Breaking Down Brazil’s Games

by

Despite objective evidence that hosting international sports events does not bring money into a metropolis, cities continue to battle each other for the ability to host such events. The Olympics, World Cup, and smaller extravaganzas are the cause of much courting of executives and extravagant promises. The city that wins usually spends several times more than expected, creates numerous edifices that are rarely used again, and taxes the local citizens above and beyond most can afford. In addition, there are the not-so-obvious expenses. These range from the neglect of normal infrastructure costs associated with day to day existence; roads, schools, and shelter to name just three. On top of that are the extraordinary security measures put in place for such events today. Whether or not these measures are all necessary is a matter of serious debate, but the fact is those who run the shows insist that they are. So, they are put into place. Why do cities want to host these events, then? The reasons they tell their residents (who ultimately pay the price) are lies about prestige and receipts. Hosting an international sporting event puts a city on the map, so to speak. Furthermore, resident are told, the local merchants make money. According to sportswriter Dave Zirin, however, the truth is far different. Local merchants do not make money unless they get the licensing rights from the corporate-driven boards that run these events. The likelihood of that happening grows more remote with each round of games. Instead, it is the giant corporations that get the licensing and get the profits. Furthermore, any business or individual who attempts to profit from these events without permission faces legal (often criminal) action. Why? Because the event administrators work hand in hand with the corporations they grant the licenses to. In doing so, local laws are overridden and multinationals become the law.9781608463602 This is but one example, writes Zirin, of how international sport has distanced itself from the spirit of sport. His new book, titled Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Struggle for Democracy, is a devastating expose of how this dynamic is playing out in Brazil in 2014. The area of sports and neoliberal capitalism is an area Zirin has explored before—quite well I might add. If he had not written a book about Brazil hosting not only the 2016 Olympics but also the 2104 World Cup, I would have been concerned for his writing health. Fortunately for those who read this new text, not only has Zirin written about this unusual conflagration of events, but he has surpassed his previous writing on the subject. Brazil’s Dance With the Devil begins with Zirin describing his visit (with research assistant Zack Zill) to the Michael Jackson statue in one Rio’s Santa Marta favela, one of the multitude of such unofficial “slum” neighborhoods built in Rio as capitalism does its dirty work there. From there, the text just takes off. The reader is presented with a history of Brazil’s colonization, legacy of slavery and recent history; a summary of Brazilian soccer and its contribution to the game; the tale of the favelas in Rio; and several pages exploring the corruption and cronyism typical of neoliberal capitalism that goes into warpspeed whenever some type of shock occurs. Indeed, one idea Zirin refers to regularly to describe the phenomenon is Naomi Klein’s shock doctrine. The difference between Klein’s “shocks” and the ones Zirin discusses is simple but important. Klein’s reference is most often to natural events like hurricanes or earthquakes which are then used as reasons to gentrify the stricken regions and turn them into zones for profit, while Zirin’s “shocking” events are completely man-made. In other words, Zirin’s shocks are created by humans to gentrify cities and expel unprofitable humans from the areas where arenas and lodgings for athletes and visitors are to be built. Like the aftermath of natural shocks, the shock caused by mega sporting events involves a massive transference of public wealth into private hands. As noted above, this is a topic Zirin has written about extensively, especially in relation to the building of sports arenas and fields for professional sports franchises. Brazil’s Dance With the Devil is more than a well-written and researched piece of journalism. Zirin’s hard-hitting approach is always informed by a radical understanding of how modern day capitalism really works. That understanding helps turn this book into some of the most in-depth reporting one is likely to read about this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. There are those in the sports world of corporate media who might say that Zirin’s writing is too political, does not belong in the world of sportswriting, and is proof that his interest isn’t in the games. I have to disagree. It is precisely because Dave Zirin loves sports that his writing says what it says. If ever there were a person who believes that sports matter in the world, it would be Dave Zirin. His latest book Brazil’s Dance With the Devil is but the most recent proof of this. Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
September 4-6, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe
Lawrence Ware
No Refuge: the Specter of White Supremacy Still Haunts Black America
Paul Street
Bi-Polar Disorder: Obama’s Bait-and-Switch Environmental Politics
Kali Akuno
Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era
Arun Gupta
Field Notes to Life During the Apocalypse
Steve Hendricks
Come Again? Second Thoughts on My Ashley Madison Affair
Paul Craig Roberts
Whither the Economy?
Ron Jacobs
Bernie Sanders’ Vision: As Myopic as Every Other Candidate or Not?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and Crisis
Jeffrey St. Clair
Arkansas Bloodsuckers: the Clintons, Prisoners and the Blood Trade
Richard W. Behan
Republican Fail, Advantage Sanders: the Indefensible Budget for Defense
Ted Rall
Call It By Its Name: Censorship
Susan Babbitt
“Swarms” Entering the UK? What We Can Still Learn About the Migrant Crisis From Che Guevara
Andrew Levine
Compassionate Conservatism: a Reconsideration and an Appreciation
John Wight
Adrift Without Sanctuary: a Sick and Twisted Morality
Binoy Kampmark
Sieges in an Age of Austerity: Monitoring Julian Assange
Colin Todhunter
Europe’s Refugee Crisis and the Depraved Morality of David Cameron
JP Sottile
Chinese Military Parade Freak-Out
Kathleen Wallace
The Child Has a Name, They All Do
David Rosen
Why So Few Riots?
Norm Kent
The Rent Boy Raid: Homeland Security Should Monitor Our Borders Not Our Bedrooms
Michael Welton
Canada’s Arrogant Autocrat: the Rogue Politics of Stephen Harper
Ramzy Baroud
Palestine’s Crisis of Leadership: Did Abbas Destroy Palestinian Democracy?
Jim Connolly
Sniping at the Sandernistas: Left Perfectionism in the Belly of the Beast
Pepe Escobar
Say Hello to China’s New Toys
Sylvia C. Frain
Tiny Guam, Huge US Marine Base Expansions
Pete Dolack
Turning National Parks into Corporate Profit Centers
Ann Garrison
Africa’s Problem From Hell: Samantha Power
Dan Glazebrook
British Home Secretary Theresa May: Savior or Slaughterer of Black People?
Christopher Brauchli
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Citigroup
Norman Pollack
Paradigm of a Fascist Mindset: Nicholas Burns on Iran
Barry Lando
Standing at the Bar of History: Could the i-Phone Really Have Prevented the Holocaust?
Linn Washington Jr.
Critics of BlackLivesMatter# Practice Defiant Denial
Roger Annis
Canada’s Web of Lies Over Syrian Refugee Crisis
Chris Zinda
Constitutional Crisis in the Heart of Dixie
Rannie Amiri
Everything Stinks: Beirut Protests and Garbage Politics
Graham Peebles
Criminalizing Refugees
Missy Comley Beattie
In Order To Breathe
James McEnteer
Blast From the Past in Buenos Aires
Patrick Higgins
A Response to the “Cruise Missile Left”
Tom H. Hastings
Too Broke to Pay Attention
Edward Leer
Love, Betrayal, and Donuts
Louis Proyect
Migrating Through Hell: Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro”
Charles R. Larson
Class and Colonialism in British Cairo
David Yearsley
Michael Sarin: Drumming Like Summer Fireworks Over a Choppy Lake