Tuesday, April 08, 2008

keep politics out of sport

The actions against the olympic torch in London and Paris were superb. This grand PR exercise for the Chinese government is blowing up in their faces.

And it's far from over. Who the hell thought San Francisco, with its long tradition of dissent for equality, was a good place to take the torch? The protests have started before the torch has arrived.

However, it's not the highly laudable actions that caught my interest but the response to them. Time and again, they have been described as 'violent'. The word 'violence' is pejorative, yet extremely ill-defined. Indeed, a protest gets called 'violent' by its opponents - and often journalists too - when it does anything other than go where the police tell it to and stand silent and motionless. Even then it can still be 'intimidating'.

But anyway, at the olympic thing that recurrent twist of thinking paled next to its sibling, the old 'keep politics out of sport' idea, as vociferously advocated by the crowd of pro-Chinese demonstrators in London.

If they believe in keeping politics out of sport, then that has to mean keeping politicians out of sport. So presumably they object to the Chinese ambassador carrying the torch, and also to it being taken to 10 Downing Street.

Beyond that, surely it means the olympic teams shouldn't be divided into teams based on the political entity of the nation state. And certainly, the Jewish athletes who boycotted the Nazi olympics of 1936 should have been compelled to take part.

In fact, yes, let's separate politics and sport - that would mean Tessa Jowell gets sacked and the billions of taxpayers pounds we're planning to blow on the 2012 games could be spent on something socially beneficial instead.

And those people in East London could have their allotments back

Alternatively, we could get politics and sport separated by insisting that Brown, Jowell and co all resign their political posts and enter in, say, the synchronised swimming event. They couldn't be worse at that than they are at their present jobs.

As if she wanted to cosy up to the sort of mindset that makes political statements like 'keep politics out of sport', Jowell embarked on her own doublethink excursion.

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell played down suggestions the games had been tainted by the response to the protests. "This has not been damaging to London. It is always important for perception not to overtake fact," she said.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no damage-ometer rigged up to London. There is no objective way to tell if it has been damaged. All thoughts expressed on the matter are, therefore, a matter of perception.

Jowell is either too philosophically challenged to use the language of thought, or else she's cleverly trying to undermine her own credibility so she gets sacked before she's tarnished by further olympics twaddle.

Either way, it looks like she's heading for the brightly coloured rubber cap, the fixed grin and the waterproof make-up.

synchronised swimmer
Tessa Jowell after this morning's training session

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In yesterday's Guardian Marina Hyde wrote a piece that has her characteristic insight and wit, also zoning in on Jowell's utter fucking incompetence

From the moment she spent that hour on a sofa with Ken Livingstone, and came up with a 2012 budget estimate of £2.3bn - since quadrupled - Jowell has displayed a preternatural inability to forecast anything within a hundred miles of accuracy. The mere fact of her making a prediction suggests its being proved wrong is a formality.

Two years ago, she declared of the 2012 aquatic centre: "We pledged that the centre would cost £75m and that is precisely what it will do." On Tuesday, figures released by the Olympic authorities confirmed the cost has already risen to £242m. The velodrome cost is now double what she said it would be.

Technically, there should be a point at which these chronic displays of incompetence are regarded as grounds for her removal from the post. But just as no escalation in the Games' costs has since appeared to be the magic number that triggers a rethink, so no display of that world-class lack of foresight seems sufficient to raise serious questions about her future.


Anonymous said...

I've heard grabbing the torch referred to as 'assault' and an 'attack' (on both the torch itself, and the runner) since the London relay.

I can mangle the English language as well as the next person, but please...

Anonymous said...

It gets better - the whole torch udea was started by the Nazis in 1936. So that's a great tradition to follow in...


Anonymous said...

Well, in fairness "Anonymous", I actually think the symbolism of the torch relay is pretty damn wonderful (and I'm not a sports fan). Just because the Nazis were favour of something doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad thing (they also liked public transport to be punctual, for instance, which doesn't mean we should insist all our buses be at least 10 minutes late).

That said, the symbolism of the torch relay is clearly tarnished somewhat when it requires a bunch of heavies from a repressive regime to protect it from legitimate protest. Whoever thought China was an appropriate venue for this event needs to be fired from the IOC. It's patently impossible to keep politics out of sport when you decide to allow brutal dictators to run the Olympics.