February 9th, 2014
I read in the paper the other day that the Russian government, in order to ensure a neat, orderly and camera friendly environment for the Winter Olympics, have been and are currently shooting hundreds of stray dogs at Sochi, the site of the games.
According to the article, a lot of the dogs were abandoned by their owners, former residents of run down, or inconveniently places houses that were demolished and to create the various Olympic buildings; rinks, stadiums, and the Olympic village where the athletes are staying.
These displaced residents, lower-middle-class or poor, were relocated to cheap apartment buildings provided by the government. One small problem was that these buildings did not accept dogs. So the obvious conclusion—at least in Russia—was just to murder them all.
This is certainly not the first time—and sadly—won’t be the last, that some city, in cooperation with a national government, has done something similar—usually worse—when they hosted the Olympics. Billions of dollars were spent—in countries that had millions of people unemployed or whose populations were making 5 dollars a day or who were literally living off garbage in vast slums. All this money to clear “unsightly” areas, relocate “unsightly” people, build vast new stadiums and sports venues for the world to watch on television—and for the greater glory of… who the fuck knows.
In past Olympics thousands of poor people have been forcibly removed, often to other slum areas out of sight of the cameras. If they didn’t move, they were arrested—or worse. This happened most famously in Mexico in 1968 and some version of it has happened in every country since then, including Los Angeles, and, most recently London.
It’s happening right now in Brazil on a really grand scale for the world soccer championships and the 2016 Olympics. One of the worst slums in the world is being cleared and people relocated—disappeared really, by local and national police. A three-thousand member force with helicopters and heavy weapons were sent in at one point to help in the “clearance”.
From The Guardian Newspaper:
“…The World Cup and the Olympics are being used as a pretext for “social cleansing” as tens of thousands of Rio slum dwellers are driven out to the city periphery, favela residents say.
While millions of eyes turn to north-eastern Brazil for the World Cup draw on Friday, poor communities in Rio de Janeiro are still struggling to be heard as they fight against evictions they say are related to the city’s mega sporting events.
Next year, Rio will host seven games, including the final, followed in 2016 by the Olympics. The city’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, describes this as an opportunity for the city to modernise and create a legacy for future generations. But many of those on the frontline of change feel they are the victims of social cleansing…”
Obviously, in this level playing field of international sports, there are no moral requirements for who gets to host the Olympic games.
So we now have the Russians as the current hosts. Russia, a Mafia-style dictatorship that has federal laws discriminating against gay people, whose police have beaten non-violent protesters in the streets of Russian cities, and who are arresting anyone who disagrees publicly with government policy—not to mention murdering the occasional activist or journalist.
The Russians, who are fighting brutal, take no prisoner police actions against various groups within only hundred miles of the site of the Olympics. The Russians, whose duplicity in the Sixties and Seventies forced the Olympics to go professional and who pioneered the use of steroids in the games.
These people are now shooting stray dogs. Some of animals are being saved and put into shelters but the majority of them are just being shot where they stand by a government hired pest control company.
To me this seems to be the inevitable and possibly perfect expression of the modern Olympics.
I’ve always been more than a little naïve and idealistic but I do realize that the Olympics, aside from being a sop to the patriotic vanity of some country every couple of years—whoever gets to host it—is very much about money. Professional athletes who get paid millions of dollars a year in their own countries, billions of dollars in advertising, endorsements, construction contracts, etc .etc.—the whole vast modern shit-storm of materialism encapsulated in what used to be an amateur sports competition.
(I don’t know about the rest of it, but these endorsements are not a new phenomenon. I remember, when I was a kid, seeing Bob Mathias, a very photogenic Olympic champ, on a box of Wheaties cereal).
But in the last several decades, countries with 10, 15, 20 percent unemployment; countries with huge populations on the verge of starvation, or with no adequate housing; countries that are spending hundreds of billions on weapons and fighting oppressive, imperialistic wars; countries with budget deficits in the trillions—all of these are spending billions of dollars on the Olympics. These host countries are either already corrupt dictatorships like Russia and China or places where civil and human rights are rapidly vanishing, like the United States.
Sometimes this whole thing seems biblical to me.
I’m no big fan of God’s old hobby of dropping cataclysmic punishments on wayward humans; the Tower of Babble, The Flood, etc. But this behavior every couple of years around the Olympics; the waste, the violation of thousands of peoples’ right, the colossal waste of money desperately needed elsewhere, seems to have grown beyond all reason, sense and humanity, into a kind of pre-Armageddon mythological state.
When the whole bread and circus show is over; after the athletes and construction companies and politicians and advertisers and TV stations carry off their loot, the abuses of human freedoms and the poverty will return, even worse because the world will be watching some other TV show. What will remain will only be the vast, empty edifices put up to satisfy some dim-witted mass frenzy of national pride; gigantic buildings sitting on some muddy plain, sitting there, weathering, falling apart, with no purpose—probably never to be used again. And in a thousand years they will be discovered (if there is an earth still existing on which to discover anything) by archaeologists and historians, who will wonder why they were built in the first place and will have no idea what their real cost was, in terms of pure human suffering.
I suppose the answer to all my questions, my musings out loud, is obvious… The bottom line is the bottom line. Who cares about spending needless billions of the peoples’ money, when we already exist in a world, where it was reported recently, that 85 people control half the wealth in the world?
I’ve wondered for years, why the world—which is daily trying to destroy itself in an orgasm of environmental suicide, metastasizing wars and criminal income inequality—can manage, every couple of years, to join hands and sing cheery songs about brother-and-sisterhood and compete in a spirit of cooperation and fair play (absent the rampant use of drugs).
Now here’s my naïveté and idealism. Why doesn’t the world jut agree to spend a finite amount of money—donated through some United Nations agency—to build a huge modern Olympic site in Switzerland or better yet, the Netherlands—and make it permanent? Just eliminate all the waste of money that these countries can’t really afford and the need to evict and arrest thousands of people and destroy their homes and neighborhoods.
This would achieve one of the original goals of these games, re-created in 1896—a temporary coming together of nations who are otherwise trying to destroy each other; dazzling displays of strength and agility that can be breath-taking to see. And just for a moment, to achieve a sense of the simple cooperation that is possible at all times; ultimately pointing up the sheer absurdity of the thousands daily thefts, stupidities and conflicts the world engages in.
But enough of my sappy day-dreaming and childish idealism…
Let the games begin—and if, perhaps, some stray dog wanders into view, or maybe a stray human who doesn’t belong there… well, a bullet is cheap compared to the vast amounts of money being made by everyone involved.