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They’ve been 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."
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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.
With massive 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.
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Despite corporate 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.
February 10, 2010