I hope CBC Olympic boosterism did not directly lead to this story’s watered down facts.
Connected to an easy ride on scandalous police tactics, the CBC missed some flagrant hypocrisy from the IOC.
When the IOC rejected women’s ski jumping from the Olympics, they violated our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. BC courts, however, rightly recognized they have no jurisdiction over the IOC, which is a wholly unaccountable international organization which answers to no government and will gleefully violate women’s rights in Canada because of whatever policy they hold on which events to include in their games.
Yesterday’s CBC piece, however, neglected to mention that evidence of the IOC’s flagrant disregard for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Instead, they merely wrote this:
“We have to accept protests and there will be some and fine, let’s leave it. We are used to that,” said Gerhard Heiberg, a member of the IOC’s executive board, at a Vancouver news conference Monday.
“For us, it’s not an issue. We accept protest, we accept people protesting,” said IOC president Jacques Rogge.
“This is free, democratic freedom of expression,” Rogge said.
“What we want is no violence and we want the people to respect the laws of the country and then there is no problem.”
It takes a special kind of gold-medal gall for the IOC president to expect protesters to adhere to the laws of the country while his organization itself trampled the very same laws with respect to the female ski jumpers.
I am not surprised by this kind of nonsense from the IOC president, but I have a higher standard for the CBC. We simply cannot let this kind of IOC hypocrisy go unchallenged and we cannot let the CBC play down police use of agents provocateurs.
Our society cannot handle these kind of compromises. The Olympics is bad enough, but we need civil vigilance if we expect to retain the kind of democratic values Jacques Rogge so disingenuously speaks of.
There are many levels of debate about the value of Olympics: social, economic, cultural, political, etc. But one level seems to undergird them all: moral legitimacy, in which the Olympics is bankrupt.
For me it began crystallizing in late September, 1988. Ben Johnson won Olympic gold in the 100m, then lost it just days later because of the drug thing. After years of national angst over the cost overruns of the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and enduring boycotts in 1980 and 1984, it seemed impossible to have pure sport.
Fast forward to this young year when Mark McGwire quite easily announced he was lying when he said he was drug-free when chasing the home run record years ago. Whatever. Cynicism seems too natural.
While I value competition and, more so, seeking personal bests, I honour athletes who compete. Sadly the context of the Olympics and its corporate and political masters have spoiled the entire concept. Similarly, I have great respect for Canadian troops wherever they are in the world, but supporting the troops does not mean I have to support the politics behind any given mission they are sent on.
What has happened to erode the legitimacy of the Olympics? Simply, neoliberal commodification.
corporate endorsements for players to fund their training as government reduce funding
the participation of professional athletes to enrich marketing potential
exclusive corporate sponsors who have quite effectively lobbied the welcoming IOC for extensive protections
exclusive media sponsors impeding information flows outside of their media
the IOC as an untouchable international organization that can suborn nations to abandon elements of their constitution as we can’t/won’t stop the IOC from discriminating against female ski jumpers
litigious domestic Olympic committees protecting brands of what are already some of the most powerful corporations in the world
The Canada Line transit route promoted to encourage an Olympic bid at the expense of the Evergreen line for the northeast suburbs already in the queue, with significant climate implications
Lies: the marketing of a tunnel under Cambie Street for the Canada Line that turned into the cheaper cut-and-cover; only $176m pitched for security when previous Olympics security budgets were over $1b
The games are now about corporate marketing.
A core goal of VANOC was to literally monopolize all outdoor advertising during the games to resell to exclusive corporate sponsors. The global recession softened sales. Now the BC government is spending more of our tax dollars to buy up leftover ad space to advertise that BC is a great place. No longer “The Best Place in the World”[tm], mind you.
Here are some other examples of decayed moral legitimacy.
During the last Olympic games, RBC ran ads bragging about how awesome they were in 1948 as they paid for the Canadian men’s hockey team to attend and win Olympic gold. How long before corporations start fielding their own teams instead of nations? A corporation is running for Congress in the USA and in BC, the premier announced last fall that the government is studying allowing non-human corporations to vote in municipal elections.
Last week, after criticism VANOC took down one of its website videos celebrating the torch run across the country. They chose to use Nazi footage from the 1936 games. They felt it might be controversial, so they blurred out the straight arm Nazi salute that is so visually repulsive. Both were horrible decisions. Both reflect a mindset that is so out of touch with standards of moral legitimacy. But I can’t be surprised by all this considering the overall mindset of the Olympics.
The Bay department store ripped off the Cowichan sweater design from the First Nations who “own” it, so it could contract out sweater production.
In Vancouver this week, venues and key sites are under military lock down with layers of concrete barricades and fencing. Military helicopters and jets buzz the skies. Military and private security forces live on cruise ships in East Vancouver. VANOC cars cruise the city, flagrantly violating civic anti-idling by-laws. And in a ecologically symbiotic nod to this illegitimate event, El Nino has produced spring-like temperatures making the Olympic mittens gimmick useless.
Another common sense goes like this, the Olympics is a fish bowl of groupthink. Nazi footage in a promotional film? Stealing First Nations craft designs? Erecting ugly prison security around venues? A $10m Canada pavilion that looks like a strong wind could blow it over, when the log structure in Turin in 2006 cost only $6m [and has since become an albatross, itself a telling irony].
Then there is a story in the Globe and Mail the other day about how VANOC has banned athletes from being in advertisements during the games because it compromises the purity of competition. Oh, unless the ads are for the sanctioned corporate sponsors. Or, if in VANOC’s subjective judgement the ad campaign has been around long enough. Tim Horton’s has recently run some ads with Sidney Crosby, but in the article we read they are voluntarily pulling the ads during the Olympics in case VANOC decides to come after them. The chill factor extends to even Tim Hortons!
The best irony of that article, however, exemplifies this whole debacle. The writer characterizes Tim Hortons’ Sidney Crosby campaign as one about patriotism. Tim Hortons is now owned by an American company. Marketing is global now.
Later this morning we will see the beginning of actions leading to a massive convergence of dissent later this week to coincide with the opening of the games. This culture of critique is pervasive.
When the Canucks are in the playoffs, there is a palpable sense of energy around Vancouver. People buy flags to attach to their car windows. There is honking in the streets when Canucks score goals. Even people not too bothered with hockey get excited. This vibe is absent right now.
In the surreal world of neoliberalism, unaccountable international organizations like the IOC, corporate welfare programs and rational and moral contradictions, there is no irony left.
Oh, and a Chicago company got the contract to build the Canada pavilion in Vancouver.
So when we see the pablum, sanitized feel-good corporate media fluff pieces on Vancouver, think about how much packaging has already gone into the big show and how motivated the corporate media sponsors will be to paint this a smiles-only event.
Then we need to think about the athletes afraid to use Twitter, what lack of snow will do to some of them, and let’s think about the social costs of cleaning up the mess of this party.
As it is, no one has done the body count yet. As billions of dollars have been diverted from social programs, health, education, etc., how many people have suffered or died early because money that could have gone into hip replacement surgery or mental health treatment was diverted to a luge track. It’s a ghoulish research project, so it’s one that no one wants to talk about.
All I know is that the police state that is emerging this week will change Vancouver and Whistler and BC and Canada forever. The hands are pretty much dealt now. All that is left is in the playing.
And in a few weeks, we’ll know what kind of symbol the Olympic torch really is.
Almost a year ago I wrote about how VANOC was exploring risks to Olympic corporate sponsors. People don’t like them because they have co-opted the Olympics and are pimping the athletes and glee-seekers for their own exposure, which is now most evident in Olympic logos all over the TV, skyscraper advertising condoms downtown and inane transit ads that merely say that XYZ corporation is proud to sponsor the Olympics.
But if the sociologists want to examine the mathematics of Olympic distress, here’s my equation from last year. In the spirit of Create Commons, feel free to suggest improvements!
((The Olympics corporate welfare program) + (obscene reductions in government spending for human beings) + (radical and radicalized groups who object to the billions wasted on this spectacle, and what in our culture it has steamrollered) + (sponsors and government groups that flaunt their glee in the faces of those suffering) + (an opportunity to capture attention on a global scale)) x (an unpredictable economic depression [ooops, Great Recession]) = a perfect storm of wariness.
Or if you’d like it less cluttered:
(a + b + c + d + e) * f = g
a = the Olympics corporate welfare program
b = obscene reductions in government spending for human beings
c = radical and radicalized groups who object to the billions wasted on this spectacle, and what in our culture it has steamrollered
d = sponsors and government groups that flaunt their glee in the faces of those suffering
e = an opportunity to capture attention on a global scale
f = an unpredictable economic depression [ooops, Great Recession]
and g = a perfect storm of wariness.
Now, you do the math.
PS…I spent an hour in Grandview Park today. It now seems the black helicopters just live over that park now. But as one friend mentioned, there are enough helicopters that various of them could be living over other spots as well.
It is quite clear that Stephen Harper clearly understands a movie like V For Vendetta. It’s not his arrogance that led him to prorogue parliament again by literally phoning it in to the governor-general. It’s his understanding of our collective apathy about democracy.
OK, maybe it was partly arrogance that led him to phone it in, but in early December 2008 when he did it before, he ended up announcing the suspension of the legislature by standing outside Rideau Hall being sleeted upon by the weather gods, who were clearly politicizing his actions. Who wants to do that again.
The state of democracy in Canada is in a shambles. The last provincial election in BC in May 2009 saw voter turnout drop below 50%. Oh well.
Voter turnout almost dipped below 40% for the first time in Alberta’s provincial election in 2008.
Last year there were rallies across the country opposing the impending prorogation. This year, Harper waited until the seriously sleepy time between Christmas and new years: pretty crafty. Even Hill-addicted journalists were tweeting from warm climates about the prorogation.
You can read all about the reasons why he pulled this move again all over the place. The Reform/Conservative Party has its reasons about consulting with businesses about the economy and such. There are Afghan torture scandals to avoid, Senate stacking to further, the Olympics alternate universe to embrace, and various other benefits and comparisons to pre-1982 traditions about the ending of legislative sessions.
What is clear is that responsible government is no longer a given. Technically, elections legitimize governing bodies to do whatever within their power as they govern. Harper is doing nothing “wrong”. Nor is his apparitional coalition partner, Michael Ignatieff.
The flagrant disregard for public accountability, combined with the public’s inability to demonstrate any serious concern for political integrity means that there needs to be forces that can mobilize people to care about it all.
Those rallies last year were an encouraging sign, but until there is a vehicle to truly convey public will or outrage and to educate people about the dismissiveness of prorogation, we will continue to see politicians demean us–their employers–and justify our cynicism of their integrity.
It’s a vicious circle that leaves them continuing to feel confident that they can get away with whatever they want and our voter turnout will continue to drop.
And while the overt fascism in V For Vendetta is not present in Canada today, the soft fascism of diluted democracy is becoming the norm. It’s no wonder young [and older] people today are avoiding political parties and embracing other political mobilization avenues.
2010 has barely begun. The tragedy of the Olympics and its social, political and economic aftermath has yet to be fully visited upon us. We have a glaring absence of hopeful, inspiring, motivating political leadership in most of the country. We have but a few years to turn 180 degrees to avert climate breakdown and our political systems have never been so impotent in the face of such challenges.
On new year’s day yesterday, some stranger asked me if I thought 2010 would be a good year. I said that if we don’t start off being optimistic, we have no chance at all.
Stephen Harper’s new year’s resolution of avoiding accountability is a rough start. But I begin the year optimistically that we will emerge in 362 days in a better place.
If not, the first year of this pivotal decade will put us even further back from where we need to be.
Below is an interesting piece published this evening about VANOC’s mentality leading into the Olympic Games. It’s not healthy or grounded.
Upon first reading, the perspective is shocking. If the journalists are being sensational and loose with the truth, then that might explain it all. If not, here’s how it reads.
The first comment about protesters not being that organized because they were easy to infiltrate implies that despite the organization required to rent a bus, VANOC expected them to be more organized to avoid being tracked so easily, as if they had something to hide. The protesters are either really bad evil-doers or they are not interested in being under the radar. We are all free speech zones, after all, so why hide.
The idea that protesters were probably going to be violent definitely makes them look poorly organized if they rode a bus. The alternative explanation is that the presumption of violence is wrong. But that alternative makes it hard to justify a $1b security budget. Assume the Raging Grannies have biological weapons so we can send the HazMat folks in to confront them with the riot police. Reality, be damned!
The observation of a peaceful demonstration suggests that the presumption of violence was incorrect. Rational thinkers should then question the presumption of violent protests. But no, this security model was then exported across the country for others to follow. The mistaken presumption spreads like a cancer.
Claiming that the infiltrating security personnel are to be credited for defusing violence is also explained by…take a breath here…there being no plans for violence in the first place. Or, it was the police doing it, just like how my existence happened to keep the sun from exploding last Wednesday.
How is it worth it for the price tag to be beyond the community’s ability to pay? Peace of mind? Perhaps, but only if we disregard the possibility that protests are not by definition carrying risks of violence. Then we should be resenting the heinous waste of money
Carrying that possibility makes the entire $1b security budget overblown, without even a legacy venue to show for it…beyond the temporary CCTV cameras that may end up being permanent if promises to remove them evaporate.
An undercover cop watched Lower Mainland anti-Olympic torch relay protesters in the rear-view mirror on Oct. 30, according to Victoria Police chief Jamie Graham.
“You knew that the protesters weren’t that organized when on the ferry on the way over they all rented a bus, they all came over on a bus, and there was a cop driving the bus!” Graham told the 12th Vancouver International Security Conference on Monday.
Graham said protesters were “probably going to be violent,” so uniformed police infiltrated the crowd. A group of 300 people, many in Hallowe’en costumes, peacefully blocked traffic, diverted the torch relay and delayed its arrival at the Parliament Buildings.
“The relationships individual field officers have with protesters and so on just kills these kinds of disturbances and it worked extremely well,” he said.
Graham described the $220,000 policing bill as “well beyond our ability to pay,” but worth it.
“Police departments from all over the country have taken our game plan, our operational plan and adopted it as their own,” he said.
The day was not without incident. Graham said two ferry passengers were arrested for dumping water on an undercover security person, while two motorcycle cops wiped out on slippery pavement. “One of them was hurt quite badly, but has since recovered,” he said.
Meanwhile, a secondary security vehicle “got T-boned by an old guy who ran a red light.”
Agents provocateurs were outed at the FTAA protest in Montebello in August 2007. I expect they’re at it again in BC on the first day of the Olympic torch relay, this time with marbles.
The huge contingent of police officers watched as the group blocked traffic in several major intersections and even threw marbles at the feet of horses used by the Vancouver police mounted squad.
Victoria police spokesman Sgt. Grant Hamilton said “restraint was the order of the day” Friday night, explaining that officers did what they could to keep the peace. There were no torch-related arrests in Victoria Friday, Hamilton said.
Let’s start with initial media reports of protesters throwing marbles on the ground in front of or at the feet of police horses.
Then we hear of reports from the protesters and observers that no protesters threw marbles.
Then as of 4pm yesterday, CanWest stories of protesters accusing police of throwing the marbles, on at least the Ottawa Citizen and Victoria Times-Colonist websites, are “not available.” Maybe they’ll return again.
At this stage, it’s unclear who threw marbles, or if they were thrown at all. Civil liberties observers saw no marbles at all.
At this stage, we have ambiguity.
Those who like to believe the police and the $1b VANOC security force are good people who would never lie or entrap or discredit protest can shake their heads at the mean protesters who want to kill horses.
But anyone who paid attention to the FTAA meetings in Montebello, Quebec in August 2007 knows that protesters caught on film 3 police officers dressed as protesters, with faces covered and rocks in hand prepared to incite violence.
If you weren’t one of the almost half a million people to watch the footage, you can see it here.
And from VANOC’s perspective, that was probably a critical error in their game plan. Don’t admit anything, then the ambiguity allows people who lean your way anyway to believe the dastardly deed was actually committed by the protesters.
So we start with marbles and as the quote above indicates, stoking public sympathy by talking about police retaining order and restraint, keeping the peace and making no arrests.
You can be sure that if the marbles came from the Olympic security forces, the next action from agents provocateurs will take advantage of this goodwill they’re building in the public to step up their interventions.
When I try to infer the mental state of some politicians from what they say publicly, I can only conclude that they must think we’re too profoundly stupid that we’d not be able to think for 3 seconds to realize that they are full of shit. Let’s look at Kevin Falcon and Gregor Robertson.
Health Minister Kevin Falcon: “when we are making changes in health care delivery, it doesn’t mean it’s just a cut.” The provincial government decided to “change” the funding to the 6 health authorities in BC by negative $360 million. It’s certainly a change. To stress that it isn’t a cut means Falcon thinks the air coming out of his lungs is worth forming into these words because there is some value to it all, that enough people will believe he has achieved plausible deniability of cuts occurring.
Vision Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson: “The core traditions of the Olympics are very powerful, and we lose sight of that with all the corporate sponsorship, Olympic bylaws and the gigantic scale of the event.” What a nuisance, hey, so let’s get over our criticism of the following and just get that lovin’ feeling!
VANOC has bought ALL the outdoor advertising for Olympic corporate sponsors.
Corporations are going to wrap ads as mammoth building condoms around the tall buildings all over the place, with video ads broadcast on buildings–think Blade Runner.
BC neoLiberal MLAs and cabinet ministers get to use swanky private boxes in stadiums to watch events…paid for with our tax dollars.
VANOC has set aside $30 million for bonuses to ostensibly keep their employees WHO ARE ACTUALLY PLANNING THE OLYMPICS from quitting before the big show–hard to imagine; $30 million works out to around $23,000 for each of the 1,300 employees, though I doubt it will all be distributed equally.
The IOC business model requires communities to sanitize society of the ugly: homelessness, poverty, dissent; so, we have broad, sweeping legislation that threatens our civil libertiies.
The IOC will not allow women’s ski jumping regardless of domestic courts ruling the action unconstitutional.
Provincial legislation will allow law enforcement to come into my home to seize anti-Olympics signs, under penalty of up to 6 months in jail and $10,000/day fines, while neoLiberal cabinet minister Bill Bennett says that’s a reasonable thing to do when the Olympics are in town.
Officials can now round up the homeless and forcibly house/confine them during the games; this, in the context of massively neglecting effective social housing for the whole decade.
$1 billion to be spent on security with 5,000 imported rent-a-cops and military, not to mention the black helicopters that were buzzing the downtown east side this morning, with much more of that to come.
So what core traditions is Gregor Robertson waxing on about as he gets on a plane to go to Greece for the flame lighting? Nobility, competition, purity of athletic competition? Is that what the Olympics mean now? Or is it special rights for global corporations using the Olympics for a marketing bonanza at the expense of democracy, domestic constitutions and court rulings, and civil liberties?
People are coming around to the reality that the Olympics stink, that they aren’t worth the social, political and economic costs and that with the overwhelming majority of Canadians unable to acquire or afford tickets to the actual events…people are starting to feel duped. A recent survey shows only 9% are very excited about the show, while 71% or not very excited or not excited at all.
This is showing up in not enough people volunteering, signing up to rent out extra bedrooms to rich Olympic tourists, or applying for the scut jobs needed to make the whole thing function.
Well. I told you so.
As did the entire No Olympics campaign years ago. And now we all get to eat it…with the black helicopters flying overhead as I test out my remaining civil liberties as I wear my “I am a free speech zone” t-shirt wherever I can. I also have a “Democracy is Nice” sign I carry on the end of my hockey stick. I wonder which of those will be a security threat.
Let’s put it on t-shirts to let VANOC know that citizens are in charge in a democracy!
What if we all wore them all around town during the Olympics as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card? Would it be like when I used to hand out copies of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to my grade 9 students upon their arrival in high school, and watch them stroll through life calling bullshit?
Maybe it’s more like an inoculation against the emerging police state.
So much for the Olympics being a mere 16-day inconvenience and distraction. But the stink of this horrible decision will land squarely on Vision Vancouver.
Huge Olympic-themed building wraps will pop up in Vancouver three months earlier than expected under a new deal involving the City of Vancouver, Vanoc and 3M Canada.
The city originally planned to restrict the installation of 2010 building murals and graphic designs until Jan. 1, 2010, but has relaxed the rules to allow them any time after Oct. 1 this year.
3M was concerned the Jan. 1 restriction didn’t give it enough time to properly transform buildings into Games-themed displays, especially if bad weather delayed the application of clings, wraps and films to building exteriors.
The rising and now falling tide of excitement tracking Vision Vancouver is astonishing. A party with no firm policy or governing experience signed up thousands of new members a year ago. Bandwagon city.
Now that they are in charge, we get to watch how their visionary talk doesn’t match their governing walk.
We’ve already seen how Vision Vancouver believes in the sanctity of billboards, but we now see that a weak and flimsy excuse of possible bad weather 5 weeks before the Olympics debacle starts is good enough to extend for 3 months the length of time the corporate sponsors of the Olympics can pollute our eyes with ubiquitous ads and projected commercials on our skyline.
Add these new ad condoms and building commercials to the CCTV arriving “for the event only” and we’ll have an Olympic legacy that will set new standards of intrusion and erosion of all things public.
We now have some new insight into the visual ad pollution of billboards in Vancouver, courtesy of Richmond’s mayor Malcolm Brodie.
Not only has VANOC acquired access to all the billboard space in the Olympics universe for its official sponsors, the deals they’ve made for rates are part of closed municipal meetings.
This is no surprise since VANOC, much like a vampire, does nothing in broad daylight. Don’t hold your breath on anything related to VANOC being released ever.
A couple months ago, Vision Vancouver cynically killed municipal plans to take down the billboard pollution around the city that contravenes rules about how far away from homes they are supposed to be. With 2 billboards within 60m of my living room window, I’m eager to see them gone–and their repulsive car and horror movie ads that have caused more than a few neighbourhood children turn away in fear.
Smith noted how Vision’s Geoff Meggs is connected to Glen Clark who is connected to Jim Pattison whose name is on many of the polluting billboards. Connecting the dots allows us to see a rather transparent motive and example of what Vision Vancouver’s vision actually is.
But Richmond’s Mayor Brodie has now also reminded us that these are not ordinary times. The Olympics gold rush means we CANNOT risk taking down even one billboard, despite how heinously it may contravene muncipal by-laws.
We see the VANOC vision again appearing as our masters.
This is very bad news for Vision Vancouver. As a new party, with little stable ideological roots and now only months of governing history, its identity is still in the fetal stage.
Its membership swelled with the Obama bump. It had dozens of prospective candidates vying for nominations, many of whom were very progressive, but some were temporarily out of the NPA.
They’ve had policy meetings, but those mean little until they get a chance to actually enact policy through governing. And now we’re seeing what they are like: Jimmy Pattison, billboards, VANOC.
And like many new political parties or movements, their membership will dip when renewal time comes. But for Vision, their membership will plunge as people realize that the amorphous hint of progressiveness they robed themselves in ends up lacking anything solid.
A political party walks its walk. If it talks a different line, people who pay attention to the walk will see the gap and act accordingly.
Real progressives currently in Vision will have to make a decision very soon about whether their vision of Vision is shared by the ones in charge. If not, they’ll have to move on.
De-Spinning the Political and Re-Spinning it for Social, Economic and Political Justice