Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Free the Olympics

In this summer of Euro 2012 and the London Olympics , both dominated by product sponsors, MARK PERRYMAN points to a third, major sporting event with less emphasis on corporate control and more on popular participation …

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.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Tickets, Anybody Got Tickets?


The London Olympics 2012 is a once-in-a-lifetime event. So why, asks Mark Perryman, have so few of us got tickets?

With the Jubilee over and the England football team unlikely to provide much of a lasting distraction at the Euros, the 50-day countdown to the London Olympics is now entering serious overdrive.

Right from the start of the bidding competition back in 2005, hosting a ‘home’ Olympics was sold to the British public as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was no idle boast: Along with football’s World Cup (which England can’t even think of hosting till at least 2026) the Olympics is undoubtedly the biggest show on earth. Spread across 26 different sports and with over 200 countries competing, its reach and appeal is enormous.

The sales pitch of the Olympic organisers was explicit: This was an opportunity to be there while history was being made, to witness something unforgettable first-hand, to bring the memories of past Games watched on TV to vivid life. The Games organisers did little or nothing to dampen expectation that tickets for the Games would there for the taking.

Friday, 1 June 2012

It’s the Taking Part

According to the organizers, encouraging participation in sport is one of the main benefits of the London 2012 Olympics. Mark Perryman examines the evidence.

The Olympic motto “ The most important thing is not winning but taking part” represents some of the finest ideals not only of Olympism but of any sporting event aspiring to be democratic, participative and accessible. After this weekend’s Jubilee hoopla fades away, the coming summer of sport - Euro 2012, a serious British challenger to win the Tour de France, Wimbledon fortnight, overseas rugby tours to the southern hemisphere, a domestic test match series and the first, and last, home Olympics for most of our lifetimes - will no doubt test such sentiments to the full. A nation that invented many of the world’s team sports has, perhaps forgivably, some difficulty in coping with repeated defeats by the nations to which it exported them. Add in a lengthy martial and imperial tradition, and CLR James’ famous maxim ‘What do they know of cricket who only cricket know’ can be seen as essential to understanding why the British are not the world’s best losers.