Category Archives: olympics

A brief, belated summary of the ugly truths of Vancouver 2010

Vancouver 2010Though I admittedly tuned-out much of the noise associated with the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, I did pick up a range of links that people pointed me to in one way or another, looking at the typically less-publicised impacts of the Games, namely on Indigenous peoples and the poor and homeless populations of British Colombia.

Here are some of the most poignant journalistic gems:

Toban Black’s deconstruction of the portrayals of a single, homogenous Indigenous culture in Van2010 marketing and branding, on Racialicious.com

“The harmonious vision conveyed through ‘indigenous’ packaging around the Olympics is an extension of mainstream Canadian visions of an outright “multicultural” “mosaic” in this country — where some claim that there is a complete lack of systemic racism, as well as equally proportioned room for all ethnic groups.”

The Guardian ran a story on the expected financial disaster of the Games, and the impacts of it on public services.

“While the complete costs are still unknown, the Vancouver and British Columbian governments have hinted at what’s to come by cancelling 2400 surgeries, laying off 233 government employees, 800 teachers and recommending the closure of 14 schools.”

Even the neo-liberal National Post wrote about the  rule of private companies over public services, during the lead up to the Games:

“Even Libraries have been put on notice to ensure that they’re complying with all registered Olympic sponsors and partners. Librarians have been asked to help ensure corporate brands like Coke and McDonald’s get exclusive coverage during the Olympics.”

Vancouver’s alternative staple, The Georgia Straight, covered some of the criticism around the lack of investment in supporting the city’s ever-growing homeless population.

“One homeless person, on average, dies every 11.4 days in B.C., according to housing activist and Olympic critic Am Johal.”

Britain’s often-sensationalist Telegraph caught wind of the poverty in Vancouver’s down town eastside, and gave it a story, demonstrating the contrast of the Olympic glitz, and the day-to-day realities of a shocking number of Vancouer residents.

“There is a jarring contrast between the harsh realities of life on the streets of North America’s most desperate Skid Row and the sporting extravaganza that is being celebrated in city just named the most liveable in the world for a third successive year…

In an alleyway near the corner of Hastings and Main streets, addicts openly smoked crack pipes and shot up heroin, others slumped listlessly in doorways or mumbled incoherently, and streetwalkers propositioned passers-by in a hope of financing their next hit.”

Another progressive mainstay, Vancouver Media Co-Op, ran a piece of the dual histories of activism and neo-liberalism in the city.

“Vancouver has, in recent decades, been a paragon of neoliberalism, has always had a colonial relationship with the Indigenous peoples whose land they’ve stolen, and is home to the most impoverished neighborhood in the country.”

Some of these issues seem endemic to Olympic Games, the world over… thus far I have seen very little in the way of an anti-London 2012 movement in the works, but am hoping this will change.  Canada’s existing inequalities put the contradictions of the Olympics industry in no unclear terms – let’s hope London and other cities who have struggled to win the ‘opportunity’ to host the Games can learn something from the Vancouver experience.