Modern sport isn’t simply a contest between teams or individuals. It is also increasingly an arena which corporate power seeks to exploit. During this summer of major sporting events it’s clear that the governing bodies behind the European soccer finals and the Olympic Games are following a strikingly similar agenda, one shaped by drive of business to make money out of people’s love for sport. That generally starts with top down control.
Here are two examples from Euro 2012, from where I’m writing:
First, consider the so-called ‘Fan Zones’, introduced at the World Cup in 2006 and a feature of World Cups and European Championships ever since. These large privatised spaces are all about regimentation and commerce. Whatever the individual characteristics of the country you are in, the environment in the fan-zones is more- or-less the same. When it comes to refreshments, only fast food, soft drinks and beer provided by the authorised sponsors are available. Here in the Ukraine, the chances of sampling local fare in the fan zones are next to zero. Every available space is taken up by corporate catering. And the big screens, constantly relaying sponsors’ messages, are the most prominent advertising platform of all. It’s not easy to discover the country beyond these sanitized arenas but significant numbers of us have been making the effort. Getting out on the local tourist trail, or even better beyond it, and soaking up the atmosphere in local pubs and cafes while taking in the odd game on television with a commentary we can barely understand, is well worth it.