There’s a lot of anti-olympic sentiment floating around these days. No2010 seems to be a pretty popular tag on twitter, and the website itself seems to get a fair amount of traffic (you’ll have to google it – they’re getting no traffic from me). I’m definitely pro-olympics, and also pro-canadian olympics, so I thought I’d try to educate myself on why people are actually against Canada acting as a host nation for the Olympics. To summarize from No2010: Why we resist (again, google it please, I’m not linking to them) here are the main arguments, with my thoughts on each.
The Olympics are racist and fascist. I think there is a misunderstanding here. The Olympics aren’t racist or fascist, but the places that they occur can be. It’s unfortunate and true that these things happen in the world. However – when the Olympics were happening in Beijing, there was a lot of coverage about the Human Rights situation there. People protested sending the (then but apparently not now) economically beneficial Olympics to a country with so many Human Rights violations, but a lot of people learned an awful lot about the general state of China from those Olympics.
The Government doesn’t own British Columbia. I can’t even address this point without seeming callous, but here it is: Canada was colonized. It happened hundreds of years ago.
These Olympics are causing Ecological problems. This is the most valid point on the list. I almost think it should be the only point on the list. It is the thing which certainly gives me the most pause in my support for the Olympics – I lovingly recall the drive to Whistler, and I understand that it has changed drastically.
Homelessness goes up / Criminalization of the Poor. The huge economic downturn that lasted until approximately January 20, 2009 probably accounts for increased homelessness. All I’ll say otherwise is that drug rehabilitation is a solution to this problem; more housing isn’t.
Disappearing Poor Women /Increased Police activity. It is a tough question: increased security or less police? While I agree that the extra security sucks (I would pick less police) it’s almost a necessity because of large scale protest groups whose protests can be violent. That said, this is the second item on the list that I feel is a valid argument; when is giving up freedoms acceptable?
Sheer cost! $6,000,000,000! Wow, that’s a ton of money. I think the real cost is actually closer to $2 billion though. The other $4 billion went directly to things that improved the infrastructure of the city of Vancouver, independent of the Olympics. While it is true that they were necessary for the successful bid for the games, that $4 billion should have been spent either way. $2 billion is still a ton of money. I guess the economic question is whether it is worth $2 billion to host the world.
Olympic Corruption robs the Olympics of its meaning. If you have to point out that this is an issue, then it is not an issue. The majority of people love the Olympics, and forget the bumps along the way.
Corporate Investment (is bad). I am not hugely in favour of corporations. I’m actually moderately socialist. But the money that we spend on things has to have an origin. Corporate Investment leads to economic tie-ins, which leads to “dramatic, record-breaking increases in these industries”. Of course, there is an environmental impact, but that’s already been addressed in another point. Yes, some of the companies that sponsor the olympics do other things that aren’t good, but does that mean we shouldn’t take their money? If taking their money means that they will in turn make money from the olympics, doesn’t that begin to negate the point about spending money?
A final note on No2010; the first item up right now as I’m writing is an article on vandalism in Guelph, in solidarity with people against the olympics. When people protest they should understand that there are things that support your point of view, and there are things that make you look crazy and undermine what you are doing; sabotaging a bank in Guelph is not going to attract people to your cause, but will make people angry at what you are protesting. Most of the time, passive, non-destructive protests will win out over more aggressive forms of protest. If you feel that you need to be more active and more destructive (which I do not condone or suggest) you have to do so in such a way that people will remain sympathetic to your cause instead of hoping that you’re all arrested for making their lives harder. (further examination of the front page of No2010 shows many violent protests that have been staged. The place is full of crazy)
Like I said, I support the Olympics. It costs money to host them, but it is money that is making the entire world a better place. The spirit of clean competition still exists, and it’s an amazing opportunity for all the athletes to improve themselves. It’s the best way to get grass roots support for sports, in almost every country that participates. Support for sport is important! Sports are never going to end world hunger, or cure diseases, but that doesn’t mean they have no utility in our world. How we live and how we play are important – it’s things like sports, art and music that are the reasons that we live. Without these things – what I think of as the better parts of life – we aren’t living; we’re existing. On top of that, how we learn to play has an influence on how we learn – if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being married to a speech pathologist, it’s that learning is something that we do all the time, and learning within the contexts of sports and games is important for development. Laying down the groundwork for amateur sports in a third world country won’t feed the people, but it gives them opportunities that they otherwise would not have.
If the Olympics had not happened in Canada this year, they would have happened elsewhere – they are an inevitability. The fact that they happened in Canada means that we had control over most aspects of how the development happened. I believe that Canada is the best nation in the world – as a subsection of that belief, I think that we probably did less environmental damage during our hosting of the games than just about any other country would have, given the same situation. Other countries would have reaped the benefits of corporate sponsorship, and that corporate sponsorship could have been far more environmentally damaging.
Overall, I think that the No2010 campaign is a specious, short sighted, and selfish. Many of the arguments don’t make sense. Many of the ones that do make sense aren’t realistic. And the whole idea of spending money more wisely on Canadian programmes shows a lack of interest in the world.