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Why protest Vancouver's 2010 Olympics?

Issue: 59 Section: Opinion Geography: West Vancouver, British Columbia Topics: 2010 Olympics

April 17, 2009

Why protest Vancouver's 2010 Olympics?

Standing up to the global system makes change possible

by Gord Hill

The Eagleridge Bluffs near Horseshoe Bay are one casualty of the 2010 Olympics. Elder Harriet Nahanee, a Pacheedaht (from the Nuu-Chah-Nulth) woman, died of pneumonia after having been imprisoned for trying to protect the area. Photo: Dawn Paley

There are many reasons to protest the Olympic Games. It is a multi-billion dollar industry run by an elite clique that sells the five rings to the highest bidder, using sports as a commodity and a platform for corporate advertising. Their main goal is profit, in collaboration with their partners: government, local organizing committees, and corporations (construction, real estate, tourism, TV, and media, as well as sponsors).

The Olympics have a long history of association with fascists, colonialists, and authoritarian regimes (i.e., the 1936 Hitler Olympics, the 1968 Mexico City Olympic massacre, and the 2008 Beijing Summer Games). Since the 1980s, they have displaced over three million people and contributed to massive increases in homelessness (as we’ve seen in Vancouver).

Massive construction projects associated with the Olympics, from venues to infrastructure, result in both widespread environmental destruction and huge public debts. As part of security operations, police, military, and intelligence agencies receive millions of dollars for new personnel, equipment, and weapons — strengthening the creeping police states we see around the world and further eroding our alleged 'freedoms' and civil liberties.

Some naysayers ask: Why protest, since protests don’t change anything, and the Games are going to happen anyway? Their questions are based on the apparent futility of protest.

To begin with, protests are but one tactic used by social movements. They help raise awareness and mobilize people. The US black civil rights movement started out as small protests and grew into a mass campaign of civil disobedience. This forced the government to enact reforms and desegregate the South. Protests weren’t the only activities carried out by the civil-rights movement. They also organized forums, held workshops on legal rights, registered black voters, and printed newsletters.

Protests and civil disobedience were what made change both possible and necessary, because not only did they draw international attention to racism in the US, they also made it impossible for the apartheid system in the South to go on as it had before. By the 1970s and ’80s there were black mayors and chiefs of police; today, there is a black president.

People who say protests don’t change anything don’t know history. Those who say the Olympics can’t be fought don’t even know their own local history.

Over the last three years, the anti-Olympic movement has forced the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) off the streets, to the point where it no longer holds large, public ceremonies (as it did in 2007). Anytime the organizing committee does have events, it requires a large policing operation to secure them. This is because we have successfully used direct action to disrupt Olympic events.

The effectiveness of direct action and protest can be seen in the struggle for social housing in Vancouver. This campaign increased in 2006 when the growing ranks of homeless began to become a major political issue, linked to Olympic-related construction, gentrification, and tourism.

By the fall of 2006, housing and anti-poverty groups were having large, noisy protests and began occupying empty hotels. Over two dozen people were arrested, many of them members of the Anti-Poverty Committee. These actions raised the profile of homelessness and dislocation.

Since 2007, various levels of government, along with VANOC, have had to respond with measures to limit the loss of low-income housing units, and to appear as though they are addressing the issue. By 2008, the homelessness crisis, along with the Olympic Village fiasco, determined the outcome of the Vancouver civic election.

Homelessness became a public issue because people organized, educated, and agitated for change. Without the political pressure exerted by protest groups, without community resistance, the situation for the poor and the homeless would be far worse than it is today.

Why protest 2010? Because as history shows us, the limits of tyrants are set by those whom they attempt to tyrannize.

Gord Hill is a member of the Olympic Resistance Network and maintains No2010.com. He is also an artist and carver. A version of this article previously appeared in the
Georgia Straight.

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Comments

Let a Canadian open the

Let a Canadian open the Olympics. Not a Briton.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/governor-general-michaelle-jean-to-open-vancouver-2010-olympics

Vancouver 2010 Farce

It is sad indeed when the worlds finest athletes become nothing more than the platform for corporate greed. None of the talk you hear leading up to the Games focuses on the people who have worked for much of their lives honing skills and bodies for the sake of sport. Instead we talk about traffic, security (the Vancouver Police State), advertising, and the money that each and every one of us is shelling out to pay for trucking snow from Manning Park to Cypress to build a ski run. They've lifted a smoking ban to appease our guests and pleaded with our residents to stay out of their city. They've taken bikes of the Skytrain and wreaked havoc on small business. They've demanded that businesses using the word "Olympic" in their names re-name them. They want to re-write Canadian Copyright Law so we can't even post a picture with their symbols or words on it, even though you can't point a camera anywhere downtown without seeing them (from PUBLIC PROPERTY, I might add).

Retail products proudly celebrating Vancouver 2010 are made in China - a visit to your local HBC or Zellers store and an inspection of the tags on the merchandise is in order. HBC is a proud sponsor - an American company flogging it's previously Canadian history and reselling Chinese retail products to help fuel an ailing U.S. economy.

The Olympics are no longer about sport, they are about profit. Those who buy into the theory that this games, like others, will turn a profit need to understand that the profits are not theirs, nor are they likely to see the benefits. Rather than insult the very premise that the Games were founded upon (SPORT), they should just change the name. Perhaps Corporate Games? Greed Games? or Afterthought Games?

believe negative, you will see negative

corporate involvement, elitist, government control. because undesirable past and/or present regimes or societies involved in presenting and hosting Olympic games does not equate to what the Olympic does for us people of a single united world. these "undesirable" peoples may have their agenda but the fact that the Olympics is THE event where more countries, religions, races, languages, cultures, political groups, and anything else that differentiates us as people come together and compete fairly without hatred, violence, or mistrust. it is this celebration shown to the world that trumps all protests. those protesting do so with valid reasons. but for those reasons, what the Olympic does on a world level pales in comparison to local impact. The Olympics transcends any and all reasons for protest. I hope you all the very best in what you believe is the greater good of your actions.

murder!

i think it is diguisting and wrong to imprison someone for trying to save their home

I read the whole article and

I read the whole article and its full of shit. Olympics will always live on. It DOES bring the world together. Homeless is just an excuse for a cause. I like the olympics, it is very entertaining and it is you the protesters who cost the country lots of money and just worsten everything for the homeless by having money spent towards extra security. You guys suck, long live the olympics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Logical Rebuttal

"It is a multi-billion dollar industry run by an elite clique that sells the five rings to the highest bidder, using sports as a commodity"

Sounds like your problem is with corporate profit, not the Olympics themselves. Would you prefer if the Olympics went to a poor country that couldn't afford to house the athletes/spectators or provide adequate facilities for the events? Tens of thousands of people go to see the Olympics to show national pride and suppor their athletes.

"The Olympics have a long history of association with fascists, colonialists, and authoritarian regimes"

Your 2nd mention in two paragraphs of your dissatisfaction with government bodies. I smell a serial protestor. The Beijing games were in a communist country. Democracy may be what Europe and North America prefer, but to shun a country simply because they are communist shows that you think its correct to force your opinions on others. It sounds to me like there should be protestors against your facist policies.

Other than the Beijing example, you have two, in the very long history of the Olympics, and nothing in the past 40 years.

"Since the 1980s, they have displaced over three million people and contributed to massive increases in homelessness (as we’ve seen in Vancouver)"

You do realize that Canada is just leaving a massive recesion, right? You spend time complaining about the increased number of police and consruction being done, and fail to acknowledge the fact that someone has to be hired to do that work. Sure rent was driven up, but that was because of the impending economic boom created by the inflow of tourists. People who sold houses would have made a profit, and smart storeowners would have taken a loan to make up the difference until the games arrived.

"Massive construction projects associated with the Olympics, from venues to infrastructure, result in both widespread environmental destruction and huge public debts"

'huge public debt' is the wrong perspective on the games. huge public investment would be a better phrase. The people of Vancouver now have better sports facilities for decades to come. When the games actually arrive, the tourist income generated will far outmatch the government spending that was required to being the games here in the first place. You keep saying everyone is in it for the money, don't claim the government is losing money in the same breath.

"strengthening the creeping police states we see around the world and further eroding our alleged 'freedoms' and civil liberties"

In any free country an increased police presence results in greater enforcement of laws, NOT restriction of rights. Police only have the power to enforce laws, if you don't break the law, police are powerless to stop you. More police doesn't reduce priacy, speach or any other rights.

I don't want to debate the effectiveness of protests, but allow me to share a thought on the protests you boast about in your article:

(As defined by Dictionary.com)
Terrorism:
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government

1. You claim the Olympics are mainly political, and with protests like the recent ones in Vancouver, there has been violence used to coerce for political purposes.
2. You boast about VANOC being unable to meet in public, and when they do meet, they feel they need police for their own protection. That sounds like the protests have put them into a state of fear to me.
3. Once again, protesting the government in a way that requires police presence to prevent violence further justifies my point.

Protests or acts of terrorism? You tell me.

"It is a multi-billion

"It is a multi-billion dollar industry run by an elite clique that sells the five rings to the highest bidder, using sports as a commodity"

Sounds like your problem is with corporate profit, not the Olympics themselves. Would you prefer if the Olympics went to a poor country that couldn't afford to house the athletes/spectators or provide adequate facilities for the events? Tens of thousands of people go to see the Olympics to show national pride and suppor their athletes.

"The Olympics have a long history of association with fascists, colonialists, and authoritarian regimes"

Your 2nd mention in two paragraphs of your dissatisfaction with government bodies. I smell a serial protestor. The Beijing games were in a communist country. Democracy may be what Europe and North America prefer, but to shun a country simply because they are communist shows that you think its correct to force your opinions on others. It sounds to me like there should be protestors against your facist policies.

Other than the Beijing example, you have two, in the very long history of the Olympics, and nothing in the past 40 years.

"Since the 1980s, they have displaced over three million people and contributed to massive increases in homelessness (as we’ve seen in Vancouver)"

You do realize that Canada is just leaving a massive recesion, right? You spend time complaining about the increased number of police and consruction being done, and fail to acknowledge the fact that someone has to be hired to do that work. Sure rent was driven up, but that was because of the impending economic boom created by the inflow of tourists. People who sold houses would have made a profit, and smart storeowners would have taken a loan to make up the difference until the games arrived.

"Massive construction projects associated with the Olympics, from venues to infrastructure, result in both widespread environmental destruction and huge public debts"

'huge public debt' is the wrong perspective on the games. huge public investment would be a better phrase. The people of Vancouver now have better sports facilities for decades to come. When the games actually arrive, the tourist income generated will far outmatch the government spending that was required to being the games here in the first place. You keep saying everyone is in it for the money, don't claim the government is losing money in the same breath.

"strengthening the creeping police states we see around the world and further eroding our alleged 'freedoms' and civil liberties"

In any free country an increased police presence results in greater enforcement of laws, NOT restriction of rights. Police only have the power to enforce laws, if you don't break the law, police are powerless to stop you. More police doesn't reduce priacy, speach or any other rights.

I don't want to debate the effectiveness of protests, but allow me to share a thought on the protests you boast about in your article:

(As defined by Dictionary.com)
Terrorism:
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government

1. You claim the Olympics are mainly political, and with protests like the recent ones in Vancouver, there has been violence used to coerce for political purposes.
2. You boast about VANOC being unable to meet in public, and when they do meet, they feel they need police for their own protection. That sounds like the protests have put them into a state of fear to me.
3. Once again, protesting the government in a way that requires police presence to prevent violence further justifies my point.

Protests or acts of terrorism? You tell me.

Why protest Vancouver's 2010 Olympics?

It doesn't make change possible. It makes those who protest and the reasons why they protest look insignifigant and radical. No one in the middle of the argument can take protesters seriously, especially when most of them needlessly vandalize private property and assault bystanders, all while remaining masked I might add. If it were something worth your efforts, don't you think you should have the fortitude to not wear a mask? or is it more accurately a just a reason to smash things and not get caught?

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