The critic who would try to think of a world outside the World Cup and The Olympics is faced with a unique problem. FIFA and the IOC have a stranglehold on the global sport spectacle, on the presentation of the sporting event as a World Event. Their hold on the idea of the global event is so tight that even their harshest critics imagine that change will be brought about by participation in those events, or by boycotting those events. Within that critical discourse, change is possible if only we provide the right kind of pressure.
But real change will not happen either way. The larger these events become, the more media space they take up, the more public resources they use up – the worse it gets. By “it,” here, I think I mean “life.” Real change – is that a better Olympics? A better World Cup? Does one celebrate a Qatar World Cup or a Russian Olympics in the hope that these events will make Qatar and Russia more liberal environments for gays and women? In calling for that outcome, we enlist “gays and women” as neoliberal alibis, and lend legitimacy to the notion that the Olympic games improve every city that hosts them and that the idea that the World Cup unites the world’s football fans and creates possibilities for social change and better living. We all know that’s a lie.
These organizations are more notorious in sports media for their corruption than for their discriminatory practices. Sports media cares about the former only as long as it doesn’t jeopardize advertising revenue, and it doesn’t care about the latter at all. FIFA and the IOC are happy to deploy female, black and Muslim athletes as alibis justifying their work. That work being not social justice, but the amplification of their hegemony.