The 2022 Commonwealth Games begin today in Birmingham, continuing until 8 August.
Advocates of the Games – including the Tory government and Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council – have cited ‘celebrating diversity’ and ‘promoting sport’ as justifications for hosting the event.
Similarly, we are told that the Games will provide a much-needed opportunity to ‘level-up’ deprived communities.
But on all fronts, reality has failed to match up with the extravagant promises made.
Instead, this 12-day event has already proven to be a fantastic spectacle for the true scale of the corruption and cynicism of Britain’s ruling class, with official cost estimates currently standing at an eye-watering £778 million.
Firstly, it is worth examining the supposed economic gains of the Games.
A lot of revenue will undoubtedly be generated by this year’s Commonwealth Games. But the question must be posed: who does this benefit?
The same tune was sung about the 2012 Olympic Games, for example, which cost a staggering £11 billion.
At the time, many promises were made by developers about regenerating east London through Olympic-related investment. But the homes built were not available to a third of vulnerable families in the London Borough of Newham, site of the 2012 Games.
Similarly, construction jobs were given to outside companies – no doubt those chummy with the government. In fact, unemployment in Newham actually increased over this period.
A decade later, and it is the same old story. Plans to build extra houses in Birmingham are being scrapped; workers are being displaced; and millions of pounds are being wasted.
This includes £15.5 million spent on moving a bus depot 300 metres, all to make room for proposed new sports facilities that were eventually scrapped and never built.
Next up is the question of ‘celebrating culture and diversity’.
One means of doing this, apparently, has been to build an elaborate statue in Birmingham’s Victoria Square lauding how multicultural the British Empire was.
That is, of course, what the Commonwealth is: the remnants of one of the most brutal imperialist powers in history.
The hypocrisy of such a claim is particularly pungent, considering that this is the same Tory government that has overseen reactionary immigration policies, including the infamous Windrush scandal; that has stirred up a ‘culture war’; and that has launched a barrage of attacks against some of the most vulnerable in society.
So much for celebrating diversity!
Sports in crisis
Finally, there is the promise that the Games will help to ‘promote sports’, with local communities encouraged to ‘get active’ by the event’s organisers.
The historic relationship between large sporting events and the promotion of exercise is a farcical one, however. The 2012 Olympics were sponsored by none other than McDonald’s, for example, hardly an ambassador for healthy living.
Hosting such events has done little, meanwhile, to avert the rise in UK obesity rates in recent decades.
After all, whilst splashing out billions on hosting prestigious competitions, the Tories have also cut funding to local communities for sports by 47% in the past decade.
This is a class question. In Birmingham alone, there is a 10-year gap in life expectancy between the poorest and richest areas. How are young people meant to take up sports when they do not have access even to basic facilities and activities?
This is the reality of capitalism, which offers nothing but austerity and attacks, clawing back any concessions won by workers through struggle.
Rather than improving the health of society, the capitalist system prioritises profits and disregards workers’ living standards.
The truth is that the Commonwealth Games are not about celebrating diversity, encouraging fitness, or improving the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people.
Instead, for the establishment, hosting this event is about prestige and profit; about clinging onto the reactionary corpse of the British Empire to distract from the current crisis facing society, whilst inflating the personal prestige of the delusional gang of Little Englanders at the helm in government.
The Games provide another flag-waving opportunity for the establishment; another attempt to relive the ‘glory days’ of ‘Rule Britannia’, whilst papering over the contradictions in society with Union Jacks and pictures of the Queen.
The British ruling class is desperate to puff its chest out, in this respect, refusing to accept the fact that it has declined to the position of a second rate power.
This decline, meanwhile, finds its reflection in the degeneracy of the political representatives of British capitalism. Whilst these ladies and gentlemen used to think in terms of continents and centuries, now they struggle to move a bus depot down the road.
Bread and circuses
British capitalism is in an immense crisis, with workers being squeezed as the cost of living skyrockets further.
Foodbank use has increased dramatically in recent months, for example, with approximately 6.7 million people now reliant on such handouts, and a further 9.9 million saying that they have resorted to cutting out a daily meal or reducing portion sizes.
Under capitalism, the bosses only invest in order to reap greater profits. The needs of society aren’t considered. This is why, rather than deploying society’s wealth to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, it is instead being used to line the pockets of the bankers and billionaires.
Events such as the Games are cynically used, in this respect, as a modern form of ‘bread and circuses’ – a distraction from the day-to-day misery and toil of life under capitalism. Only now the bread isn’t given out for free, but is sold at ever-increasing prices. And workers are expected to pay for the circuses through further austerity down the line.
In short, none of the promises surrounding this year’s Commonwealth Games can be delivered by the Tories and the bankrupt system they defend.
It is time to sweep out the lot, and fight for a bold socialist alternative where the wealth of society can be invested to provide for the needs of humanity, rather than to boost the bank balances of the super-rich and their Tory chums.