Bread and Circuses

One of the world's most popular pastimes is sports.

sports and spectators thereof have been around since at least Roman times and likely earlier. In Rome itself was the coliseum, the location of circus maxsimus, where every conceivable sport was displayed.
sports and spectators thereof have been around since at least Roman times and likely earlier. In Rome itself was the coliseum, the location of circus maxsimus, where every conceivable sport was displayed.
The true circus maximus was the site of chariot racing, gladiator fights, animal contests and a host of other events.
The true circus maximus was the site of chariot racing, gladiator fights, animal contests and a host of other events.
Even before Rome came on the historic stage, Greece held competitive sports. These were not mass spectator events like in Rome, but these events inspired modern Olympic events today that are mass spectator events.
Even before Rome came on the historic stage, Greece held competitive sports. These were not mass spectator events like in Rome, but these events inspired modern Olympic events today that are mass spectator events.
The people of Greece did publish their sports heroes on pottery that survive to this day. Some sports memorabilia!
The people of Greece did publish their sports heroes on pottery that survive to this day. Some sports memorabilia!
Wrestling in the Olympics started in Greece and is in the modern venue.
Wrestling in the Olympics started in Greece and is in the modern venue.
Though there were no winter Olympic contests in the days of ancient Greece, we have them today, and hockey is one of the venues. As a team sport by itself, hockey is one of the most popular, especially in winter.
Though there were no winter Olympic contests in the days of ancient Greece, we have them today, and hockey is one of the venues. As a team sport by itself, hockey is one of the most popular, especially in winter.
There are two kinds of football. The American and Canadian version is much different than what most of the world calls football and we call soccer. Soccer/football is the most popular spectator summer sport in the world.
There are two kinds of football. The American and Canadian version is much different than what most of the world calls football and we call soccer. Soccer/football is the most popular spectator summer sport in the world.
This is the other football; the most attended, most watched and most popular sport today.
This is the other football; the most attended, most watched and most popular sport today.
The world cup (FIFA) was held in South Africa and competitors from around the world struggled to gain the world cup. The FIFA event followed close on the heels of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The world cup (FIFA) was held in South Africa and competitors from around the world struggled to gain the world cup. The FIFA event followed close on the heels of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
When Canada won the 2010 Olympic hockey event, all of Canada partied in celebration for almost 24 hours non-stop. Such is the impact of a winning team on spectators and lovers of the sport.
When Canada won the 2010 Olympic hockey event, all of Canada partied in celebration for almost 24 hours non-stop. Such is the impact of a winning team on spectators and lovers of the sport.

Sports has becomea huge business enterprise of extreme value.

The Roman Circus Maximus never died; it merely changed its program. From the fights of gladiators to the death, to the modern FIFA football fever and the 2010 Winter Olympic circus, it is the same. Occupy the occupied so that their idle minds are not allowed to see the naked truth of their repression and that they are kept distracted by mock wars until they are needed to sacrifice themselves for the real articles of war for the profit of their oppressors and the supposed gains in lebensraum. Long ago, the ruling elite learned from the enchantment that came from the spectacle of battle, maiming and death. We see that played out in the popular media since the inception of movies, to the advent of the computer game, to popular sport, no matter what kind to the present day. The war department has even figured out a way to incorporate video games with drones that drop real bombs on real people half a world away. As a nation caught up in consumerism and distraction, most have become enthralled by the huge spectacle. Even the spectacle of a huge terrorist attack by way of a false flag serves its purpose in the modern circus maximus. Let us look at some recent spectacles in the world arena.

The Olympics have always had a high cost on any region and people that have hosted this two to three week event. They have also had a history of turbulence and scandal. The challenge to physical excellence was handed down from Ancient Greece, where such contests originated. From the discus throw, archery, rowing, the javelin, the short and long run, swimming, wrestling and many other challenges, the Olympics evolved and then were forgotten for two millennium. The Greeks never spent the huge sums we do for the Olympics and the only preparation was for the athletes who perfected their skills, usually in the nude, much like martial artists in Asia who also practices their skills on their own in specialized schools. In Greece, the Olympics were not popularly attended and hyped as they are now. The challenge was region against region to see who had the best in each skill. The Olympics had more to do with military prowess and sharpening of skills than for show, propaganda and keeping the masses busy. It is only with the advent of the technology of mass televising of sports events, that the attraction has mushroomed to such huge proportions. Today, we are dominated by a world wide sports empire, which some have called mock war. Nevertheless, it is an empire that is very wealthy and powerful.

Today, the Olympics are a distraction and a high cost one at that, but bearing in mind what has been stated, a state deemed necessity as it is an extremely effective means of control. After a voting process where various cities bid to host them, the host is selected and then it is the responsibility of the host to provide the venues for each of the events. The Olympics now come in two main parts; the traditional events like the 100 meter dash, relay race, hurdles, pole vault, long jump, javelin throw, discus, hammer throw, wrestling, swimming and diving events and the like. There are newer additions with winter events like skiing, ice skating, shooting and the like called the winter games. Sometimes events are combined to form triathlons and decathlons. The traditional events usually are set in the warmer period of the year and the skiing is set in mountainous regions in the winter. All require venues where they perform some of which have to be built from scratch and others adapted. Then there is housing, transport, media, security and a host of other costs involved in the preparation, running and conclusion of the event. The money has to come from somewhere. Often big business provides monies in return for advertising. Sometimes the government provides support from various levels. But a lot of money comes from taxes, so the people foot a large proportion of the bill. Cost over-runs increases the cost and then there is the displacement of residents to support the venues.

With the Olympics comes a lot of speculation, where business and landlords seek to obtain maximum profits from the event. For the local economy where the venues are being built, there is job stimulation that employs a lot contractors and trades people for a few years while the housing and venues are being constructed. But at the same time, prices of apartments, hotel rooms and housing goes up amid the speculation that tourists are going to need the space and so the prices of rooms and rents go up. Local people have to put up with hugely increased prices and ultimately higher taxes to pay down the debt incurred from the building of the venues. For Vancouver, BC with the 2010 Olympics, the cost of the athlete’s village alone has ballooned to $900 million and some said it would top $2 billion by the time the Olympics start. Post Olympics, the cost turned out to be almost $7 billion. The government becomes the lender of last resort, especially in a post sub-prime collapsed economy where banks are not willing to loan. The taxpayer gets saddled with more debt and higher taxes, at the city level with high property taxes and at the provincial level with added taxes to cover the increasing debt.


Vancouver went all out for the 2010 winter Olympics. The Canada Line built at huge cost and inconvenience caused a traffic snarl that lasted almost three years. Those who had businesses along the Canada Line construction had to put up with an 80 percent loss in business and ceaseless construction noise, just so that the tourists can get from the airport to downtown in 15 minutes and then from their to Whistler for the skiing events. All of this was for a 17 day non stop and continuous party, the likes of which Rome was legendary. Almost everything else was blocked out and news of other events was obtained outside of Vancouver where it was Olympic fever. CBC carried the Olympics live and in review for 24/7. Canada won the most medals ever in the event and this created a furor of sports oriented patriotism, It was after the event that we learned that the income generated was a mere $500 million, which translates to a 93 % loss overall. Now, the people are left to pay down the debt and this started with cut backs across the gamut of government services and income to the needy. The tourists were hardly out of town when the bomb was dropped. On Canada Day, the HST started and raised the rate of inflation on many items by 12%. Less austerity in Greece and France caused several general strikes.

After the Olympics and Para-Olympics were over, attention shifted to South Africa for the soccer (football) world cup play-offs where they were held. Once more, the vast majority of people were mesmerized by competing teams in the football play-offs. S. Africa invested billions in venues for the FIFA games, while the most desperately poor have seen no improvement since the ostensible dismantling of apartheid. This mirrors what went on in Vancouver, but since it was the games, this enthralled the people to such an extent, that important issues were swept under the carpet. Everywhere one turned to, it was football, football, football and for variety, analysis of football. Half a world away, Vancouver fell into the party mode of football, all orchestrated by the big media, sports magnates who invest hundreds of millions in sport speculation and big companies like Coca-Cola and McDonalds that gains by advertising and being supporters of such mega-sports venues.

To clarify the situation a little further, sports giants pull down contracted salaries that rival those of bankers and CEOs like Tony Hayward of BP. It does not matter what sport it is, as long as we are looking at champion contenders in the ring, the football field, baseball or hockey. Only in the Olympics do we see extremely talented amateurs competing for the potential for a huge contract. If they get the gold and lots of it, they then land multimillion dollar contracts that will guarantee success for the rest of their lives, while most people struggle day by day just to prevent landing on the streets, homeless, hungry and vilified. Sports distractions on a mass scale are so pervasive, we could actually redesign the yearly calendar just around the sports that can be seen; hockey for winter, baseball for spring, football for summer and fall. We could squeeze in golf, cricket, car racing, wrestling, boxing and a host of others, each keyed to specific times. We are sure that this has also been carefully crafted so that there is always some major sports event to distract and keep people busy.

Sports plays an important psychological role, which cannot be denied in its impact. If you can't win in life, you can win vicariously through the support of a winning team or athlete. As we all grow up in the milieu of the failure complex in school, work and life, promulgated by authorities of every type, all with their fan support base, it is little wonder that we like to be identified with winners. For most, that winner is in the sports arena. The feeling of success is thus transferred to the fan of the team or athlete when the team or athlete wins big and the fan feels less defeated, actually proud, though they had next to nothing to do individually with the victory of the team or athlete. They feel as if they have somehow won, when it is the skill, tenacity and endurance of the team or athlete that won. This transference so important that games will be rigged, not for reasons of cash settlements, though not entirely ruled out, but to placate the people of a particular region. It is one reason why the Canadians did so well in the Olympics. It was partly due to competing on home turf, but also to placate the Canadian people; and it worked!

A lesson of history shows how important the foregoing is. Riots ensue over sports events and now in the S. Africa FIFA games, even terrorist attacks. We have seen this before in Vancouver in 1994 during the Gray Cup riots after the BC Lions lost in a series of games in the play-off for the Gray Cup, where the police used battlefield quantities of tear gas and cornered 70,000 people at 3AM in the downtown core. There was heavy destruction, but they prefer this type of riot over the kind they recently dealt with in the G8-G20 Summit. One is mindless venting due to the loss of a favoured competitor with which one identifies, in the sports arena and the other is a purposeful gathering to expose the criminality of the world states and the capitalists who get bailouts and exoneration.

Mass media has been a boon to the system that would rather keep the people distracted over mass sports. Instead of concentrating on improving their own lives, which they think they cannot, they turn to sports to get a vicarious victory. To borrow a phrase, instead of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, they unwittingly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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Comments 2 comments

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

I agree with this analysis to some extent. The traffic snarl-ups and the high cost are indeed factors to consider and we have experienced them here in South Africa.

The positive side is that South Africa enjoyed a time of less crime, many visitors who had a positive experience of South Africa and some great improvements in infrastructure which were very much needed.

Yes the games are a deistraction from the bigger issues, and maybe that distraction is sometimes needed. Certainly in South Africa we seem to have experienced a collective sigh of relief at being able to think about and enjoy something other than news about corrupt politicians, the cost of living going up, crime, etc.

Now we are back to reality with renewed spirit, renewed hope that the problems can be solved.

Perhaps I put a rather optimistic spin on this but I do think there is something to be said for taking time out to have fun. Certainly it seems to have brought about a new ssense of unity and pride here.

There is one correction I would like to make - there was no terrorist attack in South Africa during the SWC. Bombs were planted in Uganda by suspected Somali terrorists but nothing of the kind happened here.

Another benefit of the games for us is that the often negative perception of South Africa put about by the media is that South Africa is unsafe, that there is widespread crime and that business doesn't do well here. These are all false and the SWC experience has I think helped to rectify those false perceptions.

The biggest problem in South Africa in my opinion is the huge, and growing, gap between the rich and the poor. We are currently the most unequal country in the world, as measured by the Gini Co-efficient. This is a cause for alarm indeed. Many in government and the NGO sector are aware of this and I hope that the issue will be addressed more forthrightly in the weeks and months to come. Certainly it can't go on without huge repercussions. One thing government needs to do urgently is to address corruption in the public sector and root it out. Not an easy task.

I agree that it is iniquitous that sports stars (and the other celebrities, for that matter) get disproportionate and immoral amounts of money when the poor of the world starve. That is to me an evil. And is is sytemic. We need to change the system urgently. How is the question, of course.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts

Love and peace

Tony


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 6 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

I agree, that there is nothing wrong with sports per se. I'm the type that would rather play than watch. I've enjoyed comparative sports like baseball personally, as well as bowling, speed skating, skiing, rowing, canoeing, hiking, shooting and the like. Organized sports today is huge business. I really think for health's sake alone that there should be a lot more participation. But,the reality is today, that many people work hard, especially in families where both parents work and that leaves little time to play. One thing is true, there is a huge variety of good sports to choose from.

In Vancouver, there was concern for a terrorist strike that thank God never materialized. Some two tons of ammonium nitrate went missing just prior to the games and some were concerned of a major terrorist strike.

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