Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague

Globalized sport as savage spectacle and ‘opium of the people’

Marc Perelman pulls no punches in this succinct and searing broadside, assailing the ‘recent form of barbarism’ that is the global sporting event. Forget the Olympics and consider, under Perelman’s guidance, the ledger of inequities maintained by such supposedly harmless games.

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.

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


  • “Marc Perelman has written a magnificent manifesto for all of us dedicated anti-Olympiads, revealing in compelling detail how sport, which has long been the opium of the people, is now the political and financial dirty business of the rulers as well.”
  • “Excited about the Olympics? If not, this bolus of weaponised French spleen will be the perfect literary antidote.”
  • “Bracingly bilious counterblast against the new "planetary religion".”
  • “The work of stirring polemic that all of us who were picked last for teams at school have been waiting for.”
  • “A provocatively timed polemic that situates today’s mass sporting spectacle at the very heart of globalised capitalism.”
  • “Perelman’s claim that sport “becomes the sole project of a society without projects” rings uncomfortably true as austerity-hit Britain prepares to host a lavish Olympics.”
  • “French journalist Marc Perelaman argues … ruthless[ly] … agaist an emerging kind of barbarism.”


  • The IOC and FIFA, the Twin Stars of the Global Sporting Plague

    by Marc Perelman and Patrick Vassort

    The places that are chosen to organise large sporting demonstrations make the mind boggle. In 2008 the Olympic Games were held in Beijing; in 2010, the football World Cup took place in South Africa, while this year’s Winter Olympics were held in Putin’s Russia (in Sochi) and the football World Cup will be staged in Brazil.

    In 2016, the Olympics will take place in Rio, and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar respectively. Despite the obviously different political régimes in each of these countries, all of them have to bear the brunt of an ‘Olympicisation’ (as Baron de Coubertin put it) of the world, within the wider framework of a generalised ‘sportification’, which always means a sharp loss of democracy.

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  • Current uprisings in South America: A reading list

    As neoliberal policies and monetary hegemony continue to dominate around the globe, protests for democracy and against the political elite are widespread. It is, yet again, kicking off everywhere.

    With such an incredible history of grassroots protest in South America, it's no surprise that Brazilians and Chileans are the latest to take to the streets in mass demonstrations against corruption and their political leaders. In Brazil, what started out as a demonstration against bus and train fare increases turned into a much bigger protest about poor public services and the exorbitant cost of next year's World Cup. Meanwhile, in Chile's capital, mostly peaceful demonstrations erupted into battles with riot police as protesters demand education reform and wider distribution of Chile's wealth.

    The following reading list from Verso suggests books to help us understand the multifaceted histories of uprising in Central and South America, as well as grasp the unfolding scenes of protest in recent weeks.

    Why It's Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions
    By Paul Mason

    Originally published in 2012 to wide acclaim, this updated edition, Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere, includes coverage of the most recent events in the wave of revolt and revolution sweeping the planet.

    BBC journalist and author Paul Mason combines the anecdotes gleaned through first-hand reportage with political, economic and historical analysis to tell the story of today’s networked revolution.

    Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere
    not only addresses contemporary struggles, it provides insights into the future of global revolt.

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  • Brazil: less sporting opium, more politics

    Published by à l’encontre, 21 June 2013

    By Michel Caillat and Marc Perelman

    Most analysts have been able to understand and explain the genesis of the mass demonstrations that have taken place in Brazil in recent weeks. It was the rise in public transport fares that unleashed the nationwide wave of struggle, affecting all the major cities which must play host to the matches of the upcoming 2014 football World Cup. From this followed a whole cascade of demands concerning health, education, opposition to privatisation, opposition to repression, and generally  standing up for public services, all of which have been put into question by the government of Dilma Rousseff and her friends in the Workers’ Party (PT). The ‘ocean of roses’ on which Lula thought he could navigate has transformed into a vast mass of thorns.

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