You may or may not have noticed these up to now but, as the Football World Cup approaches, you will see a lot more in this genre of story: the horrified, self righteous reporting of the ‘downsides’ or mismanagement happening in upcoming international sporting events.
We saw it in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics: the western, bleeding-heart media criticising the way the games were ‘being handled’, reporters covering and taking pictures of ‘the other side of the games story’, focusing on the dispossessed or the hungry or the neglected, or criticising the way expenses and building projects were being handled.
This is now happening with Brazil and Qatar. It’s as if the western press thinks the fact of awarding the games to a certain country gives the whole world the right to decide how that country should spend its money or formulate its game plan. But is this really the deal when a country is awarded a big international tournament?
Winning the bid to host a big tournament like the World Cup or the Olympics has always been considered not just an achievement or honour but also an opportunity for that country to attract investment and regenerate various sectors of its economy. But what we all need to understand is that winning such a bid will not change the political or sociological reality of the country overnight. There should either be a clear template for the event with all ‘conditions’ clearly stated or the chosen countries should be left to get on with the preparations.
So is the deal actually that the opportunity to host the games gives the ‘free world’ the right to push for social and political change? Should this be part of the deal? Should the press descend like vultures to do quick critical pieces on all the negative aspects of the preparations?
One could, of course, make an argument that putting things like this in the spotlight might force change or shame the relevant country. But I am not very convinced.
True, there are certain conditions that must be observed because most of the world doesn’t want to participate in an event that has increased human misery or to compete in stadiums built by slave labour. But is this clearly spelt out? Are these countries to observe conditions of a contract or are they just given guiding principles?
I am not saying the press shouldn’t cover the misery/mismanagement stories of the games, but that we too should observe some guiding principles and not just do arbitrary country bashing. Brazil, China, Qatar and Greece are fair game and provide fodder for ‘shocking’ stories but somehow the London and Sydney Olympics are all good news…
And if sports events are supposed to be an opportunity to drive social and political change, how come coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix doesn’t throw up stories of the brutal political repression and sectarian discrimination which is part of that particular landscape?
Food for thought…