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Running Commentary: Betting on Ill-health

Betting on ill-health

While some workers fatalistically accept their position in society as preordained (“if it was meant to be, there’s nothing you can do about it”), others consider their status to be largely determined by luck or, more accurately, the lack of it. That capitalism is a game of chance is true only to the extent that those born into the ruling class (odds of about 20-1 against) have a distinct advantage over the rest of us.

The Olympics: Sport As Warfare

A large number of people are currently assembled in Moscow to take part in, watch, or report on, a festival of international sport which, supposedly, contributes to world peace by bringing people of different countries together in a spirit of friendly competition. The popular mythology has it that even the compilation of medal tables, so as to discover which nation has come “top”, is preferable to other ways of asserting national superiority or increasing national prestige—score, score is apparently better than war, war. In fact, those who gather in Moscow are participating in a gigantic charade—a mixture of hypocrisy, chauvinism and plain dishonesty which mirrors accurately enough the world of which it is a part.

South Korea: Behind the Mask

Before the first Olympic spectator had arrived in South Korea, the police had swept over sixteen thousand "criminals" — drug addicts, prostitutes, beggars and petty thieves — from the streets of the capital city. No more than a quarter were formally charged, the rest either spirited away by summary courts or detained pending further "investigations". Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of slum dwellers evicted to make way for the Olympic stadium are now living in tents. They received no compensation, but they have been invited to the rehearsals of the opening and closing ceremonies; "We want them to feel it's everybody's Olympics", said Mr Yi Dong, the city's senior planner (Guardian, 30 August).

The Games

The Olympic Games are upon us again, with their displays of athleticism and endurance and their political threats. The inspiration for the founding of the modern Games is said to have been the idea that the ancient ones were a reason for the Golden Age of Greece (which rested, in fact, on the exploitation of slaves). The various national representatives to whom Baron de Coubertin put his belief in 1894 might have told him he was a mistaken ass, but set that aside in favour of the prospect of a regular festival of commerce and the nation-state.

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