Neymar, the Olympics and the dream merchants who govern us

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
August 7, 2017

The footballer Neymar has been transferred to the Paris-Saint-Germain club (PSG) for 220 million euros. The club will more than cover its investment by selling, at very high prices, TV broadcasting rights, sponsorships, football jerseys and other products.

There is a shocking gap between the abundance of money available for acquiring an athlete and the lack of money for investing in equipment or activities that would be far more useful to society. The total of 300 million euros invested by the PSG could be used to build three hospitals or to pay a year’s salary plus contributions for 10,000 workers. And the government claims that it is necessary to reduce the monthly housing allowance paid to working-class families by 5 euros!

The media feeds us sporting events non-stop. No sooner have the Tour de France and the Women’s Euro 2017 finished, than it’s time for the Premier League; the world aquatics championships are hardly over when it’s time for the world athletics. All year, there is one competition after another and they are all commercial operations.

Millions of young people, neglected by the society in which we live, dream of being Usain Bolt, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé or Teddy Riner. But only a few working-class youths manage to escape the favelas in Brazil, the ghettos in Jamaica and Guadeloupe or the run-down Paris suburbs. To the rest, capitalism offers exploitation and, often, abject poverty.

Politicians on the right and left are unanimously enthusiastic about the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympics. The IOC will officially announce the award in September. Construction industry tycoons are already salivating at the thought of all the building work to be done. Sponsors, equipment manufacturers, media and the major hotel and catering groups will also benefit.

But for the people who live in Paris, it’s not the same story. Hosting the Olympics costs billions to the country. The profits made are private but the money that is spent comes from taxpayers and consumers and is always a great deal more than the original budget. Greece is still paying for the 2004 Olympics which increased its debt. The state of Rio organized the Olympics in 2016 and is now bankrupt and no longer paying its staff, while facilities built at great expense are now abandoned.

The gigantic cost led Boston, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest to withdraw their bid for the 2024 Olympics, so the IOC was pleased to count on ... Paris. To make this more acceptable, we are told that the structures built will benefit inhabitants, particularly in the Seine-Saint-Denis department1. What a joke! The Olympic budget of 6 billion euros could be used to build hundreds of sports facilities that would be useful to the population, including many of the swimming pools needed in this department, where one child in two can’t swim. The London Olympics in 2012 cost 12 billion. How much social housing, like the Grenfell tower where a fire killed at least 80 people last June, could have been renovated to meet current norms with that amount?

Sporting events show that governments can easily access considerable funds and human resources. If society were not so absurd, it would use this for what the population really needs and not for capitalists in construction, sport and media.

In ancient Rome, emperors used the circus games to appeal to the common people. Times have changed but the old tricks are still in use. Politicians and the big bourgeoisie are well aware of the benefits to gain from this type of entertainment.

In reality, when politicians promote big sporting events, they are not making sports and leisure activities available to everyone. They are spreading the idea that capitalists and workers share the same interests and should come together – with chauvinism as the common denominator. Meanwhile the politicians continue to attack the working-class. But modern circuses are not going to make us forget that we have to fight the capitalists who profit from the show and the dream merchants who govern us!

1 Seine-Saint-Denis (93), situated just North of Paris, is one of the departments with the highest level of poverty in France.