Sunday, 14 August 2016

Bread and circuses - and Cold War hysteria at Rio

"Politically Correct" Rio Olympics Amid Anti-Russia Cold War Hysteria

Finian Cunningham

13 August, 2016

In absurd reality-disconnect, Brazilian authorities are trying to maintain a «politically correct» image during the Rio Olympics, while the entire games are imbued with nasty Cold War politics.
By «politically correct» we mean the apparent absence of politics. But that absence is partial, unilateral and false, and the forced measure is itself a very political act.

The Brazilian Olympics organizers are claiming that it is against the charter of the International Olympics Committee to allow any form of political expression within the sporting venues. And so, they claim, in the interest of public decorum and decency, the Olympics venues must be kept «politics free» in order to not discommode other spectators or global television audiences.
Hence, sports fans have been reportedly bounced out of stadiums by burly police squads at the slightest hint of disturbance. Several Brazilian spectators have been ordered to leave venues for daring to shout out «fora Temer» – a Portuguese reference to interim president Michel Temer, demanding that he quit office.

Fans have even been expelled for silently holding up written posters bearing the same words. Or, ingeniously, sitting in a row with T-shirts spelling out the individual letters of the protest slogan.
But hold on a minute. The entire 2016 games in Rio are being held amid a spectacular backdrop of sinister politics.

Brazil’s elected president Dilma Rousseff was suspended from office back in May after rightwing parliamentary opponents accused her of illegal accounting practices. She denies the allegations, saying that the budgetary measures she took were legal, and that she is being forced from office illegally, which in turn disenfranchises more than 54 million voters. In the opening week of the games, the Brazilian Senate voted to press ahead with Rousseff’s impeachment.

Rousseff’s leftwing Workers Party supporters claim that she has been ousted by a parliamentary coup. Michel Temer, the rightwing coalition vice president, has since assumed her office as the country’s acting president. Temer is accused of orchestrating the de facto putsch. He is also closely aligned with Washington’s anti-leftist agenda in Latin America targeting Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Nicaragua and Cuba, among others.
During the opening Olympic ceremony, Temer was roundly booed by Brazilians and appeared to cut his speech short.
Ahead of the opening, the Olympic torch parade was disrupted by angry street protests, with crowds complaining about the high cost of holding the games amid economic hardship for millions of Brazilians. The Rio games are estimated to cost $13 billion. Riot police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse protesters and get the Olympic torch into the stadium.

Low ticket sales indicate that for most Brazilians, the Rio games are off-limits, with the price of individual tickets ($100-350) being equivalent to half a month’s salary for many Brazilian workers.
Given the absurd disconnect of sporting extravagance and growing economic hardship for the population combined with the wide perception that Temer and his rightwing supporters have usurped an elected president, it is little wonder that Brazilians have much to protest about. And it is especially galling that the alleged usurpers of state power are now invoking political correctness and the «spirit of the games» to suppress any form of dissent – in the name of «keeping politics out of sport».

Supporters of Rousseff are saying, with good reason, that the democratic right to peacefully protest is simply being crushed under the cover of supposed Olympian ethics.
The absurdity is underscored by the bigger political backdrop of the games being held hostage by a renewed and contrived Cold War agenda against Russia.

The banning of some 100 Russian athletes from participating in the games over allegations of doping has the suspicion of politics being very much injected into the world’s biggest sporting event.
Russia was allowed at the last minute to send a national team after the International Olympic Committee ruled that allegations against individual athletes did not justify a collective ban. But the allegations themselves were controversial, being based on Western media reports and the Western-dominated World Anti-Doping Agency. The latter parlayed much of its claims on those of Russian so-called whistleblowers, who may or may not have been seeking personal rewards.
The tendentious contention leveled by WADA, and taken up by Western media with gusto, is that alleged Russian doping is «state-sponsored». However, Russian authorities were not consulted nor given a fair hearing to rebut the claims. The claims were merely made into an article of faith and driven by a Western political agenda of isolating Russia, as in several other areas of international relations over the past two years, including the downing of a Malaysian civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. No-one knows the cause of that tragedy, but Western media have sought to blame it on Russia without any evidence, as they have with regard to «state-sponsored doping» in sports.

The 2016 Olympics are thus being conducted in a toxic atmosphere of geopolitics redolent of the old Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union.

Vladimir Salnikov, a former Russian Olympic swimming star, in an interview with the Reuters news agency said that the Rio games are reminiscent of the Cold War years in the 1980s when the US and Soviet Union boycotted each other’s events.

«I think the atmosphere is very strange,» said Salnikov, who is in Rio as president of the Russian Swimming Federation.
Salnikov, who won four golds during the 1980s, said it was regrettable that Russian athletes are receiving such a hostile attitude from some spectators and fellow competitors on the basis of the doping allegations.
In particular, he referred to nasty public comments made by the American swimmer, Lilly King, who won the gold this week in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. King said that her Russian rival, Yulia Efimova, who came second to win silver, should not have been even allowed to participate because she had been previously banned for taking performance enhancing drugs. Efimova was since cleared and reinstated by the international Court of Arbitration for Sports to take part in Rio.
Salnikov said: «Efimova has been through a very severe ordeal, and in an atmosphere of distrust and uncertainty I think she showed very strong character – resilience and focus – and so I think she deserved her medal. She has come through very tough times and I’m sure she will cope».

Apparently, the Russian female swimmer was not able to sleep for two weeks before the Olympics due to the stress caused by the doping scandal.

Presumably, the entire Russian delegation of 270 other athletes – 70 per cent of the full team, the smallest in decades – have likewise been affected by the political cloud that has been imposed over their performance at Rio – in what should be the pinnacle of their sporting careers.
The point is that Russia has been unfairly demonized through doping allegations that have been whipped up on dubious grounds by Western media serving a geopolitical agenda – the same tawdry agenda that has been deployed over Ukraine, Syria, European security, trade sanctions, and so on.
The Rio Olympics have thus been turned into an anti-Russian morality play whose purpose is a base politicized objective

The heavy-handed suppression of legitimate Brazilian protests against an unconstitutional would-be imposter-president – in the name of «keeping politics out of sports» – is absurdly conducted amidst an international spectacle of subverting the very same Olympic games into a Russia-bashing event.

Like bread and circuses of ancient Rome, we are expected to believe that the «great and good» are nobly entertaining the masses with sporting fun – with an event that has been thoroughly contaminated by toxic politics.

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