There is a great profile and interview with Ma Jian, in this weekend's Guardian on the need for fearlessness in writing, on not bei...
Saturday, 29 May 2010
The World Cup: When England lose the only consolation will be the tears of Terry, Lampard and Cole
With the World Cup approaching, this comes from The Guardian
"The great hope behind holding big sporting events in developing countries is that the glare of international publicity will drive the process of reform. But it doesn't work like that, because the incentive structure is all wrong. Corruption tends to become more entrenched, since everyone knows that only two things are certain: first, there will be plenty of money washing around, and second, everything will have to be finished on time, come what may. So rather than reform, the local organisers hold out for short-term injections of funds, often to bail them out of crises of their own making. The Athens Olympics of 2004, which may in the long run have helped to bring the global financial system to its knees, is the role model here. The Greek economy wasn't bankrupted by the cost of hosting the games. But Greece's promises to reform its way of doing business, to meet the criteria of euro membership, had to be put on hold in the desperate rush to get the facilities built on time. An unbreakable deadline, with the world watching, means more backhanders being paid, not fewer, more black-market labour, more dodgy accounting practices, more skimming off the top. Hosting the Olympics made Greece more Greek.
In Why England Lose, and Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski describe why big sports tournaments rarely give the host country the economic boost that the organisers always promise – all those extra tourist dollars and investment benefits simply don't materialise. What these events do achieve is a short-term boost in national happiness – for a few months, people are cheered up by having something to distract them. Is that what South Africa needs? "About a third of all South Africans live on less than $2 per day," Kuper and Szymanski drily note. "These people need houses, electricity, holidays, doctors."
Never mind all that, here in Bath we are all looking to the helter-skelter World Cup ride with tremendous anticipation. The disappointing draw with Algeria, the stunning victory against Slovenia, the high hopes, the path to the final clearing before us before the last 16 defeat against Ghana, the tears of Terry, Lampard and Cole the only thing to savour as Spain, Germany or Italy God help us march on to victory and we wonder at what-might-have-been if every country in the world was as spoilt and self-indulgent as ours.