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Action Replay: Putin’s Games

The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow were the subject of a large-scale boycott following the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The recent Winter Olympics in Sochi managed to avoid anything similar relating to the situation in Ukraine, but were still not uncontroversial.

New events, such as half-pipe skiing, were staged for the first time, on the basis of their supposed appeal to spectators and TV viewers. And as usual at such enormous events, global companies have been keen to sponsor and gain attention, and also to get publicity without the expense of official involvement (as ambush marketers). Some of the ambushers did pretty well, with Red Bull winning overall (according to Global Language Monitor) and, somewhat incongruously, Subway beating Rolex.

Language, Class and Nation

One of the most remarkable things about human beings is their possession and use of language. Within a few shorts years, every person acquires a knowledge of their native language, including a vocabulary of thousands of words, enabling them to express original ideas and communicate to others on all sorts of topics. Language is also one of the most specifically human attributes, for no other animal possesses a communication system anywhere near as flexible and useful as human language. Animals such as bees and sticklebacks can convey a united range of information to each other but cannot, for example, refer to events in the past or future. The languages of the world, with their rich structures and histories, are a fascinating subject of study. But in the class divided society of capitalism, language is a basis for hostility, prejudice and discrimination.

Action Replay

Nice Little Earners
Being a successful athlete can make you rich, very rich. Footballers, for instance, may get contracts involving staggering sums of money, often with bonuses for winning trophies. In many cases the actual sporting income is only a small part: tennis-player Maria Sharapova ‘earns’ around £15m a year, but well under a million of this is from prize money. The rest comes from advertising and endorsements, everything from rackets to handbags and cars. She is supposedly the third-richest athlete in the world. 
Lewis Hamilton’s racing driver outfit is covered with the names of companies he endorses: banks, mobile phones, whisky. Of course the sports stars need to have positive associations such as success, glamour and honesty.

Book Reviews: "Deadly Waters", "Lenin", "So You Think You Know about Britain?", & 'Gerrard Winstanley'

Unfair Shares
'Deadly Waters: Inside the Hidden World of Somalia’s Pirates'.  By Jay Bahadur. (Profile £12.99.)
Somalia is often referred to as a ‘failed state’, one with no effective central authority. Instead there are a number of autonomous enclaves, owing little if any allegiance to the official capital, Mogadishu.

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