Saturday, March 12, 2005

L'Amour des Jeux: Workers and Olympics

Whenever the corporate media report on a strike, they always do so from the point of view of consumers (who are represented as if they all had nothing in common with striking workers) inconvenienced by it. As the French general strike on March 10 coincided with the International Olympics Committee's visit to Paris, the media added a new twist to their usual propaganda: the general strike may cost Paris a chance to host the 2012 Olympics. gleefully reports:
The odds on Paris winning the bid to host the summer Olympics in 2012 lengthened as a strike threatened to mar the International Olympic Committee's five-day visit to the city, starting today.

"Paris remains the favorite, but support is drifting," said Balthazar Fabricius, a spokesman for London-based Ladbrokes, the world's biggest bookmaker. French unions have asked private- sector and government workers to take to the streets March 10 to demand higher wages and retention of the 35-hour workweek. The strike may "have an effect on support" for the bid, Fabricius said.

Paris's odds stand at 4-9, according to Ladbrokes, with London at 2-1. Before the committee's visit last month to London, where members received assurances about transportation improvements, Ladbrokes had Paris at 1-4 and London at 3-1. Madrid's odds on winning are 14-1, with New York at 16-1 and Moscow at 40-1. (Gregory Viscusi, "Paris Olympic Lead Slips as Committee Weighs 2012 Bid (Update1)," March 9, 2004)
Reuters appears to sympathize with the rueful French Sports Minister: "'We would have preferred a better advertisement for the candidacy, obviously,' Sports Minister Jean-Francois Lamour told Le Figaro newspaper" (Kerstin Gehmlich, "Protests And Strikes Give Paris Olympian Headache," Reuters, March 10, 2005).

Why blame workers, though, rather than the ruling class and their government? La Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail, one of the unions that called for the general strike, prominently features on its webpage about the March 10th mobilization the back of a T-shirt that says "PARIS 2012 -- ville candidate -- L'AMOUR DES JEUX," which seems to be the official design of Paris boosterism:
According to the union, a number of demonstrators sported this T-shirt. The French police, in contrast, were seen arresting Olympics-loving proletarians:

A man wearing a sweater in support for Paris's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games is detained during a protest march through Paris, Thursday March 10, 2005. Protesters nationwide, answering the call of unions for a massive turnout to defend France's 35-hour workweek and to push for more jobs and salary talks, drew big crowds. (Francois Mori/AP)
One can raise a question, though. Isn't the Olympics, a costly burden on the budget of any city that sponsors it, bad for the working class?
Security: The Price of Safety Is Steep

Security has become one of the biggest expenses at any Games, an undertaking that saddled Athens with a bill of an extra $1 billion on top of an already staggering budget.

New York, despite the painful lessons of 9/11, rates strongly in this category for several reasons. . . . New York City has agreed to foot the entire bill, a major headache removed from the organizing committee. . . .

Not insignificantly, the United States' demands were a big reason Athens was prompted to spend so much on security, so the I.O.C. would be more than happy to let an American city handle that burden.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

After the Games: Bearing the Burden

Many Olympic cities struggle to cope with the lingering expenses of staging the Games. . . . Montreal spent decades digging out of debt from the 1976 Games. Sydney, site of the 2000 Games, pays about $34 million a year to maintain the stadium and arenas in its Olympic Park, now painfully underused. Athens has a huge debt and dozens of competition sites with few prospects for use. ("Behind the Bid: The Issues," New York Times, February 20, 2005)
How about Workers' Solidarity Olympics instead?

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