dubbed everything from the Surveillance Games to the Bailout Games
to Olympics Inc., and British historian George Monbiot has aptly
characterized the Olympics as "a legacy of a transfer of wealth
from the poor to the rich … Everywhere they go, they become an
excuse for eviction and displacement; they have become a license
for land grabs."
It is trite
to comment on how taxpayers are the real sponsors of the $6 billion–$7
billion Winter Games. According to Kevin Walmsley of the University
of Western Ontario’s International Centre for Olympic Studies, most
host cities incur a high debt. Corporate sponsors, on the other
hand, use sports as a commodity for their merchandising and are
provided with exclusive deals under the ruling ideology of market
fundamentalism. For companies like Petro-Canada and the Royal Bank
of Canada, complicit in the world’s largest industrial project and
environmental disaster that is the Alberta oilsands, sponsoring
the Olympics provides the much-needed platform for corporate greenwashing.
cost over-runs and Olympic project bailouts, it is not surprising
that a November 2009 Angus Reid poll found that more than 30 percent
of B.C. residents feel the Olympics will have a negative impact
and almost 40 percent support protesters. A January 2010 EKOS poll
found that almost 70 percent believe that too much is being spent
on the Games.
sanitized billboards full of smiling people adorned in red, international
media have picked up on this rapidly creeping sense of dread. A
commentator for the Manchester Guardian declared that "Vancouver
looks more like postwar Berlin than an Olympic wonderland,"
while Sports Illustrated writer Dave Zirin quips: "When I arrived
in Vancouver, the first thing I noticed was the frowns."
Much like the
failed financial commitments, the IOC and Vanoc have failed on their
token social promises, which included protecting rental housing
and ensuring that people are not made homeless. The reality is that
Vancouver has experienced a 300-percent increase in homelessness
since the Olympic bid, while approximately 1,600 new market housing
and condominium units are being built around the Downtown Eastside.