A devastating commentary on the state of the Christchurch rebuild.
According to Prime Minister John Key the Cricket World Cup has cost the people of Christchurch nothing. But the Christchurch City Council handed over public land to Canterbury Cricket and helped to fund the building of the Hagley Cricket Oval. And it is Canterbury Cricket that pockets the profits.

THE USE OF SPORTS EVENTS AS IDEOLOGICAL PROPAGANDA is an old and familiar tactic. Think Hitler and the 1936 Olympics. That's possibly the most notorious example but every modern Olympics has been used to promote the interests of the country that is hosting it. It's the same thing with other major sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup.

Such is the desire of governments and business interests to exploit major sports events for their own benefit is that it usually ends with the less fortunate being firmly removed from the picture and politically embarrassing issues swept under the carpet.

At the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games the working class residents of Dalmarnock and Parkhead were less than enamoured by the event. There were quite legitimate protests that they were being “treated like animals” and being “kept out”.

The 2008 Olympics in China displaced 1.5 million poor people. They were simply forcibly transported elsewhere for the duration.

The official opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup in Christchurch felt a lot like a propaganda exercise. All the politicians, from Mayor Lianne Dalziel to Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner, were quick to declare that theCWC was a sign that the city has finally emerged from the trauma of the 2011 big quake and we are now striding ahead into a brighter future. John Key reminded us of that.

Nicky Wagner got all excited and tweeted that there were 100,000 people in North Hagley Park. I stand to be corrected but I doubt there were much more than 10-12,000 at the event. But Wagner is the same politician who claimed last year that there were only thirty genuinely homeless people in Christchurch. She clearly has problems with counting.

The media has been eager to join the celebration. Politicians and  CWC spokespeople have been allowed to promote, unhindered, the 'feel good' message. As far as I know not one journalist has bothered to ask anything remotely resembling a critical question.

The worst example I've seen so far is an interview with the Minister of Sports and Recreation on TV3's Firstline this morning.

Jonathan Coleman was given some three or four minutes to tell us just how wonderful the opening ceremony was. According to Coleman it was all just 'great'. 'Great' for tourism. 'Great' for Christchurch. It was also 'great' for Coleman who basked in the reflected glory of his own making and was allowed to do so by presenter Sacha McNeil.

Conspicuously missing in any of the media coverage is any examination of what the CWC means in the context of a city that is not striding into a brighter future but rather one stumbling around in the murky present of a top-down and bureaucratic rebuild that has failed.

The CWC is propaganda because it seeks to divert our attention from the reality of a city where thousands of people remain homeless and where areas of the eastern suburbs have simply been abandoned. It seeks to downplay that, over four years after the ‘big one’, central Christchurch remains a mess.

While Mayor Lianne Dalziel might want to hype the CWC for all its own worth she also heads a council that intends to sell public assets, despite overwhelming opposition from the people of Christchurch. Nor do I think people will be impressed when they learn of the big rates increases the Council has in mind.

Prime Minister Key said that the CWC was costing the people of Christchurch nothing. But the fact is we have paid for it. Big time.

Canterbury Cricket campaigned to seize part of Hagley Park – public land which was set aside in perpetuity by an act of the provincial council in 1855 – in order that it could build its cricket stadium. Too add insult to injury, the Christchurch City Council also contributed to cost of building it. None of the profits from this venture (including the money made out of the CWC) will be seen by the Christchurch City Council.

Canterbury Cricket - and New Zealand Cricket - threatened that if the Council did not agree to the stadium we would not get the opening ceremony or any of the games. It was little more than blackmail and the people of Christchurch got ripped off.

The Hagley Cricket Oval got built promptly - unlike the repairs to many of the city's quake damaged homes and the Council's own housing stock. I think James Dann got it right when he wrote earlier this year that "there is no better symbol for the inequity of the rebuild than the Hagley Cricket Oval."

*Thanks to Giovanni Tiso and Public Address  for the graphic.


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