Dow’s Paralympic Sponsorship Insults the Disabled

by Saffi Ullah Ahmad

In what is a bitter irony, whilst reaping the PR benefits of association with the 2012 Paralympics, the Dow Chemical Corporation is directly responsible for wave after wave of disability in faraway lands.

Today begin London’s 2012 Paralympics, set to be opened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. For another two weeks, we will hear Lord Sebastian Coe and other LOCOG officials’ lofty statements not just about the games’ alleged spirit of inclusiveness but also about their role in the empowerment of disabled people and the challenging of misconceptions around disability. Such pomp and pageantry however, is disingenuous to its core, something recognised by many disability rights campaigners.

Dogging the games for several months now has been controversy relating to corporate sponsorship from a variety of the world’s murkiest companies. The Paralympic games allow for what The Nation’s Dave Zirin has termed ‘corporate sin washing’ more than any other athletic spectacle.

As many have noted, from McDonalds and Coca-Cola, partly responsible for obesity epidemics worldwide, to British Petroleum, notorious for off-shore drilling and funding climate change denial, the list of sponsors leaves one bewildered.

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China’s race for gold

China is at the moment leading the Olympic tables with 6 gold medals. Here’s Al Jazeera’s 101 East on how China manufactures its athletes.

China is home to some of the world’s best athletes. At the Beijing Olympics, the country topped the medals table, winning 100 medals in 25 sports, including 51 golds. As the London 2012 Olympics unfold, it is clear that China’s state-backed sports system is slowly being overhauled. But change might come too late for some athletes. What does China sacrifice in its relentless pursuit of gold?

Upside Down World Cup

As the corporate-sponsored bonanza that is the football World Cup unfolds into its second week, Raj Patel looks at one of the most overlooked aspects of this year’s tournament: the ongoing struggle of tens of thousands of shack dwellers across the country. Over the past year, shack settlement leaders in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town have been chased from their homes by gangs, arrested, detained without hearing, and assaulted. As the World Cup begins, a shack dwellers’ movement known as Abahlali baseMjondolo is mounting what they call an “Upside Down World Cup” campaign to draw attention to their plight.

Shahrukh Khan and the Pound of Flesh: the Cost of Stardom (The King is Out: Part II)

by Huma Dar

[read Part I]

Shahrukh Khan (SRK) has a long history of playing the fraught field (of the Indian context) with flawless diplomacy, perhaps even overplaying the field.  In early 2002, precisely during the days of the state-sponsored anti-Muslim pogroms in Indian Gujarat, the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, from BJP (a Hindu Nationalist party), released an MTV-esque album,Samvedna [Sensitivity]. Widely broadcast on Doordarshan, the State-owned television channel, as well as on Indian-American programs (at least in the San Francisco Bay Area), the video features Vajpayee reciting his Hindi poetry while Jagjit Singh, the ghazal singer, sings in tune.  The album is prefaced by the rhapsodizing words of Javed Akhtar — another famous Muslim from Bollywood, narrated by Amitabh Bachhan.

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Hasbara goal?

Starting today, and for the next two days, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) will hold its Congress and Executive Committee meeting in Tel Aviv. The draw for the Euro 2010 qualifying groups will also take place.

From an article in Ha’aretz:

This is the first time that Israel has ever hosted the annual gathering, which is taking place two months before the World Cup kicks off in South Africa.

Congress participants include FIFA President Joseph (Sepp) Blatter, UEFA President Michel Platini, former German footballer Franz Beckenbauer and the heads of international football teams.

Hosting the UEFA Congress is the culmination of a years-long effort by the Israeli Tourism Ministry.

“Israel is an ideal country for training camps and sporting activities and matches, year-round and especially during the European winter,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. “I am sure that the combination of the climate and the infrastructure for training and matches, alongside the many tourist sites and entertainment and leisure options, will make our guests choose Israel for both personal and professional visits in the future.”

The Tourism Ministry is working to increase Israel’s cooperation with European countries in order to boost tourism by improving Israel’s international image as a safe and modern country to visit.

The Olympics and the politics of the spectacle

What won't the cameras be showing us?

The Olympics are more than just a game. I don’t mean that in the sense that they are a serious competition for national pride for which the word “game” does not do justice. Rather, considering the billions of dollars in corporate sponsorships, the equally substantial sums of public money pumped into the host city, and the occasional political sideshow, the quadrennial athletic exhibition is about far more than points scored and records broken. But I wish the Olympics were merely a matter of national pride. I’m an American so losing at curling is the least of my indignities.

Never the less, I am left wondering what these spectacles mean in the twenty-first century. If anything, the impending World Cup and Winter Olympics serve as an intriguing allegory for global capitalism itself. Writing for This.org, Andrew Wallace remarked on what the Olympics mean for Vancouver activists:

“…the real legacy of the Games won’t be the revamped Sea-to-Sky Highway or new sports infrastructure in Richmond. And it certainly won’t be the 250 units of social housing the city has promised from the freshly constructed athletes village. The real legacy will be debt. Crippling public debt. According to 2010 Watch’s Christopher Shaw, the Olympics are quickly shaping up to be Vancouver’s very own ‘Big Owe.’

“And that debt could put more pressure on existing grassroots groups, especially when funds are cut and the world’s eyes aren’t on Vancouver. Sport can be a powerful platform for awareness—but it also comes with a short attention span. It’ll be difficult for the organizations that have been so vocal in the run up to the Games to maintain the force of their voice once the Olympic spotlight has moved on,”

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