter destitution, vast stadiums are being constructed at immense cost.

Developers keen to cash in on the anticipated influx of visitors are building a rash of new hotels. Construction workers can be seen on building sites throughout the city without hardhats or even shoes, their small children beside them as they break stones.

No city as poor as this has ever attempted to stage such a tournament. The promise is that the Games will herald a new chapter in Delhi’s history, enhancing its international reputation and providing a major and lasting economic boost. Continue reading