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Nike is trying to whitewash its actions with ‘Homeless World Cup’


1:00 pm - October 2nd 2010

by Guest    


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contribution by Ryan Gallagher

Hundreds of homeless men and women from all corners of the earth are currently gathered in Rio, Brazil, for the Nike-sponsored Homeless World Cup. Unified by the international language of football, for seven days the players will put their real-world worries behind them as they compete for the once in a lifetime chance to be crowned world champions.

But amid the celebrations on the golden beaches of Rio, in the distance harsh reality continues to grind on.

Nowhere is this more apparent than 11,000 miles away, in Tokyo, Japan, where beyond the glare of the Brazilian sun, Nike has allowed its philanthropic mask to slip.

The American company, which generates an estimated $19.2 billion (£12.1b) in revenues annually, has evicted a community of homeless people from a public green-space turned commercial project, and is embroiled in a struggle with local people to name and claim the land ‘Nike Park’.

The company intends to turn the space, presently known as Miyashita Park, into a branded outdoor sports facility with skate ramps and a climbing wall. Yet controversially, their plans were agreed by Shibuya district officials without any public consultation.

To legally manoeuvre the democratic process, critics allege, Nike simply made a ‘donation’ to the city government. “We simply want to bring sports closer to people with this project,” a Nike spokeswoman said. “We are hopeful for a positive outcome, but all we can do is wait.”

Construction in the park, which was originally scheduled to begin April, has been repeatedly delayed by protesters. Angry at the displacement of more than thirty homeless people and the loss of one of the few green spaces left in the city, tensions peaked last week as activist ‘squatters’ were ejected by police while protesters marched bearing signs that read “Never Nike”.

The park has since been fenced off and construction set to finally commence; penniless activists are no match for a multi-national corporation with the wealth, power and influence of Nike.

Entwined as cogs in the profit-machine, both the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup have in the past been a similar source of misery for many. During the Rugby World Cup in 2007, French authorities “systematically evacuated” gypsies from major cities because they “threatened to be an eyesore for corporate hospitality tents.”

While housing rights organisation COHRE has estimated that in the last twenty years the Olympics have displaced more than two million homeless people.

In the lead up to the London Olympics in 2012, the streets of Westminster have likewise become an increasingly hostile place for homeless people. Last year, for instance, over-zealous city officials were accused of spraying the homeless with water in order to deter them from bedding down on the streets, and some parts of the city have since become “dispersal zones” for those without a roof to call their own.

History thus repeats and the pattern continues, as the poor and the vulnerable are trampled and banished at the service of monetary interests. Everywhere it is tangible – the nihilism of unfettered free market capitalism.

The displaced homeless of Miyashita Park are only the latest victims to feel its scourge.

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Reader comments


Great article! More please!

A very thought provoking and poignant post…up until the 2nd last paragraph. Is it not simply enough to say that Nike’s homeless world cup sponsorship is whitewashing (allbeit whitewashing that will improve the lives of quite a lot of people) or that the Olympics is an exercise in money wasting international showboating with little consideration for the future or the side effects of undergoing a massive building project and making the host city look like a paradise. You then had to pull the ‘unfettered free market capitalism’ out of the hat with little reason or rhyme.
The case with Nike and the Tokyo planning authorities is a case of local government corruption (certainly something clearly unique to capitalism and not seen under social democratic/socialist/communist governments) and the Olympics has little if nothing to do with Capitalism. Since when did the police treating homeless people in an abominable and disrespectful manner have anything to do with capitalism or the free market model.
Before someone goes off and strawmans me as a ‘free market zealot’, I’m not, I’m pretty moderate but I find it highly annoying when people on either side of the left/right divide simply use buzzword like bogeymen to explain every problem to satisfy their simplistic and magical world-view, whether that be “the liberal elite’s gay agenda” or “unfettered free market capitalism”. Neither exist and neither are very likely to exist so please don’t pretend they do.

3. Just Visiting

Even leaving aside the arguments abocve that this is a local govt corruption story, it seems to have other holes in it too.

Is it fair that 30 homess people should prevent the entire neighbourhood getting to enjoy a communal park being used for that purpose, and having money spent on it for that purpose?

Homeless people need help – but not to the cost of everybody else.

If the homeless had occupied a school, would you be saying the school should not be permitted to operate as a school and change it’s buildings or playgrounds around ?

Ditto if they were in hospital grounds?

@3 – why come up with an alternative scenario for your argument when the original and factual one should serve?

Is a school a skateboard park? Is a hospital?

Homeless people were once kids who went to school, homeless people still use hospitals


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. David H

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  3. Ellie Mae

    RT @libcon Nike is trying to whitewash its actions with 'Homeless World Cup' http://bit.ly/cqmjZL << read this

  4. Stuart Pearce

    RT @MissEllieMae RT @libcon Nike is trying to whitewash its actions with 'Homeless World Cup' http://bit.ly/cqmjZL << read this << ok

  5. Pucci Dellanno

    RT @libcon: Nike is trying to whitewash its actions with 'Homeless World Cup' http://bit.ly/cqmjZL

  6. Geoff Dunham

    I'd like to suggest @nike for @cuntoftheday because of their hypocritical treatment of the homeless in Japan and Rio http://bit.ly/9ThD8D

  7. Casper ter Kuile

    Nike PR #fail http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/10/02/nike-is-trying-to-whitewash-its-actions-with-homeless-world-cup/

  8. ??? - Yu Saeki

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