Labour Research August 2012


Barbaric Sport

A global plague

Marc Perelman, Verso, 144 pages, paperback, £8.99

If you dreaded sports day or hated waiting in line to be picked for netball, this could be just the book for you. Perelman is a French intellectual who is not frightened of ruffling a few feathers in this fierce broadside against what he sees as the “recent form of barbarism” — that is, the global sporting event.

Consider the Olympics. They have provided a smokescreen for the forcible removal of “undesirables”; aided governments in the pursuit of racist agendas; affirmed the hypocrisy of drug-testing in an industry where doping is more an imperative than an aberration; and developed the pornographic hybrid that Perelman dubs “sporn”, a further twist in our corrupt obsession with the body.

Perelman looks at the 1936 Olympics that showcased the Nazi regime and gave us the Olympic torch. He talks about the links between propaganda and sport. He reminds us that the 2008 Beijing games featured the work of Albert Speer, the son of Hitler’s favourite architect.

Drawing examples from the modern history of the international sporting event, Perelman argues that today’s coliseums, upheld as examples of “health”, have become the steamroller for a decadent age fixated on competition, fame and elitism.

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