HUNTING WHITE ELEPHANTS / CAÇANDO ELEFANTES BRANCOS

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13 December 2012

something for the weekend calumet


1) There is no way to separate the social and cultural phenomenon of sports mega-events, the production of elite sport and the consumption of spectacle, from the circulation and accumulation of four types of capital: political, symbolic, cultural and economic.

2) Sport is increasingly used as a mechanism for the accumulation of all these forms of capital because it is easily detached from the politics of urban life. The combined actions of government, media, finance capital and mega-event rights holders work to differentiate the social and economic costs of mega-events from the provision of housing, transportation, education, sanitation, health care and human rights. This separation is facilitated by the emotional and historical milieus of sports competitions which frame the hosting of events within the non-rational, the patriotic or the intangible. The invention, production, marketing, and consumption of sports mega-events rarely includes complete information regarding the scope, scale and cost of urban and social interventions thereby constructing and maintaining a public veil of ignorance regarding the event.

3) The accelerated cycles of exceptional events has diluted their unique character, increased the scale of intervention and created a permanent and revolving “state of exception” (Agamben  2005). The global peregrinations of “celebration capital” (Boykoff 2013) have created trans-national knowledge sharing networks that continually evolve to meet the logistical, political and infrastructural challenges posed by hosts. These networks articulate with local, vested interests to extract maximum capital (in all its forms) within the event`s temporal horizon (seven years in the case of the Olympics and World Cup).  

4) In order for a maximum of accumulation to occur in the event horizon a specific mode of production needs to be imported and implemented. This mode of production can be considered a “Mega-event industrial complex” that is highly mobile and highly flexible, using metropolitan, state, national and international actors to transform the political, economic and socio-spatial dynamics of hosts. The mode of production requires extensive political, urban and social interventions in order to stimulate flows and circulations to the maximum degree possible. However, these flows are heavily directed and controlled, are of a certain type and have enduring effects on the exercise of power.

5) The general tendency of the mega-event mode of production is to limit the “right to the city” through the installation of a new form of governmentality (Foucault 2004, 108) that uses apparatuses of security as its essential technical element.  The mode of production can also be understood as a series of techniques, deployments, and tactics that restructures urban space through the mechanisms of discipline and security. This apparatus is meant to transform the use value of the city for local residents into exchange value for more mobile agents, thus transferring economic capital to higher circuits while allowing for the unfettered accumulation of political and symbolic capital by local and national politicians.  No informed population with a strong civil society would consensually submit to this outlandish proposal, thus the security apparatus functions to establish and guarantee these new circulations through the exercise of violence.

Agambem, Giorgio.2005. States of Exception. . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Boykoff, Jules. 2013. Celebration Capitalism. Forthcoming.
Foucault, Michel. 2004. Security, Territory, Population. Editions du Seuil/Gallimard. New York: Picador.

07 December 2012

Lies, Truth and Chico


It`s almost too easy to pick on the CBF and the World Cup organizing committee, but they really do deserve all of the opprobrium that we can shovel on them, so let`s get to it.

Soccerex, the global football business conference, was as depressing and vapid as usual. One of the particular lowlights was the presentation offered by Ricardo Trade and Bebeto. The former is the head of something at the CBF and the LOC and the latter was a fine footballer in his day, but appears to be taking nips of electric kool-aid between electroshock sessions. Bebeto said the following at least half a dozen times, “when you`re a player, you have no idea what goes into making a World Cup, but when you`re on this side of things, you realize it’s a lot of work.” Genius! It`s probably better that Bebeto has completely ignored his duties as a federal legislator to take up a position on the left shoulder of whatever authority figure is strutting around.

The meat of the LOC`s presentation looked like it had just crawled out of Graciliano Ramos` Vidas Secas. Don`t bother asking for a copy because their public relations directive is to not give out any information. However, once in awhile, if you go to enough of these presentations, they let out something that might actually be true and I think I discovered a piece of reality in Trade`s brutal, condescending powerpoint:

   ·         Total investment in World Cup associated projects (including federal, state and city)- R$112.8 billion.
   ·         Total anticipated impact on Gross Domestic Production (PIB) – R$64.5 billion

You read correctly. According to the figures presented by the 2014 Organizing Committee at the world`s largest soccer business conference, for every R$1 invested in the World Cup, the Brazilian public can expect a return of R$0.57. Brilliant! [ed: apparently inspired by the deputy, the author begun to repeat things]

It is also important to point out (again) that the word sustainability is so hollow that if you hold it to your ear you can hear Mother Nature crying a polluted river. What no “sustainable” account of stadium construction or reform ever takes into consideration is the amount of energy and resources that go into making a monumental structure that will require even more energy to run. Does it really matter that the stadium in Brasilia will be LEED Platinum Certified if there is no demand for the principal use of the thing after 7 football matches in 2014? I`m not surprised that people say and do anything to drive up costs and to project themselves and their overblown ideas as good for society, but that these insipid discourses get accepted by journalists and the general public as evident truths is disturbing in the extreme.

Fuleco. That was not the name that received the most votes on this website but it is now the official name of the tatu-bola mascot of the World Cup. It is a mixture of “futebol” and “ecologia”. What with its high use of chemical fertilizers for fields, hundreds of thousands of kilometers of air travel, equipment manufactured in slave-like conditions in East Asia, the consumption of tens of millions of cans and bottles, vip travel in limousines and private jets, traffic jams for the rest of time, the creative destruction of cities and stadiums and the immense stresses on sewage systems in host cities it is very clear that football is an ecologically sensitive sport! It all makes perfect sense. If they weren`t walking around with pockets stuffed with public money, one would almost feel badly for the adults that have to swallow this garbage as part of their jobs. According to one report, upon hearing his name, the tatu-bola tried to commit suicide. Where are the Brazilian Kevorkians to help him along?

Cafusa. This is the name of the ball for the Confederations Cup. Confusa? Confucious? No, no, that is the ball of the 2026 World Cup in China. I`m cafuso. But thankfully because I know that all of Brazil is defined by Carnaval, Futebol and Samba, I can hopefully remember the name just like every other John Carioca. Why not pair cafusa will a ball named mulosa (mulata gostosa) and get all of the stereotypes into play?
In support of a Maracanã publico e popular
Unlike his former strike partner, Romàrio is on the CBF`s case and has just gathered enough signatures to open a Parliamentary Inquiry into the current and former leadership. The rot runs deep at the CBF and opening the black box as the World Cup starts coming into view is going to challenge FIFA`s newly re-proclaimed dedication to transparency. Força aì deputado!

The Maracanã is ours! O Maraca è nosso! The Rio de Janeiro State Legislature met yesterday to discuss the possibility of a plebecite for a yes or no vote on the privatization of the Maracanã. There are some strange bedfellows in this process, but the battle for the soul of Brazil`s most famous (and most expensive) stadium is heating up with major victories for the people. 



Here`s Chico Buarque on the subject, with more to come soon:


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