Imagine the scene: An athlete jogs nervously down one of Bologna’s main thoroughfares, clad in a politically-correct, unisex, running suit clutching a futuristic-looking, metalic, flame-flowering torch. It’s hard to get a view of him/her though as the athlete is surrounded/accompanied by 15-20 particularly uncomfortable-looking riot-police, jogging (or speed-shuffling in most cases) in phalanx formation. The reason? The Olympics have come to town.
Or rather the Winter Olympics torch-relay comes to town, being chased by a group of students who, obviously, fall (at least in the media’s terms) under the label of ‘No-Globals’. They are the reason for our friendly riot-police squad’s discomfort, chasing the torch chanting ‘Bollicine Assassine’. To translate their chant loses all of its buzz*, but for the sake of clarity it runs along the lines of ‘Fizzy Bubbles Assassins’. A none too subtle accusation towards the Coca-Cola corporation.
“Good God, is nothing sacred?”, you may well ask, indignant at this attack on the ‘Olympic Spirit’. Conversely, you may well ask yourself “have these students nothing more important to protest about?”. What may be worrying the Turin Winter Olympics organisers, though, is that protests surrounding the upcoming games are not limited to students.
In fact, during the month of November, Turin’s city Council took a contentious vote to boycott Coca-Cola products from vending sites under the Council’s control. The vote was passed by a slim majority, much to the anger of Turin’s mayor Sergio Chiamparino, a member of Romano Prodi’s centre-left Ulivo coalition party. City officials have been hoping that the Winter Olympic games will boost Turin’s image worldwide, leading to much needed investment for a city that has suffered the decline of its main industry – FIAT. Boycotting one of the main sponsors of the Games was obviously not part of the plan.
In particular, last Friday’s protests in Bologna were to highlight accusations against Coca-Cola that suggest the world’s favourite fizzy drink has actively been involved in the violent and illegal surpression of trade unionists at bottling plants in Colombia.
The Winter Olympics are hosted as a business opportunity. They are sponsored by some of the world’s biggest (and baddest?) corporations as they provide a wonderful advertising opportunity. Hence it shouldn’t be of much surprise that they also present a wonderful protest opportunity.
So, when Bolognese singer (Italy’s answer to Cliff Richard) Gianni Morandi whined on Saturday that the students had ruined something that could have been beautiful, this Monkey started pondering what this something beautiful referred to by Morandi may have been. Presuming it to be the ‘Olympic Spirit’, I journeyed to the Torino 2006 official website hoping to tie down this abstract concept.
The folks at Torino 2006 were way ahead of me, having converted, through some mystical alchemical process (perhaps in non-unionised, sweat-shop alchemy plant?), the abstract notion into a concrete reality. “Wear the Olympic Spirit” they helpfully advised, in a sub-category of ‘The Olympic Spirit’ section of the site labelled ‘official products’.
So if the students protesting on Friday in Bologna ruined Morandi’s ‘Olympic Spirit’, not to worry. He can always go out and buy some more…
*A part from the fact that it has a perfect chanting rythm, the phrase also evokes, amongst other things, cultural icon Vasco Rossi’s song, Bollicine, about Coca-Cola, with its lines “Bevi la coca cola che ti fa bene/
Bevi la coca cola che ti fa digerire/
Con tutte quelle, tutte quelle bollicine” (Drink Coca-Cola it does you good/ Drink Coca Cola it helps you digest/ with all those beautiful little bubbles’.