It’s a great time for dodgy former-Soviet businessmen.
Azerbaijan, a country run by a Mafia-style dictator, is hosting the Eurovision song contest, while only last week, the Champions’ League was won by a team owned by one of the shadiest characters to emerge from Yeltsin’s criminal conspiracy.
We don’t mind the crookery that goes on behind the spectacle, do we? It doesn’t bother us. All those Irish supporters of Chelsea who joined in the victory celebrations after Drogba slotted the vital penalty didn’t pause to think about the fact that the owner, Roman Abramovich is one of those currently screwing them, forcing their taxes up and their wages down.
How? By buying second-hand Irish bonds at 10% of face value and demanding the full price from our government who obediently paid up. It’s politics, you see, and we should never mix sport with politics, even when the dodgiest of Arthur Daley characters is busy dipping his hand into your pocket. That’s politics. Here, have my money.
Meanwhile, over in Baku, the regime of Ilham Aliyev has spent a reported €350 million on the Eurovision song contest, easily eclipsing the outrageous Russian blingfest that set the previous nadir of tastelessness. Let me put this in context. Even in our current reduced state, Ireland has a nominal GDP of €173 billion, while that of Azerbaijan is €49 billion. Therefore, in relative terms, this is like Ireland spending €1.23 billion on the Eurovision song contest.
Only a state run by mafia figures would contemplate anything so extreme and so vulgar. The average per capita GDP in Azerbaijan is only €8,200, while the ruling families of Azerbaijan are among the wealthiest people on the planet. We hear stories of poor people being cleared off the streets to sanitise the city of Baku for its foreign visitors and we know that Aliyev operates a police state, where public dissent is simply not tolerated. Yet we have representatives of our national broadcaster over there reporting uncritically on this ludicrous circus, which is no more than a propaganda vehicle for a major mobster.
Is that it? Do we simply not care if Abramovich robs us or Aliyev throws people into jail, as long as we get enough bread and circuses?
Is bling the new thinking?