Blog Archive

Blog Archive – January, 2008

Dakar Rally Cancelled

January 20, 2008

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Should western sportsmen exhibit their prowess in the midst of regional wars and difficulties?

As 2008 Olympic event in China approaches, human rights advocates are using the high profile event to protest Chinese policies across the world. How can a nation with such a bad human rights policy be the host of a hallowed, clean-spirited event as the Olympics?” charge critics. Now we have another angle. Organizers of the Dakar Rally across desert stretches of Africa have called their race off due to security fears. “If you want to be worthy of club membership in ‘our’ great sports competitions, change your politics.”

The 20 year odd ‘tradition’ of the Dakar car rally, 2008, from Portugal to Senegal was cancelled on short notice, not by the African states involved but by its French sponsors. It is hard to know if the decision is due to terrorist fears as officials claim.

Rallies like Dakar are really part of the neo-colonial trend of making western sports events more exotic. A form of ‘extreme sports’. Heavily financed participants race across rich, poor and far-flung corners of the world where poverty, negligence or local conflicts cause havoc among nearby inhabitants.

Sports events on this scale have shown little respect for the ills of local populations. They ignore their politics? If some carrot is offered to leaders, these transient, high-powered sportsmen care little about any raging war just a few miles away. Take the new tennis and golf competitions now held in Dubai and other Gulf Emirates, hardly an hour by plane to Iraq. And did you hear any protests from mountaineers and hikers to Nepal during the last decade of war there? Few Himalayan enthusiasts were willing to jeopardize their holidays by protesting that nation’s royal dictatorship and abuses. During the 40 years that I have known Nepal, I heard not a whisper from Peace Corps volunteers, anthropologists, trekkers, or the high altitude elites, that the widespread poverty supporting their cheap holidays was in anyway related to visitors themselves.

But the Dakar cancellation does not seem to have deterred others. I read in a local Algerian newspaper that a Harley Davidson club is planning a rally across this country in May. Up to a hundred motorcycle enthusiasts will roar across the mountains of Algeria and into the Sahara towards the nomad camps of the fabled Tourag in the far south. [ Dakar Rally Cancelled ]



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