This blog is not about sport

No, it’s about protest, torture and death. Sport is just the backdrop. Starting with ... the Brazil Olympics in 2016 (yes, you’re probably already counting the days).

Given the widespread protests against the Brazil World Cup this summer, I can only suppose that there’ll be further demonstrations against the Rio de Janeiro Olympics when they roll into view the year after next.

The main objection from anti-2016 protesters will almost certainly be the cost. The multi-billion pound games come on top of the £7bn (26 billion reais) already spent by Brazil on the World Cup (three times more than South Africa laid out in 2010). It’s a pretty penny - the two events are costing roughly the equivalent of Brazil’s entire annual education budget.

Meanwhile, I wonder how the Brazilian police will approach the demonstrations next time around. This year there were horrific scenes of police shootings and baton beatings, massive use of tear gas and a general sense of belligerence about the response. It can only be better in 2016 (can’t it?). Compared to Mexico’s policing response to Olympics protesters in 1968 though, Brazil 2014 was a ... gentle samba on the park.

In ‘68, that year of global student uprisings, Mexico’s mass university-led protests included a powerful strand of anti-Olympics messaging - “No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución” (“We don’t want Olympics, we want revolution!”). Again cost was a factor. Mexico City’s hosting of the ‘68 games cost £90m, five times more than Rome in 1960. The infamous Tlatelolco square massacre was the result - scores, possibly hundreds of students shot down by Mexican government snipers in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco area of Mexico City. More on Tlatelolco here.

And while the authorities typically urge that people “move on” from events like Tlatelolco, it’s never that easy. Last year in Mexico City there were fresh demonstrations specifically about the Tlatelolco killings. History repeating itself, the security services cracked down. In one case they rounded up a group of people on a bus with an “anarcho” appearance, apparently torturing at least one of them (see Jorge Mario González García’s case on p14 of the new Amnesty report on torture in Mexico. Amnesty is running a campaign about torture in Mexico: check it out here).

I’m assured by my sport-loving colleagues that activities like football*, cricket, athletics and "camel racing" (!) (add dozens of others of your own) can be - are - a “force for good”. I’ll ... have to take their word for it. But the involvement of governments in internationally “prestigious” projects like Formula 1, the World Cup or the Olympics is often exactly the opposite.

Ruinously expensive, involving forced expropriations of homes and land, requiring rushed and dangerous building projects, and all too often culminating in a curtailment of civil liberties and a draconian over-policing of those who dare oppose these “trophy” competitions - it seems to me the reality of sport at this level is already grim and getting steadily grimmer.

It may not be playing the game (of modern life?) to say this, but I reckon you should forget the TV hype and ignore the wall-to-wall nonsense of the advertisers (what are they afraid of, that we won’t care about their precious “stars” or kit?). There’s been far, far too much foul play in Big Sport already. In one of his most-quoted phrases George Orwell said that sport “is war minus the shooting”. These days sport often comes with the shooting as well.

As I say, this blog is not really about sport. But then again it is.


*PS: I thought this tweet about the England v Norway game this afternoon was fairly good: “And I'm awake!! Can't believe it took me a full 17 hours to sleep off the excitement of the England game

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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