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Canadians are supposed to put on their Made in China red mitts and are told to "believe."
January 20, 2010 2:22 PM   Subscribe

A Shameful Track Record. The Olympic movement plays fast and loose with basic democratic values.

A Literary Review of Canada essay by Laura Robinson, a former member of the national cycling team, former Canadian rowing champion, and Ontario Nordic ski champion.
posted by The Card Cheat (58 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Robinson does not adopt the proper positive attitude a host country should have for the games.

Seriously, the official 2010 souvenir wine is made from grades from Chile, the official bouquets for medalists do not contain any pants native to Canada, the Cowichan sweaters that are part of the official Canadian Olympic team apparel are made in China...
posted by KokuRyu at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2010


Chilean grades! Non-native pants! I for one am outraged.
posted by saladin at 2:27 PM on January 20, 2010 [18 favorites]


I'm in the middle of my own fight with the Olympics right now. I live next to BC Place, the main stadium in Vancouver where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held. Five days ago, VanOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) placed a truck-sized generator outside the stadium and turned it on, causing a loud humming noise that's clearly audible inside my apartment--loud enough at night to keep my girlfriend from sleeping. It's not actually necessary: Madonna, Aerosmith, and U2 all played at BC Place without needing extra power, so I can't imagine what the ceremonies need for wattage that would outpace those three. But they want power backup (not a bad idea in itself), so it sits there, running, 24 hours a day. When the Olympics actually start, there'll be six in place.

Fortunately, the media has picked up on someone else's complaint about the exact same thing, and now there's media coverage of the residents problems, enough that they turned the generator off last night, and will put some baffles or a temporary structure up to mitigate the noise. I left my own noise complaint with Vanoc and the city, and was told that "Olympic venues are exempt from local bylaws regarding noise". Awesome. Let's hope negative publicity accomplishes what the law can't.

Has there ever been an Olympics that didn't leave a major city's worth of pissed off people in its wake?
posted by fatbird at 2:32 PM on January 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


Well, it certainly isn't going to be this one. Fuck the whole horrific circus.
posted by jokeefe at 2:35 PM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that, if the IOC excluded administrators, staff, host cities and teams from countries that didn't meet Robinson's standards for "basic democratic values", it would be small enough that they wouldn't need to destroy any pristine landscape to create the venues or infrastructure to hold the games. In fact, a decent-sized back yard would be sufficient.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:38 PM on January 20, 2010


I went from loving the Olympics to loathing them. Now I'm indifferent. The event means nothing...mega corporate advertising scam all the way. One of the biggest products: drug testing.
posted by telstar at 2:38 PM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sure--Lake Placid, for example, is not a major city.
posted by box at 2:39 PM on January 20, 2010


Why can't there just be a dedicated venue for the Olympics? Why does this behemoth have to come into a different city every few years, wreaking financial havoc as it goes? We're going to be paying this thing off-- and foregoing other things that the city budget should be paying for-- for years. Seriously, it doesn't take much for me to be enraged by the whole damn thing.
posted by jokeefe at 2:42 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why can't there just be a dedicated venue for the Olympics?

Because then you couldn't talk municipal and provincial and federal governments into kicking in hundreds of millions of dollars in funding; and make no mistake, locals are very complicit in this. Local politicians see it as a means of getting municipal projects executed that wouldn't be otherwise (Vancouver got the Canada Line, a skytrain from downtown to the airport and Richmond; a major highway improvement project got rammed through despite environmental concerns). Local merchants see it as a boom time. Short-sighted local residents imagine renting out their homes for $1,000/night. And local people looking for jobs see sweetheart gigs lasting a year or two.

Essentially, the Olympics is a mobile collective delusion in which people use the excuse of a world heritage event to do for themselves what they wouldn't or shouldn't do in its absence.
posted by fatbird at 2:52 PM on January 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Throwing civil society out with the rubbish is totally worth it to watch people slide down icy tubes.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:53 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why can't there just be a dedicated venue for the Olympics? Why does this behemoth have to come into a different city every few years, wreaking financial havoc as it goes?

A somewhat cynical argument might go something like this: If the Olympics didn't move around and was able to reuse the stadia, village, etc, then it might actually become consistently profitable. But then that would be an unfair windfall to whichever country became the permanent host. Also, that country's athletes would have a certain home field advantage. So in order to ensure that no one profits or is advantaged, it is better that everyone suffer.

I suppose the Winter Olympics could perhaps be moved to Antarctica. I'm not entirely sure about the Summer Olympics. Maybe a giant offshore rig or artificial island some place.
posted by jedicus at 2:57 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was in Greece after the 2005 Athens summer games, which were pretty spectacular, and could not find a single solitary person in the entire country who had anything nice to say about the experience.
posted by minimii at 3:04 PM on January 20, 2010


Godwin in the third pull-quote. Aaaaannnd, scene.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:08 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Godwin in the third pull-quote. Aaaaannnd, scene.

I think the application of the Godwin law is a bit more fuzzy here given that the Berlin games are referenced.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:11 PM on January 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Godwin in the third pull-quote. Aaaaannnd, scene.

*rolls eyes*

Or, what Burhanistan said. It's called history, Cool Papa. Thanks for this, The Card Cheat; it's an interesting and well-done piece.
posted by mediareport at 3:23 PM on January 20, 2010


I was so thankful when San Francisco lost out on its bid to host whichever upcoming Olympics it lost out on. I hope we never win. (Given California's budget problems, it seems unlikely anyway. Small mercies!)
posted by rtha at 3:38 PM on January 20, 2010


I figure Canadians would well remember the Montreal Olympic Stadium debacle. It was the main venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics, but was not paid off until 2006. C$1.61 billion for that bad boy, and it already has structural problems.
posted by crapmatic at 4:08 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the post, good article. Not the most coherent writing in the world but she obviously knows her stuff...
posted by ropeladder at 4:14 PM on January 20, 2010


I was in Greece after the 2005 Athens summer games, which were pretty spectacular, and could not find a single solitary person in the entire country who had anything nice to say about the experience.

Greece is bankrupt, though not just because the Olympics were too large an event to be hosted by such a small country. But that the country lobbied fervently for it, does say something about the mantality of its politicians.
posted by ijsbrand at 4:25 PM on January 20, 2010


Gods, but I wish our smegheaded Premier and his band of evil henchmen hadn't chased the Olympics. Six billion dollars in expenses. Fuck me, but that is a lot of healthcare and education.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on January 20, 2010


For instance, one-third of a city's schools could be shut down. The money we've pissed away on the Olympics would have been enough to keep them open. Gah.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:59 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vancouver got the Canada Line, a skytrain from downtown to the airport and Richmond; a major highway improvement project got rammed through despite environmental concerns.

They could have built the Canada Line, and leg of the system, too, with the money they're spending on this debacle. And they could have upgraded the Sea to Sky without ruining Eagle Ridge, etc. And maybe we wouldn't have to be fighting over library closures and the loss of the greater part of Arts funding for the province. Perhaps the Olympic Village site would have actually included some lower and medium income housing units in the development, the way it was supposed to when the city voted on it (and before Vancouver agreed to pick up 1 billion dollars worth of cost overruns, hoping to make the money back by flogging yet more million dollar condos on the waterfront. Gah. [/tries not to foam with anger]
posted by jokeefe at 4:59 PM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


"and another leg of the system". Typing is hard.
posted by jokeefe at 5:00 PM on January 20, 2010


Oh look: No snow at Olympic site leaves VANOC scrambling. I feel a childish and rather pouty Nelson-level Ha Ha coming on.
posted by jokeefe at 5:02 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


A winter Olympics in Antarctica would be pretty awesome.
posted by delmoi at 5:05 PM on January 20, 2010


Has there ever been an Olympics that didn't leave a major city's worth of pissed off people in its wake?

Probably Tokyo in 1964; after that, it was all downhill.
posted by armage at 5:13 PM on January 20, 2010


> Oh look: No snow at Olympic site leaves VANOC scrambling. I feel a childish and rather pouty Nelson-level Ha Ha coming on.

VANOC has been having a bad day.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:18 PM on January 20, 2010


The Olympic movement un-Democratic? You mean Juan Antonio Samaranch was once a fascist*? Say it ain't so.

If you still think we live in a democracy, or ever did, I've got news. Nothing will ever get in the way of making a buck.

* Come to find out, Franco wasn't actually a fascist. Whew knew?
posted by jsavimbi at 5:32 PM on January 20, 2010


Oh, good grief! Now the ski resort is being auctioned off!
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on January 20, 2010


The way the weather is going, the could have held the Winter Olympics in the UK.

I see on mousing-over TCC's link that he might have posted the auction news as well.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:58 PM on January 20, 2010


And those red mittens are so cheaply made! Most of them will have disintegrated into soggy, grey, pilled-up rags before the games even open.

But since we're venting our ire about the games, what's the deal with this 'Own The Podium' nonsense: restricting other countries' access to the facilities for pre-Games training sessions? Not very Canadian, that!
I like to see our guys win, sure, but not like that. I want to see every athlete having their best Olympics possible, and if it happens to be a Canadian, all the better.
posted by Flashman at 7:00 PM on January 20, 2010


Essentially, the Olympics is a mobile collective delusion in which people use the excuse of a world heritage event to do for themselves what they wouldn't or shouldn't do in its absence.

Sometimes, I think it's possible that that collective delusion does good. I'm convinced that Houston, TX -- Houston, home of Enron, for crying out loud! -- wouldn't have even the minimal light-rail system that it does if it hadn't been for the SuperBowl being held there.
posted by treepour at 8:15 PM on January 20, 2010


A coworker looked out the window during the torch relay and said, "I saw the handoff!"

I said: "... of billions of dollars of tax payers' money to the construction industry?"

*crickets*
posted by klanawa at 8:28 PM on January 20, 2010


Thanks for that, The Card Cheat.

Then there is this glaring omission...
Supreme Court spurns women ski jumpers

Women Ski jumpers Denied, Again

Rules for them, but for citizens where these Limpicks are held, NONE.

By what right. Money?

That's the spirit. pfffft.
posted by alicesshoe at 11:16 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


A somewhat cynical argument might go something like this: If the Olympics didn't move around and was able to reuse the stadia, village, etc, then it might actually become consistently profitable. But then that would be an unfair windfall to whichever country became the permanent host. Also, that country's athletes would have a certain home field advantage. So in order to ensure that no one profits or is advantaged, it is better that everyone suffer.


A semi-permanent home for the Summer Olympics - take out a 99yr lease on a goodly sized piece of Haiti. Hello, foreign currency.
posted by codswallop at 1:08 AM on January 21, 2010


This is one eye-opening thread. I've always been indifferent about the Olympics, but man. Thanks, Canadians.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:58 AM on January 21, 2010


jokeefe: Oh look: No snow at Olympic site leaves VANOC scrambling. I feel a childish and rather pouty Nelson-level Ha Ha coming on.

When I first heard that Vancouver was applying to host the Winter Olympics, I laughed my ass off. I can count on one hand the number of times that it snowed there (and that the snow stayed) during my childhood.

Now I live somewhere else in the province--somewhere that would actually be a whole lot more suitable for hosting the Winter Olympics. But instead of the Olympics, we're getting the school closures five fresh fish referred to. These most recent eleven will make for a grand total of 25 school closures in this district since the Liberals were elected, the highest of any district in the province. Rising Olympic debt = these horrible, massive cuts to education and healthcare in communities all over the province. It's not all because of the global economic crisis.

It's really, really hard for me to hold my tongue when I'm visiting family and friends in Vancouver who are genuinely excited about the Olympics coming. I have nothing nice to say about this two-week party that is affecting my community's education, healthcare and social services, which were already in fairly dire straits before these latest cuts.

All I can hope is that this is enough to finally get the Liberals unelected. But considering that British Columbians have voted them in three times in a row...I'm not going to hold my breath. Many people in BC seem to enjoy voting against their own best interests.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:41 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting article, I guess we'll have all that and more to look forward to once the Olympic circus hits the UK in 2012.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 4:44 AM on January 21, 2010


When I first heard that Vancouver was applying to host the Winter Olympics, I laughed my ass off. I can count on one hand the number of times that it snowed there (and that the snow stayed) during my childhood.

Let's not be silly here. The events that need snow are in Whistler.
posted by smackfu at 6:31 AM on January 21, 2010


Atlantan here. I think we're still digging out from 1996. All the Olympics did for us was drive housing prices up artificially and initiate a work-from-home culture, due to massive initiatives to keep locals off the roads and mass-transit during the games.

The games were a total joke as far as bringing money into our economy. We were all so petrified of trying to go anywhere that we all stayed home. Thus restaurants and shops reported lower than average earnings during the games.

I'm not even going to get into what poor Richard Jewel went through after Eric Rudolph bombed the joint.

As for being an amatuer sporting event, I'm still laughing about that one.

It's a horrific joke perpetrated on the nations of the world. It sucks the life out of the host country and for some reason, places still clambor for the honor of hosting this boondoggle.

As for me, I'll be doing pretty much ANYTHING other than watching this travesty in February.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:56 AM on January 21, 2010


Then...Chicago was lucky to not make the cut, yes?
posted by kittyprecious at 7:18 AM on January 21, 2010


Then...Chicago was lucky to not make the cut, yes?

Man... Obama really does play 11 dimensional chess, doesn't he?
posted by fatbird at 8:34 AM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was in Greece after the 2005 Athens summer games, which were pretty spectacular, and could not find a single solitary person in the entire country who had anything nice to say about the experience.

Having more people on the streets was fun, but the bill for the huge, nowadays unused new stadiums wasn't worth it. There was no plan for the tourism sector (compare to Barcelona) and the same year we elected a government that couldn't be bothered to look outside the borders unless forced to, and that was the end of a highly-paid, short burst of squandered publicity.

Besides the screaming discrepancy between the "Olympic ideals" and reality, of course.
posted by ersatz at 8:40 AM on January 21, 2010


Let's not be silly here. The events that need snow are in Whistler

The events that need snow are in Whistler (alpine, nordic, sledding) and on Cypress Mountain (moguls, freestyle, snowboarding, etc). Whistler is a 2 hour drive north of Vancouver and gets lots of snow, being at a fairly high elevation (the base is 2000 ft). Cypress is on the north shore looming right over Vancouver; the base is at sea level. Like all of the north shore mountains it usually gets snow at higher elevations when Vancouver gets rain. This year, less so, hence the plan to truck in snow from high elevations.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:37 AM on January 21, 2010


I added a video RSS to my Miro a while back from subMedia, and have been a tad amused to learn that the anarchists, anti-corporatists, and other such groups are going to be descending on Vancouver en masse to protest and combat the presence of the Olympics and the ways it has trespassed on the environment and indigenous peoples in the area.

Before I started watching that particular channel, I had never given much thought to exactly what these games imply. I've certainly rethought a lot of things, although I'm not against them really. I just don't like how they've been executed in the past few decades.

Still! Curling on US television! I can't wait!!!
posted by hippybear at 9:55 AM on January 21, 2010


Still! Curling on US television! I can't wait!!!

I do love curling. I'm torn. I usually boycott the Olympics, but I might make an exception. Should have tried out for the team...D'oh!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:14 AM on January 21, 2010


Let's not be silly here. The events that need snow are in Whistler.

To clarify: what struck me as funny when I first heard the announcement was the idea of the least wintry city in Canada (Vancouver) putting in the bid for the Winter Olympics. I am aware that the snow events will be held at local mountains.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:46 AM on January 21, 2010


Rising Olympic debt = these horrible, massive cuts to education and healthcare in communities all over the province.

What really, hugely pisses me off is that education and healthcare are the very last things that a civilized, forward-thinking society cuts back upon.

You just can not have a robust modern economy if you do not have well-educated, healthy citizens.

The very wealthy aren't impacted in the least by these cutbacks, so it must be meant to harm the underclass. The only conclusion I can draw is that The Powers That Be actively desire an ignorant, uninformed population that they can put toward Chinese-style quasi-slavery.

The future is pretty fucking grim for those who did not make out like bandits this past couple of decades. If you don't have a few million in the bank, your descendants are just grist for the mill.

Grar.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Echoing Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, this thread is a bracing blast of icewater in the face. After reading the above, I see the event with fresh eyes, and am sadly unsurprised.

Condolences to our friends in the great not-so-white north; here's hoping you can get through this okay. And fatbird, my special condolences to you for the obnoxious ambient sounds you'll endure (unless granted an 11th hour reprieve, which sounds possible). Good luck!
posted by kinnakeet at 11:23 AM on January 21, 2010


And fatbird, my special condolences to you for the obnoxious ambient sounds you'll endure (unless granted an 11th hour reprieve, which sounds possible)

The concierge yesterday stopped me to tell me that lots of residents have come to him to complain about the noise, and he's been pointing them to my poster on the bulletin board listing the numbers to call to complain about it. Vive la action directe!
posted by fatbird at 11:50 AM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


w00t! Just got a call from City Hall--engineers are right now in the fast-approval process for installing a noise mitigation measure that's supposed to go up this weekend.

Granted, this is only the removal of one small irritation (assuming it works) in a cavalcade of much more serious issues with the Olympics generally, but it will certainly make my home life a lot more bearable over the coming month.
posted by fatbird at 1:36 PM on January 21, 2010


The Olympics just gives everyone a single target for all their minor grievances in life. And once it goes away, you can blame it for problems for years!
posted by smackfu at 1:57 PM on January 21, 2010


Well done, fatbird! Sometimes you have to make noise to prevent noise being made. What you described sounded like aural Hell.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:51 PM on January 21, 2010


I lived in or around Vancouver most of my life and I really frustrated that we "won" the bid to get the Olympics. There are so many better things to spend money on, e.g. social housing, health care, education, public transportation. I'm dismayed at the amount of cash that's being poured into "inviting the world" to Vancouver when there are other important things to address.

The 2010 Olympics are such a joke.

The only thing Vancouver is showing off is its sinister side.

But I'm living in Toronto right now so at least I don't have to see the ridiculousness first hand. Sigh.
posted by radiocontrolled at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Olympic village cost overruns link spam: from June 2008; October 2008; $100 million bailout, October 2008; Bill 47, January 2009; June 2009; October 2009; October 2009-2; Want to buy a condo? ("Millenium Water" site; "Taxpayers could be on hook for $875 million"; "Vancouer releases secret Olympic documents", June 2009.
posted by jokeefe at 9:53 PM on January 23, 2010


And the simultaneous art cuts, which affect the entire province. Stop BC Art Cuts site, including statements from William Gibson and others; related blog.
posted by jokeefe at 10:02 PM on January 23, 2010


"As Olympics near, people in Vancouver are dreading Games"
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:08 AM on January 25, 2010


From the above link:

"I spoke to Charles, a bus driver, whose good cheer diminished when I asked him about the games. "I just can't believe I wanted this a year ago," he said. "I voted for it in the plebiscite. But now, yes. I'm disillusioned." This disillusion is developing as the financial burden of the Games becomes public. The original cost estimate was $660 million in public money. It's now at an admitted $6 billion and steadily climbing. An early economic impact statement was that the games could bring in $10 billion. Price Waterhouse Coopers just released their own study showing that the total economic impact will be more like $1 billion. In addition, the Olympic Village came in $100 million over budget and had to be bailed out by the city.

Security was estimated at $175 million and the final cost will exceed $1 billion. These budget overruns are coinciding with drastic cuts to city services. On my first day in town, the cover of the local paper blared cheery news about the Games on the top flap, while a headline announcing the imminent layoff off 800 teachers was much further down the page."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2010


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