PREGNANT PAUSE

— Remarks on the Corona Crisis —

 

We were already living in a general global crisis, but most people were only vaguely aware of it since it was manifested in a confusing array of particular crises — social, political, economic, environmental. Climate change is the most momentous of these crises, but it is so complicated and so gradual that it has been easy for most people to ignore it.

The corona crisis has been sudden, undeniable, and inescapable. It is also taking place in an unprecedented context.

If this crisis had taken place fifty or sixty years ago, we would have been totally at the mercy of the mass media, reading about it in newspapers or magazines or sitting in front of a radio or television passively absorbing whatever instructions and reassurances were broadcast by politicians or newscasters, with scarcely any opportunity to respond except perhaps to write a letter to the editor and hope that it got printed. Back then, governments could get away with things like the Gulf of Tonkin incident because it was months or years before the truth eventually got out. Continue reading

The development of social media during the last two decades has of course dramatically changed this. Although the mass media remain powerful, their monopolistic impact has been weakened and circumvented as more and more people have engaged in the new interactive means of communication. These new means were soon put to radical uses, such as rapidly exposing political lies and scandals that previously would have remained hidden, and they eventually played a crucial role in triggering and coordinating the Arab Spring and Occupy movements of 2011. A decade later, they have become routine for a large portion of the global population.

As a result, this is the first time in history that such a momentous event has taken place with virtually everyone on earth aware of it at the same time. And it is playing out while much of humanity is obliged to stay at home, where they can hardly avoid reflecting on the situation and sharing their reflections with others.

Crises always tend to expose social contradictions, but in this case, with the intense worldwide focus on each new development, the revelations have been particularly glaring.

The first and perhaps most startling one has been the rapid turnabout of governmental policies. Since the usual “market solutions” are obviously incapable of solving this crisis, governments are now feeling obliged to resort to massive implementation of the kinds of solutions they previously scorned as “unrealistic” or “utopian.” When anybody, rich or poor, native or foreign, can spread a deadly disease, anything less than free healthcare for all is self-evidently idiotic. When millions of businesses are closed and tens of millions of people are thrown out of work and have no prospect of finding a new job, the usual unemployment benefits are obviously hopelessly inadequate and policies like universal basic income become not just possible, but virtually unavoidable. As an Irish satirical website put it: “With private hospitals being taken into public ownership, increased welfare supports for the vast majority of the nation and a ban on evictions and the implementation of a rent freeze, Irish people are still trying to comprehend how they woke up today to find themselves in an idyllic socialist republic.”

Needless to say, our situation is actually far from idyllic. Although Ireland and many other countries have indeed implemented these kinds of emergency measures, when we look closer we find that the usual suspects are still in charge, with their usual priorities. Particularly in the United States, where the first to be rescued were the banks and corporations, as several trillion dollars were pumped into the financial markets without the slightest public debate. Then, when it became apparent that a more general bailout was needed, the vast majority of that bailout money also went to those same huge companies; much of the smaller amount designated for small businesses was snapped up by large chains before most of the actual small businesses got a penny; and the allotment for ordinary working families and unemployed people was a one-time payment that would scarcely cover two weeks of typical expenses. To add a twist of the knife, governors in several states have come up with the clever idea of prematurely reopening certain businesses, thereby making those workers ineligible for unemployment benefits if they refuse to endanger their lives.

The point of such bailouts is that certain industries are supposedly so essential that they need to be “saved.” But the fossil fuel industries don’t need to be saved, they need to be phased out as soon as possible. And there’s no reason to save the airlines, for example, because if they go bankrupt they can then be bought for pennies on the dollar by someone else (preferably the government) and restarted with the same workers, with the losses being borne by the previous owners. Yet these immensely wealthy and grossly polluting industries and others like them are getting hundreds of billions of dollars of “crisis relief.” But when it comes to things that lower- and middle-class people depend on, suddenly the message is: “We need to tighten our belts and not increase the federal debt.” Thus, Trump continues to push for a payroll tax cut (which would sabotage Social Security and Medicare) and he has threatened to veto any bailout that gives any assistance to the U.S. Postal Service (though UPS and Fedex have already been given billions of dollars of taxpayer money). The Republicans have tried for decades to bankrupt and privatize the Post Office — most blatantly in their 2006 act requiring the Post Office to fund its employees’ retirement benefits 75 years in advance (something no other entity, public or private, has ever been obliged to do) — but Trump’s particular vehemence on this topic at this time is due to his desire to prevent the possibility of mail-in voting in the coming election.

It shouldn’t take a genius to realize that the people at the lower end of the scale should be prioritized. Not only do billion-dollar corporations not need any more money, if they get more money most of it does not “trickle down” but is salted away in offshore tax shelters or used for stock buybacks. Whereas if each lower- and middle-class person gets, say, $2000 a month for the duration of the crisis (which would cost the government much less than the current bailouts of the super-rich), virtually all of that money will immediately be spent for basic needs, which will help at least some small businesses to remain in business, which will enable more people to keep their jobs, and so on. Small businesses also need immediate assistance (especially if they have been temporarily forced to suspend operation during the crisis) or they are likely to go bankrupt, in which case large businesses and banks will buy them up at bargain rates, thereby exacerbating the already extreme gap between a few mega-corporations at the top and everybody else at the bottom.

The corona crisis has exposed many national governments as criminally negligent, but most of them have at least attempted to deal with it in a somewhat serious manner once they realized the urgency of the situation. This has unfortunately not been the case in the United States, where Trump first declared that the whole thing was just a hoax that would soon blow over and that the death count would be “close to zero,” and then, when after doing virtually nothing for more than a month he was finally forced to admit that it was actually a serious crisis, announced that thanks to his brilliant leadership “only” around 100,000 or 200,000 Americans will die. Months into the pandemic there is still no national stay-at-home order, no national testing plan, no national procurement and distribution of life-saving medical supplies, and Trump continues to downplay the crisis in a frantic effort to open things up soon enough to revive his reelection chances.

Since his dillydallying has already been responsible for tens of thousands of additional deaths, and since he is also presiding over an economic chaos not seen in America since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Democrats should normally have no trouble in defeating him in November. But as it did four years ago, the Democratic Party establishment has demonstrated once again that it would rather risk losing to Trump with a business-as-usual corporate tool than risk winning with Bernie Sanders. Sanders’s programs (Medicare for All, Green New Deal, etc.) were already popular with most voters, and they have become even more so as the corona crisis has made the need for them more obvious. The fact that such commonsensical reforms are seen as radical is just a reflection of how cluelessly reactionary American politics has become by comparison with most of the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, since it soon became clear to just about everyone that Trump hasn’t the dimmest idea of how to deal with the corona crisis except to showcase his amazing medical knowledge and brag about his TV ratings, everyone else has been left to deal with it on their own. Though some state and local governments have helped, it should be noted that many of the earliest, most extensive, and most creative responses have been carried out by ordinary people on their own initiative — young people doing shopping for older and more vulnerable neighbors, people making and donating the protective masks that the governments neglected to stockpile, health professionals offering safety tips, tech-savvy people helping others to set up virtual meetings, parents sharing activities for kids, others donating to food banks, or crowdfunding to support popular small businesses, or forming support networks for prisoners, immigrants, homeless people, etc.

The crisis has vividly demonstrated the interconnectedness of people and countries all over the world, but it has also revealed, for those who weren’t already aware of it, that vulnerability is not equally shared. As always, those at the bottom bear the brunt — people in prisons or immigrant detention centers or living in crowded slums, people who can’t practice social distancing and who may not even have facilities to effectively wash their hands. While many of us are able to stay at home with only mild inconvenience, others are unable to remain at home (if they even have a home) or to share so many things via social media (if they even have a computer or a smartphone) because they are forced to continue working at “essential jobs,” under dangerous conditions and often for minimum wage and no benefits, in order to provide food, utilities, deliveries, and other services for the people who are staying home. (See Ian Alan Paul’s provocative analysis of the “domesticated/connected” sector and the “mobile/disposable” sector in The Corona Reboot.)

The “mobile/disposable” workers are usually too isolated and too vulnerable to dare to struggle (especially if they are undocumented), but because most of their jobs are indeed essential, they now have a potentially powerful leverage and it is not surprising that they are starting to use it. As the dangers and stresses build up, their patience has given way, beginning with widespread wildcat strikes in Italy in March, then spreading to several other countries. In the United States protests and strikes have broken out among workers at Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, McDonald’s, Uber, Fedex, grocery workers, garbage workers, auto workers, nursing home workers, agricultural workers, meat packers, bus drivers, truck drivers, and many others; nurses and other healthcare workers have protested medical equipment shortages; workers at GE have demanded repurposing jet engine factories to make ventilators; homeless families have occupied vacant buildings; rent strikes have been launched in several cities; and prisoners and detained immigrants are hunger-striking to expose their particularly unsafe conditions. Needless to say, all these struggles should be supported, and frontline workers should be first in line in any bailout.

After months of staying at home, everyone is naturally anxious to resume some degree of social life as soon as possible. There are legitimate debates about just how soon and under what conditions it is safest to do this. What is not legitimate is to deliberately ignore or deny the dangers simply so that businesses can resume and politicians can get reelected. The most grossly illuminating revelation of the whole crisis has been seeing pundits and politicians openly declare that it’s an acceptable trade-off for millions of people to die if that’s what it takes to “save the economy.” This admission of the system’s real priorities may backfire. People have been told all their lives that this economy is inevitable and indispensable, and that if they just give it free rein it will ultimately work for them. If they start seeing it for what it actually is (a con game that enables a tiny number of people to control everyone else in the world through their possession and manipulation of magic pieces of paper), they may conclude that it needs to be replaced, not saved. “Once society discovers that it depends on the economy, the economy in fact depends on the society” (Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle).

In the links list below, you can find articles going into detail about these and other aspects of the crisis. But at this point I’d like to step back and look at what I consider the most significant aspect of this whole situation: the experience of the shutdown itself.

This experience is so unprecedented, and it is changing so dramatically from day to day, that we still don’t quite know what to think of it. We keep secretly hoping that we’ll wake up and discover that it was just a nightmare, but each morning it’s still here. But as we have gradually gotten at least somewhat used to it, it is offering its own revelations.

Any pause may give us time to reflect on our lives and reassess our priorities, but knowing that everyone else is doing this at the same time gives these reflections a more collective focus. This pause is shaking us out of our usual habits and presumptions and giving each and all of us a rare chance to see our lives and our society in a fresh light. As each day brings fresh news, things seem to be speeding up; yet so many things have stopped or at least drastically slowed down, it also sometimes seems like everything is in slow motion; or as if we’d all been sleepwalking and were suddenly awakened — looking around at each other in amazement at the strange new reality, and how it contrasts with what we previously considered normal.

We come to realize how much we miss certain things, but also that there are things we don’t miss. Many people have noted (usually with a half-guilty hesitation, since they are of course quite aware of the devastation that is going on in many other people’s lives) that they personally are appreciating the experience in some regards. It’s much quieter, the skies are clearer, there’s scarcely any traffic, fish are returning to formerly polluted waterways, in some cities wild animals are venturing into the empty streets. There has been much joking about how those who like quiet contemplative living are hardly noticing any difference, in contrast to the frustrations and anxieties of those who are used to more gregarious lifestyles. In any case, whether they like it or not, millions of people are getting a crash course in cloistered living, with repeated daily schedules almost like monks in a monastery. They may continue to distract themselves with entertainments, but the reality keeps bringing them back to the present moment.

I suspect that the frantic urgency of various political leaders to get things “back to normal” as soon as possible is not only for the ostensible economic reasons, but also because they dimly sense that the longer this pause goes on, the more people will become detached from the addictive consumer pursuits of their previous lives and the more they will be open to exploring new possibilities.

One of the first things that many people have noticed is that the social distancing, however frustrating it may be in some regards, is ironically bringing people closer together in spirit. As people get a new appreciation of what others mean to them, they are sharing their thoughts and feelings more intently and more widely than ever — personally via phone calls and emails, collectively via social media.

Many of the things shared are of course pretty modest and ordinary — reassuring each other that we’re doing okay (or not), comparing notes about how to deal with this or that inconvenience, recommending films or music or books we’ve been bingeing on. But people are also coming up with memes, jokes, essays, poems, songs, satires, skits. However amateurish many of these things may be, the ensemble effect of thousands of these personal expressions being shared all over the globe is in some ways more moving than watching professional performances under ordinary circumstances.

The simplest and most common social-media posts have been memes: short stand-alone statements or captions added to illustrations. In contrast to traditional political slogans vehemently for or against something, these memes typically have a more deadpan tone with an ironical twist, leaving it up to the reader to recognize the contradictions being revealed.

It is interesting to compare these memes with the popular expressions of another crisis just over fifty years ago — the graffiti of the May 1968 revolt in France. There are some obvious differences in tone and context, but in both cases there’s a marvelous mix of humor and insight, anger and irony, outrage and imagination.

The 1968 crisis was intentionally provoked. A series of protests and street fights by thousands of young people in Paris inspired a wildcat general strike in which more than ten million workers occupied factories and workplaces all over France, shutting down the country for several weeks. When you look at the graffiti, you can sense that these people were actively making their own history. They were not merely protesting, they were exploring and experimenting and celebrating, and those graffiti were expressions of the joy and exuberance of their actions.

Our present situation resembles that earlier one in the sense that suddenly everything has come to a virtual standstill, leaving people to look around at each other and wonder: What next? But during May 1968, when the government had momentarily backed off (since it was powerless in the face of the general strike), that meant: What should we do next? (Should we take over this building? Should we restart this factory under our own control?) In our more passive situation it mostly means: What’s the government going to do next? What’s the latest news about the virus?

The memes being shared during the present crisis reflect this passivity. For the most part they express people’s reactions to finding themselves in an unpleasant situation that they did not choose, let alone provoke. Some frontline workers are striking, but only sporadically, out of desperation. Virtually everyone else is staying at home. They may denounce various outrages, or advocate various policies that might make things better, or root for politicians who they hope will implement such policies, but it’s from the sidelines. Participation is limited to things like signing petitions or sending donations, though there are occasional mentions of things that people might do once they are free to go out into the streets again.

At the same time, however, millions of people are using this pause to investigate and critique the system’s fiascos, and they are doing this at a time when practically everyone else in the world is obsessively focused on the same issues. I think this first ever global discussion about our society is potentially more important than the particular crisis that happened to trigger it.

It is admittedly a very confused and chaotic discussion, taking place within the even more chaotic background noise of billions of people’s ongoing individual concerns. But the point is that anyone can take part whenever they wish and potentially have some impact. They can post their own ideas, or if they see some other idea or article they agree with, they can email the link to their network of friends or share it on Facebook or other social media, and if other people agree that it is pertinent, they may in turn share it with their friends, and so on, and within a few days millions of people may be aware of it and able to further share it or adapt it or critique it.

This discussion is of course far from being a democratic decision-making process. Nothing is being decided beyond vague fluctuations of the popularity of this or that meme or idea. If a significant global movement comes out of this crisis, it will need to develop more rigorous ways to determine and coordinate the actions that the participants feel are appropriate, and it will obviously not want its communications to depend on privately owned and manipulated media platforms as they do now. But meanwhile we have to work with what we’ve got — on this terrain where virtually everyone in the world is already connected, however superficially. It’s already a big first step that everyone is able to personally weigh in instead of leaving things to leaders and celebrities. To go further, we need to be aware that this is happening, aware that what is going on within us and among us is potentially more promising than all the farcical political dramas we are watching so intently.

These ideas may seem extravagant, but they are hardly more so than the reality we are facing. The International Labor Organization has reported that nearly half of the global workforce is now at risk of losing its livelihoods. That amounts to 1.6 billion workers out of a total of 3.3 billion — a level of social disruption far more extreme than the Great Depression of the 1930s. I have no idea what will come of this, but I don’t think that 1.6 billion people are going to meekly curl up and die so that the ruling elite’s economic con game can continue to thrive. Something is going to give.

Whatever else happens, it is clear that nothing will ever be the same again. As so many people have noted, we can’t “return to normal.” That old normal was a mess, even if some people were in sufficiently comfortable circumstances that they could tell themselves that it wasn’t all that bad. In addition to all its other problems, it was already propelling us toward a global catastrophe far worse than what we are going through now.

Fortunately, I don’t think we could go back even if we wanted to. Too many people have now seen the deadly insanity of this society too clearly. Organizing a different kind of society — a creative, cooperative global community based on generously fulfilling the needs of everyone rather than protecting the exorbitant wealth and power of a tiny minority at the top — is not simply an ideal, it is now a practical necessity. (My own views on what such a society might look like and how we might get there are set out in The Joy of Revolution.)

The coronavirus is simply one side effect of climate change (one of the many new diseases being generated by deforestation and its resulting disruption of wildlife habitats). If we don’t act now, we will soon face other crises, including other pandemics, under much more unfavorable conditions, after climate change and its associated disasters have crashed our social and technological infrastructures.

The corona crisis and the climate change crisis are very different in timing and in scale. The first one is sudden and fast-moving — every day of delay means thousands of additional deaths. The second is far more gradual, but also far more momentous — every year of delay will probably mean millions of additional deaths, along with a miserable existence for those who survive under such dystopic conditions.

But this shock we are now experiencing is also an opportunity for a new beginning. Hopefully, we may one day look back and see it as the wake-up call that managed to bring humanity to its senses before it was too late.

BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS
May 17, 2020

Nae local punters at the Bandstand opening ceremony?

crowd

“Some at the meeting called for a discount on their council tax and questioned why local residents were not offered free tickets for the opening ceremony.” From article in Games Monitor 2014 Angry scenes as residents attack Games disruption (Herald) A connected topic was the opening of the Kelvingrove Bandstand after a twenty five year campaign by local people. It saw very few of them enjoying bacon rolls at the  proceedings. The event was all tickets, and held at 9:30 on a Thursday morning? If it wasn’t for the school kids that are used to bulk out these occasions, and the suits, the place would have looked empty. Yet when extra tickets were applied for folk were told that they had run out. The real legacy of the games will start to unfold from now till they are finished. Who has an opening ceremony at 9:30 in the morning? Business folk while everybody else is at work. Whose bandstand is this? We will soon find out as the  £40 tickets for the first gigs are sold. How will they stop people listening for free. Raising the fences, so you can’t see, blocking off the streets, banning folk from that end of the park. We shall soon see what happens to a DIY performance space when it is sanitised with corporate fairy dust and renders another opportunity for business in community space. If you think I am being cynical  read the Games Monitor2014 the Games Monitor2012 or the history of these mega events, you soon get the picture.

The fight for the bandstand may not be over till we see the councils user policy is for this well respected public space. Can those who made it possible us it? Or afford to use it?

Friends of Kelvingrove Park – the Bandstand’s true heroes

Kids fun day 2 (1995) copy

Opening ceremony 2014 – Kids Fun Day 1995

Following from westendreport.com

A shout of frustration, not protest, rang out at today’s re-opening ceremony for the Kelvingrove Bandstand and Amphitheatre, writes Ginny Clark. Continue reading

The official unveiling of this much-loved and now beautifully refurbished Bandstand was marked by grand speeches and some fantastic music from community jazz band Brass, Aye and local schools Hillhead High and Sgoil Ghaidlig Ghlaschu. It was a great moment for all those involved in the £2.1million project – read more about the history, background and details here and here.

Amid the speeches, there was a mention for the Friends of Kelvingrove Park in the ‘thank-yous’ list from Glasgow Buildings Preservation Trust (GBPT) chair Pat Chalmers.

But when it came to handing out souvenir pictures to all of the project partners’ proud – and rightly so – representatives, a question rang out from the back of the amphitheatre: ‘Where’s the picture for Friends of Kelvingrove Park’? From the stage, there was an off-script reply that GBPT would get a picture sorted out for the organisation ‘later’.

But to many local onlookers, in this high-profile and highly successful city project, it seemed the efforts of the Friends of Kelvingrove Park had perhaps not been given the recognition they deserved.

This group began to raise concerns about the Bandstand throughout the 1990s, a driving force that became a fully-fledged campaign to restore the building and retain it as a valuable community asset of great historical value. In 2002 the Friends of Kelvingrove Park carried out the feasibility study into a possible restoration project – and one year later Glasgow City Council had approved the plan in principal.

Yet it took another seven years of hard lobbying by the Friends of Kelvingrove Park – backed by a strong grassroots support – to secure the city council’s commitment and initial funding to at last progress the restoration. As plans for this year’s Commonwealth Games gathered force, so too did the prospect of securing the Bandstand as part of its legacy. By 2010,  the project was rolling – and today’s ceremony marked the culmination of a classy restoration job by Glasgow City Council, GBPT and Glasgow Life.

However, what this community knows for sure is that without the tireless efforts of Friends of Kelvingrove Park, the B-listed Bandstand and Amphitheatre would not be a unique and shining outdoor venue – but still lie decaying, a derelict shell.

See more about Friends of Kelvingrove Park here

Atos ‘not fit’ to sponsor Commonwealth Games

18 March 2014 Last updated at 12:11 Help

Petitioner Sean Clerkin told MSPs he believed Atos were “contract killers” who were “not fit” to sponsor the 2014 Commonwealth Games, on 18 March 2014. Mr Clerkin’s petition calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge the 2014 Commonwealth Games’ organising committee to drop IT company Atos as a sponsor. Continue reading

He told the Public Petitions Committee the company, who assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, were a “toxic brand”.

Last month Atos confirmed it was seeking to end its government contract.

Staff carrying out work capability assessments for Atos have received death threats online and in person, according to the Financial Times.

Disability campaigners have described the work tests as “ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair”.

Mr Clerkin said it was disappointing no MSPs, apart from the convener David Stewart, asked any questions about the petition.

Iain MacInnes from Glasgow against Atos also gave evidence.

The committee agreed to continue the petition and write to a number of organisations including the Department of Work and Pensions, Atos and the Scottish government.

Sports and resistance in the US

ali

If you’re young and you don’t know what this guy represents, if your a “not into sport” lefty, if you wonder what’s so -not brilliant – about the Olympic games, if you wonder what all the laissez-faire development inGlasgow is about..You could find this interesting.

What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States

Hear the interview

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined now in our studio by sportswriter David Zirin. His new book is called What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States . We welcome you to Democracy Now!

DAVID ZIRIN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about that history of Olympics past.

DAVID ZIRIN: Well, the starting point is understanding that sports is a trillion dollar business worldwide, and the Olympics is like the ultimate prize. I mean, for the people who run a city, when they make their Olympic bids, getting the Olympics is like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa all rolled up into one for these guys. And when London got the Olympics for 2012, when they won that bid in a huge surprise over Paris, they were celebrating in the streets of London, particularly in the board rooms and the banks.

Also people in London wept when that occurred, because people in London had already started organizing about what they understand the Olympics coming to mean. Now, part of the reason why people have this idea about what it means for the Olympics to come to a given town is because of the history that does exist. I mean, when the Olympics come to an area, it may mean a corporate feeding frenzy, but what it also means is it means, as you put it, the utter emiseration of civil liberties, as well as attacks on working people and the poor. And history really does prove this out.

I mean, I’ll just give some of the lowlights here. In 1936, this was probably one of the most infamous ones, when the Olympics were awarded to Berlin, even though it was known at the time the extent of Hitler’s crimes and the crimes of the Nazis, there was a cleansing of the streets of Berlin, as it was put, to make the city look hospitable, as if Germany had emerged from the Depression. And that, of course, meant locking up dissidents, sending people to concentration camps. In 1968 in Mexico City there was the infamous massacre of 500 workers and students by Mexican security forces as they attempted to make their city, quote/unquote, “hospitable” for an international audience.

In 1984 in this country — it’s not just other countries by any stretch of the imagination — in 1984 there were the infamous gang sweeps in Los Angeles, which involved people in the L.A. City Council reviving the 1916 Anti-Syndicalism Act, which was used in 1916 to go after the Industrial Workers of the World, which was a radical union at the time. And part of what this law said was that it outlawed certain hand signals and modes of dress that sort of denoted somebody as being in the I.W.W., and they just applied that to young black men in L.A. So if you were wearing certain colors or gave people a certain kind of high five, it was grounds to arrest people in 1984 in L.A. And those gang sweeps were immortalized in the NWA video “Straight Outta Compton,” which was like a reenactment of the ’84 gang sweeps, which people, you know, should check out. It’s interesting.

In 1996 in Atlanta, keep it in this country. You had, according to the ACLU, 10,000 black homeless men arrested without cause, and you had a scandalous situation that they swept under the rug where police were found to fill out arrest slips in advance of arresting people, of, you know, black male – you know, they had those filled out going into the streets to make Atlanta, you know, ironically this image of the new South that President Clinton attempted to project at the 1996 Olympics.

But in 2004 in Athens, I think we all saw it go to another level. Athens was the first post-9/11 Olympics. And what we saw there was something that you even hadn’t seen in years past, and that was the presence of 50,000 paramilitary forces, not from Greece, but from the United States, Great Britain and Israel. And their presence was actually in violation of the Greek constitution, but it was welcomed by the Greek prime minister at the time because of that pressure to make Greece, quote/unquote, “hospitable” for an international audience. And that meant the mass arrest of thousands of ordinary people in Greece.

And so I think there is an awareness about what the Olympics bring, not to mention about the fact that they tend to suck municipalities dry of funds, which is why, interestingly, New York City, as you may know, was in the finals to get the Olympics. And something that ESPN radio reported with surprise and shock was that ESPN was being flooded with emails by people from New York, New Jersey area saying, “Please don’t send the Olympics here. We don’t want them in New York City. We don’t want this stadium.” And ESPN, you know, which is, of course, about promoting all things sports — you know, working people be damned — was absolutely flummoxed by this, like, ‘Wow! People don’t want the Olympics in New York City.’ And they were just scratching their heads. But if they looked at history, they would see why.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to David Zirin. He’s a sportswriter, and his book is called What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States Why the title?

DAVID ZIRIN: What’s My Name, Fool? , first to be very clear, it’s not a tribute to Mr. T. That was asked to me at one book reading. That would be “Pity the Fool.” No, What’s My Name, Fool? , it’s a reference to really what the heart of the book is about. The book is about the intersection of radical politics and pro sports, about times when movements off the field found expression on the playing field, and to me the high point of that history was the time when the heavyweight champion of the world had one foot in the Black Freedom struggle and one foot in anti-war movement. And, of course, I’m talking about Muhammad Ali.

Now, when Ali changed his name, first from Cassius Clay and then to Cassius X, which a lot of people don’t know – he was shortly known as Cassius X – and then to Muhammad Ali, when he did this, there was just no word for the firestorm that this caused, because, you know, the heavyweight champion of the world, that’s supposed to be a symbol of all that’s Americana, a symbol of, you know, masculinity and standing for the flag, and you had the heavyweight champion of the world join the organization of Malcolm X, join an organization in the Nation of Islam that believed in self-defense against racist attacks.

And I was – you know, I’m trying to relay to an audience today about the firestorm that this caused, and the only thing I could think of is you have to imagine if, say, Jenna Bush joined the Iraqi resistance. I mean, that would be the only way that you could make a comparison to when Ali joined the Nation of Islam and forced people to confront that name change.

Now, overnight, whether you called the champion Clay or Ali, it said everything about you in the 1960s. It said what side you were on in the Black Freedom struggle, what side you were on in the Free Speech fights on college campuses, soon the war in Vietnam. And therefore, Ali’s fights, they had this incredible morality plays, they became. You know, if the champion won, it wasn’t just about an individual winning a sporting event, it was about the confidence of a new and rising movement in a way that people took very personally and very seriously.

Now, you go to the title, What’s My Name, Fool?” , goes to when this name change controversy really was at its apex, and that’s in November 1965, when Ali fought a former two-time champion named Floyd Patterson. And in the lead up to the fight, this is what Patterson said. He said, “I am fighting Clay, and, yes, his name is Clay,” as a crusade to return the title to America and take it from the Black Muslims.

Now, Ali’s response to this was really interesting, because he had no response. This is one of the most loquacious athletes ever. You know, the press called him the “Louisville Lip” and “Gaseous Cassius,” because he liked to talk so much. But he didn’t say anything in the lead up to the fight and actually in the fight itself he let his fighting do the talking. Observers say he could have knocked out Patterson in one round, but actually, he drew it out over nine rounds. Sportswriter Robert Lipsite described it as watching someone pick the wings off a butterfly. And as Ali peppered Patterson with jabs, what he said, and he said it in a loud clear voice so all of press row could hear, he said, “Come on, America, come on, white America, say my name. What’s my name, fool?” And that’s where I got the title of the book. And that’s just the title. So, we got a lot in this book.

AMY GOODMAN: This is an excerpt of the remarkable film When We Were Kings , the documentary about Muhammad Ali’s 1974 championship bout with George Foreman in Kinshasa that came to be known as “the Rumble in the Jungle.”

MUHAMMAD ALI: Yeah, I’m in Africa. Yeah, Africa is my home. Damn America and what America thinks. Yeah, I live in America, but Africa is the home of the black man, and I was a slave 400 years ago, and I’m going back home to fight among my brothers.

AMY GOODMAN: That, a clip from When We Were Kings , Muhammad Ali. You talk about Muhammad Ali being at that time extremely political, outspoken, yet today young people might not know that at all, though Muhammad Ali is the most famous name in the world.

DAVID ZIRIN: Yes, I mean, today, Muhammad Ali’s image is used to sell everything from Sprite to Microsoft with the benefit of computer C.G.I. And there’s no question that what’s happened to Muhammad Ali, you know, is not dissimilar to what’s happened to people like Malcolm X, who is now on a postage stamp, or Martin Luther King, whose image you can now get on a commemorative cup when you go into McDonald’s on his birthday, in that Muhammad Ali’s political teeth have largely been extracted.

And that’s something that, with this book, I want to hope to return to the arena, is like the context of Ali’s politics, because the tradition of Ali and that tradition of resistance is something that’s, I think, very important for people to know. I mean, Ali was just named the number two most important athlete in history in ESPN’s Top 100 Athletes of All Time. But when you saw their tribute to him, I mean, you would have left wondering, “Okay, well, what’s so special about this guy?” And that’s why it’s so important to return to the arena, as we understand sports, that dynamic relationship between struggles on the streets, how it affected athletes, but then also how athletes then, in turn, affected those struggles.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to another clip of When We Were Kings . Muhammad Ali was known as an anti-war symbol to some. This is a news clip from that film.

NEWS CLIP Cassius Clay, at a federal court in Houston, is found guilty of violating the U.S. Selective Service laws by refusing to be inducted. He is sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to Muhammad Ali then?

DAVID ZIRIN: Well, Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title, and he was forced to report to a draft board in El Paso, Texas. Now, this was very interesting, because, you know, Ali was offered the same deal that many past heavyweight champions had been offered, which was, you know, that he could just – you know, it’s not like he was going to be sent to, you know, to Saigon or anything. He could have worn red, white, and blue trunks, boxed at some U.S.O. shows and kept the title.

But instead, what Ali said was – he was quite clear — he said, “The enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my people, my religion, or myself by fighting against other people” — speaking about the National Liberation Front in Vietnam – “who are fighting for their own freedom, justice and liberty.” And so he came out very — there was no mistaking where he stood on this.

So they stripped him of his title for his anti-war views, and he was sent down to the draft office there. And as he went down there, it wasn’t known exactly what Ali was going to do when he got there, because he was facing a prison sentence of five years, you know, in a federal prison. So there was actually a rally outside the El Paso area that was organized by H. Rap Brown and the students at Texas Western, now Texas El Paso. And they were out there, a couple hundred of them, with a huge banner, and what it said was “Draft Beer, Not Ali.” And when Ali went in there and when they called his name to take the step forward, I don’t – I mean, I don’t know if this made a difference, but they made quite a mistake when they called his name in that they called for Cassius Clay to take a step forward, and he absolutely refused. Then they asked for Muhammad Ali to take a step forward, and he absolutely refused.

And there’s a tremendous quote by a writer named Gerald Early who said that “when Ali refused to take that step forward, I felt more than pride in him, I felt as if my honor as a young black boy had been defended. He was the dragon slayer, and I went home into my room that night and I cried. I cried for myself and I cried for our black possibilities.” I mean, that’s just the power that that moment had for people was incalculable, but not something that’s talked about when ESPN Classic does a look at Muhammad Ali.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t there a tradition of Black Muslim resistance to war, Elijah Muhammad being a war resister in World War II?

DAVID ZIRIN: Absolutely. I mean, the thing about Ali, though, was that nexus of him also being the heavyweight champion of the world. I mean, the tradition of athletes going to war is its own book in and of itself. And while there are some famous athletes – you know, Ted Williams comes to mind — who actually flew missions in the theater of war, more often than not, it was a ceremonial role. It was something that you did before the cameras to be on the newsreels before, you know, the film started. It was a way for you to show, you know, your patriotic duty or what not. And Ali just gave the stiff-arm to all of that stuff. He wanted no part of it. And there is this great clip of him in another documentary where he’s just walking down the hall, and he’s saying like ‘I will not compromise myself for the white man’s money,’ and he’s screaming this at the camera. And that’s really where Ali stood.

And it’s worth saying that now it’s like we talk about this and, you know, obviously I’m greatly taken with his political stance in the 1960s, but at the time he was an absolutely reviled figure in the mainstream press. I mean, he was torn apart. He was popular on the left and on college campuses, in the black community, but in terms of, like, the media culture at the time — sometimes we speak about the media today as if it’s this corporate monolith, as if in the past it was somehow this arena of debate and discussion. But back then, oh, my goodness, there was no Democracy Now! back then. You know, he was absolutely destroyed.

And if I could, I would like to read a brief section of what sportswriter Jimmy Cannon, who was by far the most famous sportswriter of the era, what he wrote about Ali. And you gotta think that Jimmy Cannon is like Mike Lupica on steroids. I mean, he was huge. This is what he wrote about Ali. He wrote “Clay” — of course, he calls him Clay – “Clay fits in with the famous singers no one can hear and the punks riding motorcycles and Batman” – I don’t understand the Batman part – “and the boys with their long dirty hair and the girls with the unwashed look and the college kids dancing naked at secret proms and the revolt of students who get a check from dad and the painters who copy the labels off soup cans and surf bums who refuse to work and the whole pampered cult of the bored young.” I mean, my goodness, if I read that you would think the Unabomber wrote that. It’s this insane rant. But this was the most famous sportswriter in the United States, basically laying it down that Muhammad Ali was somehow less than a human being because he stood up to this war.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to David Zirin. What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States is the title of his book. When we come back, I want to ask you about Jackie Robinson, about the Williams sisters. I also want to ask you about Pat Tillman. I want to talk also about resistance today of sports athletes. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Dave Zirin, sportswriter, author of What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States . Pat Tillman?

DAVID ZIRIN: Pat Tillman. Pat Tillman was a man who was an overachiever as a football player. He went out of college undrafted. He went on to become an all-pro playing for the Arizona Cardinals. And as is well known, he left after 9/11, turned down a multimillion dollar contract to join the army rangers with his brother to fight in Afghanistan and eventually in Iraq, although at the time he thought he was just fighting in Afghanistan.

Now, the Tillman story is a tragic one for many reasons, and I would like to go through it a little bit. First and foremost, Pat Tillman was asked hundreds, thousands of times, according to his parents, to be a recruiter for the army, to go on commercials about join the army, army of one, Pat Tillman. They wanted to put his name on posters everywhere. And Tillman refused. Why did Tillman refuse? We don’t know, because, I mean, he was very iconoclastic. He was known to have hair down to his behind. He did cliff diving, all kinds of stuff. He never came out and said, ‘I’m going to go over there and occupy and kill,’ and all this stuff. He kept his reasons to himself about why he was doing what he was doing. And that actually frustrated people in the Justice Department, in the Pentagon. They wanted to use this guy, and they weren’t able to do it. And there are quotes about that, about their sort of frustration about that.

Pat Tillman, of course, died. He died in Afghanistan. He was shot and killed. At the time we were told that he died in the process of attempting to find bin Laden and to take a hill in the caves of Afghanistan. Now, there is a tragic element to this, of course. When Tillman died there was a nationally televised funeral that John McCain spoke at, as well as other politicians from Arizona. George W. Bush during the election campaign actually addressed the fans at the Arizona Cardinals game through the jumbotron to tell them about the heroism of Pat Tillman in attempting to take this hill.

There was only one problem with this scenario, and that’s that it was a total, absolute lie. What happened to Pat Tillman was that he was killed by his own troops. I mean, you read reports of the incident. I mean, it’s almost like a metaphor for the whole war. It is just so – it’s insane. I mean, their Humvee broke down. A section of them broke off to circle around and look for, you know, for help or what not, and they ended up circling around and firing at each other, and Pat Tillman died.

Now, what is so disgusting about this is that the Pentagon knew immediately that this had occurred. But they kept that information secret not only from the media, not only from Pat Tillman’s parents, but also from his brother who was in the same battalion as him and was somewhere else at that time. They even kept the information from him. And, I mean, it’s just — it boggles the mind.

Now, what’s important about this to say is that there is a lot of — I mean, these are not conspiracy theories, but Pat Tillman’s death happened at the same time that the photos around Abu Ghraib were released. And it’s definitely thought now by Pat Tillman’s parents that the reason why they hid the information was because they needed a P.R. boost in the wake of Abu Ghraib. And Pat and Mary Tillman – Pat, Sr., his father — have come out since then strongly and publicly against the Bush administration and against the lies that led, you know, to the lying about their son. They rightly are calling this an obscenity. They were used as props at their own son’s funeral. And so it’s like, what did Pat Tillman die for? He died for P.R. for this war. And that, I mean, I can’t imagine being Pat or Mary Tillman. But they very private people, and they’re coming forward and speaking out. And to that they deserve all of our support in that process.

AMY GOODMAN: David Zirin, I wanted to end by asking you about Jackie Robinson, another very well-known sports figure.

DAVID ZIRIN: Yes. I would like to read a quote about Jackie Robinson, if I could, by Dr. Martin Luther King. Jackie Robinson was a political person. First of all, let’s go with myth and reality about Jackie Robinson very briefly. Jackie Robinson the myth was that he was sort of like the quiet person who suffered in silence. Jackie Robinson once said, ‘People see me as sort of the suffering freak black saint.’ You know, the person who never talks, has nothing to say, but in reality Jackie Robinson was a very political person. He had a sports column in the New York Post , which was then a liberal publication. He wrote about issues like civil rights a great deal.

His politics were very complicated. He was a Republican, but that was because his family was chased out of Georgia by the Democrat Dixiecrats at a young age, and in his mind his whole life he saw the Democrats as being connected with segregation and Dixie.

But just – when I’ll read this quote – like, a lot of people criticize Robinson for being political. And this is Dr. Martin Luther King in defense of him. He said, “Jackie Robinson has the right to be political, because back in the days when integration wasn’t fashionable, he underwent the trauma and the humiliation and the loneliness which comes with being a pilgrim that walks in the lonesome byways toward the high road of freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.” And I think that nails it very well.

Jackie Robinson and this Brooklyn Dodgers team – and I write about this in the book – were in some respects a stalking horse for the whole civil rights movement. In the late 40s and early 50s, before Brown v. Board of Ed. , before Montgomery, they’re going around and playing games in stadiums that are segregated throughout the South. You know, the Klan is threatening, you know, that they’re gonna shoot all of the players if Jackie Robinson takes the field. And the players largely who were from the South stood with Jackie Robinson in this process.

And in the book, I interview a person who was at a lot of these games who is still alive, a sportswriter named Lester “Red” Rodney. And Lester Rodney, he has the most amazing stories about fans, white fans in the South starting to cheer for Robinson at the end of games, and this idea of seeing black and white play together on the field. That’s why Roy Campanella once said, he said, “Hey, Brown v. Board of Ed. ” – Roy Campanella was the African American catcher of the Brooklyn Dodgers — Roy Campanella said, Brown v. Board of Ed. gets all the credit, but we were doing Brown v. Board of Ed. on the playing field before the Supreme Court ever heard about it.” You know, and that’s what he said, and someone laughed, and he said, “What, you think I’m joking?”

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Jackie Robinson’s history. You talk about how he was a Republican, that he thought the Democrats represented segregation. What it meant for him to be a player, how he was seen, the McCarthy era, and then his relationship with Nixon and with Martin Luther King.

DAVID ZIRIN: Yes. Well, it’s complicated, definitely. I mean, Jackie Robinson was somebody who was never shy about expressing his political views. He was deeply political, deeply articulate. But he also was somebody who was a bit of a political cipher. He bounced around a lot between different views and opinions.

In the late 1940s during McCarthyism, Jackie Robinson had been so successful in integrating Major League Baseball that he was listed as the number two respected American in the United States behind Harry Truman in the late 1940s, despite the fact that he received thousands of death threats throughout the season.

Now, in 1949 Robinson was asked to actually speak at the House of Un-American Activities Committee in condemnation of the great activist, singer, actor and actually former great athlete, Paul Robeson. And it was very – Robeson, just before Robinson came out there, had famously just taken the heads off of the House of the Un-American Activities Committee, I mean, the most blistering speech, where they basically told Robeson to go back to Russia, and Robeson said, you know, ‘my family built this country from the bottom up, and no fascist-minded individuals like you are going to tell me what I can or can’t do.’ And this was really the first time that HUAC was punctured, you know, because before that there was a lot of, you know, ‘I take the Fifth,’ and people were remaining mum in the face of their intimidation and their might.

So they called up Branch Ricky, who was a staunch anti-communist. Branch Ricky was the general manager and part owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and they said ‘We need Robinson in here to condemn Robeson.’ And Robinson — Ricky actually wasn’t wild about doing it. The NAACP offered to defend Robinson to say, ‘You don’t have to go in there and speak against Robeson.’ But it has to be said that Robinson wanted to do it.

And once again, you get into a lot of conflicting views about why. And, I mean, the fact that Robinson did it, I would say, is unforgivable. It’s a reason why a lot of activists in the 1960s, like Malcolm X, they pretty much tore Robinson up. Like Malcolm X once said, he said, “Cassius Clay” – this was before the name change – Malcolm X said, “Cassius Clay is our hero. He’s the first real black sports hero. Jackie Robinson is a white man’s hero.” And he said that because of the Robeson incident.

But what Robinson did, if you read the whole transcript, I mean, he came there and he – I mean, the speech is incredible, like he spoke out against HUAC, too. He basically said, ‘Don’t tell me about communism, don’t tell me about any of this stuff, because communism isn’t the reason that dogs are being sicked on us in the South. Communism isn’t what’s burning black churches.’ You know, so he has this speech where basically he lays out to HUAC that racism is about America, not about agitators stirring people up. But then, at the same time, he did take a shot at Robeson, saying that — that his people — that he — basically speaking for all African Americans said, are not going to give up our dreams of equality, as he put it, for a siren song sung in bass. And that’s a famous quote, you know, because Paul Robeson had that famous basso profundo voice.

And, I mean, the tragedy of that was that the HUAC people and the media, as well, did not, could not care less about Robinson’s eloquence about racism. They could not care less. What they did was they took the slap at Robeson and ran with it, and that was the headline in the papers the next day: “Robinson smacks down Robeson” was basically the headline. And that led to Robeson’s — it was a factor in Robeson’s political isolation, and it’s worth saying that Robeson was approached for a response to Robinson, and he refused to do it. And he said, ‘I refuse to be part of this kind of internecine feud with Jackie Robinson.’

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, Robinson wrote in his memoir that he was sorry he spoke out.

DAVID ZIRIN: Deeply, deeply sorry. His greatest regret

AMY GOODMAN: When Martin Luther King went to jail?

DAVID ZIRIN: Ooh, when Martin Luther King went to jail —

AMY GOODMAN: Jackie Robinson’s response?

DAVID ZIRIN: Yeah, Jackie Robinson came out strongly against it. I mean, Jackie Robinson had a very interesting relationship with Martin Luther King, that’s very interesting, because Jackie Robinson, you read his writings on the time, he is always in support of Martin Luther King, always in support of everything King does, except on two questions that are very interesting. One question where he differs with Martin Luther King is on the question of violence and nonviolence. I mean, after one of the church burnings where four young African American girls were killed, Jackie Robinson wrote a column once again in the New York Post . And you always have to shake your head when you think of this stuff actually in the New York Post , because of the rag that it is today. But Robinson wrote that – he said, “Martin Luther King has officially lost me due to his credo of nonviolence,” he said, “because we cannot respond nonviolently when our children are being killed.” The other instance where they differed – and this is to me very fascinating – is, you know, Jackie Robinson was a veteran, so when Martin Luther King, Jr. came out against the war in Vietnam, Jackie Robinson wrote that it was a tragic mistake on behalf of King. And King actually called him up on the phone, and they had like a two-hour conversation on the phone. And when it was done, what Robinson said was he said ‘Look, I may not agree with Dr. King on this question, but I will never speak out against him again on this issue.’

AMY GOODMAN: And he appealed to Nixon and asked him to — we only have 30 seconds — but asked him to release Martin Luther King.

DAVID ZIRIN: Yes, he did. Yes, he did. I mean, the Nixon relationship is a complicated one. At the end of his life Jackie Robinson was not a Nixon fan, as when he saw Nixon pursue the Southern strategy in 1968. But the important thing to remember about Jackie Robinson – I’ll end with this point — is not to look at him for sort of a political lead, because he’s all over the place politically. The point is that he represents part of a very real tradition of athletes having more than just bodies and brawn and sweat, but them having minds, as well. Athletes are part of our world. They have a relationship with our world, and it is important for us to engage with them, as we would engage with anybody, as people with thoughts, ideas, dreams and maybe even fighters alongside with us in the move towards a more just society.

AMY GOODMAN: David Zirin, I want to thank you for being with us. This is just part one of our conversation What’s My Name, Fool?: Sports and Resistance in the United States .

Glasgow Lead The UK Race for Games

MARTIN WILLIAMS Glasgow Herald Mon Jan. 27 2004
GLASGOW emerged yesterday as the likely British contender to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, with the prospect of a multi-billion-pound dividend for the city and the rest of the central belt.
It beat Edinburgh, host in 1970 and 1986, to be announced as preferred bidder by the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland (CGCS).
However, the capital is still likely to be chosen for certain sports if the bid goes ahead, and the city endorsed its rival.
There are no plans for England to bid, because Manchester hosted the event in 2002, and the London Olympics 2012 campaign is in full swing. Wales has expressed interest but has yet to step forward, leaving Glasgow as the sole British contender.
A Scottish bid assessment group will now conduct a feasibility study and decide next year whether to launch a full 2014 bid, which would cost about £lm. Staging the games would cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
However, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce pointed out that, when Manchester held the event, £6bn and more than 6000 jobs were generated for its local economy and believed the city would generate at least as much. Further spin-offs would follow through tourism and businesses coming into the central belt.
Jack McConnell joined the leaders of Glasgow and Edinburgh councils to urge all Scotland to rally behind the campaign. The first minister said: “I want Scotland to host major events, and the Commonwealth Games is one of the best.”
Glasgow City Council said the city’s range of prestigious venues, including Hampden Park and the SECC, made it a strong contender.
Charles Gordon, council leader, said its pedigree in hosting international events would weigh in its favour. Glasgow hosted the Uefa Champions League final in 2002 at Hampden, and will host the Special Olympics next July. The Commonwealth Games Federation makes the final decision.

Games will be of benefit to us all

Glasgow Herald Mon Jan. 27 2004
IT IS the first step on a long road, but it is exciting. The announcement yesterday that Glasgow is Scotland’s preferred bidder for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 will be cause for celebration for the city’s leaders, who can now look forward to the next stage of the process: the creation of what Scotland must hope will be the winning bid. Will it be worth it? Yes.

The Commonwealth Games is still one of the most important sporting events in the world. If Glasgow were to host it, it would gain immeasurably from the recognition and investment. Manchester, which hosted the games in 2002, is testament to these benefits: 300,000 extra visitors now come to the city each year, its poverty-stricken east end now has major swimming and cycling venues, and it has around 2500 extra permanent jobs.
There is no reason why Glasgow’s bid, if successful, could not do the same. It, too, is planning major investment in the east end: the creation of a £24m national indoor arena. Its creation is not dependent on the bid, but will be an integral part of it, and is a lasting investment in an area of the city much in need of it. Glasgow’s first task, then, is to put together a bid which will give it the confidence to compete against Canada, Nigeria, South Africa, and, possibly, Wales. That process is expected to cost around £lm, while to stage the games would cost between £300m and £400m. Such expenditure is likely to receive its share of criticism.

Why, some will ask, is Scotland willing to spend so much on a one-off event instead of investing it in Glasgow’s deprived areas, hospitals or schools? The answer is that if a city is to grow and prosper it must be ambitious. As part of its bid, Glasgow should strive to develop sporting facilities that can be used for decades afterwards, to inspire in its citizens a pride in their city, and in its children a desire to emulate the sporting heroes who will travel to Glasgow.
Scotland is still saddled with the tag of the sick man of Europe and much of the blame for this lies with Glasgow. Exercise is the key to removing that tag and children who learn to love sport and aspire to participate are more likely to enjoy exercise and to continue doing it into adulthood. Glasgow City Council has shown ambition and it has paid off. It is in the interest of the whole of Scotland to rally behind the city to ensure its bid for the Games is as strong as possible. Tony Blair has called on Britain as a whole to support London’s bid for the Olympics, a farmore costly affair that will be paid for by taxpayers in Scotland as well as elsewhere. Jack McConnell, the first minister, has supported that call, so it seems reasonable for Scotland to expect Westminster’s backing for the Commonwealth bid. The benefits will be spread far beyond those two weeks in 2014.