Saturday, February 13, 2010

Behind the hype: Protesting the winter Olympics

(image courtesy of the Vancouver Olympic Resistance Network)

As the Australian media ramps up coverage and commercial hype about the Winter Olympics, another story goes untold here in Australia. In Vancouver there is growing heat on the streets as more residents and civil society groups express anger at the negative impact of the Winter Olympics on their City.

In a recent piece my favourite sports journalist Dave Zirin cites surveys that suggest up 70% of Vancouver residents feel that too much is being spent on the Olympics and 30 % believe that the impact will be largely negative. Civil society concerns are many, namely:
  1. The massive and growing cost of the Olympics is adding billions of dollars of future debt to the public purse. This debt grows daily due to the rising cost of the massive security presence and emerging problems, such as the need to helicopter snow to the venues.
  2. The commercialization and corporate control of the Olympics is so pervasive and is largely driven by the desire to increase corporate profits.
  3. Public spending is being redirected to the Olympics away from social programs and poverty reduction programs.
  4. Billions is being spent on security, resulting in the "overt militarization of Vancouver" including visible troops in the street, huge increase in police, helicopters and jet flights over the City. private security firms operating everywhere and enclosure of large parts of public lands and public space.
  5. The negative environmental impact of the Games including mountain blasting, clear cutting, road construction, expanded infrastructure for for mining and logging interests.
  6. The crackdown on dissent and protest and erosion of civil liberties which has seen independent journalists detained and deported and attempts to suppress anti-Olympics protest.
  7. The exploitation of the native title rights of Indigenous Canadian people.
  8. Damage to communities resulting from rise in real estate prices, unaffordable housing, movement of homeless and poor people off the streets, profiling and lock downs of certain groups and communities.
The Vancouver Olympic Resistance Network which was was formed to highlight the real costs of the Games lays out its concerns here. The concerns of First Nations people can be read here.

To coincide with the opening ceremony and start of the Games a People's Summit and public protests are planned in Vancouver this weekend.

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