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"The perfect literary antidote" to the Olympics: Marc Perelman's Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague reviewed

David Eckersley 1 August 2012

All but the most dedicated hermit will have noticed the Olympic juggernaut that has recently rolled in to take over the town. If this mass spectacle leaves you somewhere between decidedly underwhelmed and foaming at the mouth, as Steven Poole writing in the Guardian points out, "this bolus of weaponised French spleen will be the perfect literary antidote":

The author gloomily observes the strange contours of the familiar (why is sport also news?), and is very funny in the fury of his denunciations: sport, he says, is violent, a kind of damaging slavery imposed on young children who become, as athletes, "outlandish monsters of mingled fat and muscle", and it renders its "fans" brutish and depoliticised. It is a "planetary religion", the sole project of a "society without projects", and – yes – "the opium of the people" ... This is a polemic that, like a charismatic pole-vaulter, always goes entertainingly over the top.

Visit the Guardian to read the review in full.

In an excellent interview in Dazed and Confused Perelman talks frankly about the origins and relevance of his critique, outlining his opinions of what international sport has become and is leading towards:

The sporting youth of the stadiums is doped; it has no compassion for opponents, its aim is to conquer. This youth is not a model to be followed.

Visit Dazed and Confused to read the interview in full. 

As the Hackney Citizen observes, this book "pulls no punches", offering us

a critical theory account - in the style of Adorno or Horkheimer laced with Baudrillard - of international sport as a social phenomenon ... Not afraid of hyperbole, he is perfectly comfortable maintaining that sport is now "largely responsible for the barbaric society to which we are subjected, unable as we are to devise any real form of resistance to its violence".

Nicholas Lezard, reviewing again for the Guardian, points out, in relation to the Olympics and aimed at those inclined to dismiss Perelman's claim that "sport has established itself as the spearhead of an army in battle order", that this "army" is of course,

globalised capitalism, and for those who doubt that this is the case , all it is necessary to do is contemplate the way that at Olympic events this summer, the only beer you will be allowed to drink will be Heineken, the only food you will be allowed to eat McDonald's.

Visit the Guardian to read the review in full.

In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Toby Lichtig applauds Perelman as

He rightly pours scorn on the frequent claims by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that sport eschews politics. He demonstrates how successive repressive regimes, from Nazi Germany to Soviet Russia to contemporary China, have employed the Olympics as the "effective instrument" for ideological dissemination that they truly are.

Visit the Wall Street Journal to read the review in full.

Whilst Joe Humphreys, writing in the Irish Times, asserts that Perelman's argument will struggle to "persuade an audience...beyond the militant left" he nonetheless finds that the book "results in the odd bullseye" highlighting "brutalising training regimes allied with doping".

Visit the Irish Times to read the review in full.

Simon Kuper, writing in the Financial Times, feels the book could be shorter, however, he recognises that

buried beneath the verbiage, some truths shine out. For instance, 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.  

Visit the Financial Times to read the review in full.

So if all this Olympic fervour is driving you mad then join the Independent in awarding "a gold medal to Marc Perelman for this bracingly bilious counterblast against the new "planetary religion"".

Visit the Independent to read the review in full.

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