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A level playing field? Global sport in the neo-liberal age

Contending for the living Red Pepper, June-July 2014 One of the hallmarks of the neo-liberal age has been the exponential expansion of commercial spectator sport – in its economic value, political role and cultural presence. All of which will be thrown into high relief during the coming World Cup. In recent years, the industry has… Read more

On “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”

[This is a companion piece to my upcoming column in Red Pepper, which chronicles the hopes and frustrations of the revolutionary year of 1792.] In the voluminous writings he composed during his eleven years imprisonment under the fascist regime, Antonio Gramsci repeatedly cites the aphorism, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” (which he… Read more

At the Olympics: Hype vs Reality

The Hindu, August 4 2012 I enjoyed my afternoon at the Olympics, sitting in my public lottery assigned £50 seat at the ExCel, with a fine view of the men’s boxing. And I enjoyed it not least because I was finally able to watch the sport itself without the surrounding hype, the layers of commentary…. Read more

My fantasy career (or why there is no such thing as world music)

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 23 January In another life, I’d like to have been an ethnomusicologist. It would have been a wonderfully open-ended excuse to discover new music, to travel and imbibe foreign cultures at close range. As an academic discipline ethnomusicology began as a western study of non-western music, but in recent decades… Read more

The idolatry of “the markets”

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 19 May In the wake of Britain’s inconclusive general election, there is much talk of the “national interest”. It’s said that politicians of all parties have to pull together to address the crisis caused by the country’s enlarged fiscal deficit. Specifically, they must agree to a package of deep cuts… Read more

Cricket, commerce and the future

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 14 March Also published in the Guardian’s Comment is free website, with readers’ responses. The third annual instalment of the Indian Premier League is being launched with even greater triumphalist trumpeting than the first two. The show is reeling in big sums and attracting worldwide attention. Lalit Modi is easily… Read more

Avatars in India

The Guardian, Comment is free 12 January 2010 Visiting friends in Delhi, I found the local media celebrating India’s performance at Copenhagen, from which it had emerged unburdened by the slightest commitment to reducing carbon emissions. This “climate nationalism” seemed particularly grotesque given that north India’s river systems are threatened by receding Himalayan glaciers and… Read more

A lovely, worldly quirk

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 9 February In 1420, a genuinely epochal event took place on a small, isolated, previously uninhabited island in the Atlantic, some 360 miles west of Morocco. That year, the Portuguese fleet – the most advanced in the world at the time, thanks to Prince Henry the Navigator – located Madeira…. Read more

Starbucks goes to India

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 15 October STARBUCKS, the world’s largest coffee retailer, recently unveiled ambitious plans for expansion into major new markets, including Russia, Brazil, Egypt and, of course, India. By the end of 2007, the company will boast 20,000 outlets in 41 countries. Starbucks is, among other things, a symbol, a superstar performer… Read more

World Cup disorder

The Guardian, 30 May The World Cup is an engrossing display of skill, ingenuity, fallibility. It is also a huge economic enterprise. This year’s matches will be televised in 189 countries. The final will be watched by more people than any other sporting contest in history. In an era of media fragmentation, the FIFA spectacle… Read more