Tag Archives: Olympics

Taking in the Olympics

Sara and I went to see Vancouver under the heady influence of the Winter Olympic Games. Unfortunately, it seems like everyone else had the same idea. Then again, in North America we have funny ideas about what “crowded” is. If this was Tokyo, this would pretty much be your average Saturday. A lot of the gridlocks had more to do with people not used to behaving in a crowd situation. I think we also could have benefited from the Japanese fervor for signage, too. The volunteers were fantastic at moving everyone along. If it weren’t for their upbeat attitudes,there is no way that the city could pull off something like this. Would I say that the games were worth it? If Vancouver can handle crowds like these, surely smaller events will be easier to organize in the future. So if this means there’s more stuff to do in Vancouver, then yes, the games were worth it. Click on the cut to see more pictures.

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Olympic Torch Run

When I look at this photo, I don’t see an orgy of corporate branding. I don’t see a carbon footprint. I don’t see the gap between rich and poor widening. I see my friend Dan realizing his dream of carrying the Olympic Torch, a symbol of international competition and camaraderie.

This is not merely a burning piece of wood. Seeing the relay go past the homes, schools, and grocery stores we grew up with is something that can’t be quantified by poverty statistics or government debt clocks. Sure, our country has problems, but they’ll still be there with or without the games. We may even be in a better position to solve them with all the revenue coming into the country.  Until then, the stadiums are up, the athletes are in town, and the snow is being trucked in from Manning Park. Let’s enjoy the show.

No2010 and the Death of the Left

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan

-John Lennon

Last week the Olympic Flame was diverted from its intended path in front of the BC Legislature by protesters. The downtrodden and disenfranchised of this province rose together in glorious revolution to disrupt an integral cog in the all-consuming Olympic machine – the photo op.

Every time I see the No2010 protesters on the news, I am filled with armrest-ripping rage when I see their flakey, malnourished leaders make  a speech on the evils of capitalism. Is it because I’m just shy of my 30th birthday? Is it because my factory farm fed existence is being threatened? Have I sold out to the corporate machine, put on a blazer and started selling real estate?

Not exactly. Well, at least I’m not selling real estate. I’ve been following protests like these in the news since the so-called “Battle of Seattle” at the meeting of the G8 countries in 1999. In that time, wars have broken out, oil prices have skyrocketed, the cost of computer storage has plummeted, and every year these protests seem to be less about affecting actual  change and more about making noise and ruining things.

The Olympics are a particular sore spot for me because it is only tangentially related to the problems the protesters are trying to address.  Are any of the torch runners greedy land developers? Did any of the snowboarders widen the sea to sky? Should the Olympic flame be blown out as Terry Fox’s mother might carry it to the podium? Most of the people involved with the Olympics are simply trying to achieve their hopes and dreams. Disrupting that proves nothing. If the protesters are complaining that society sees them and the poor as human garbage, they do themselves no favors by acting the part.

You might say that making an out-dated and kyriarchal sporting event slight less enjoyable is a small price to pay in the never-ending class war between the rich and the poor. Over time these efforts will result in the anarchist paradise that supposedly we’re all hoping for. But let me ask you this.  Is there any mention on the No2010 website of actually talking to government officials? Will they be sending any bills to Parliament? The Legislature? City Council? Strata Council? Are they knocking on any doors? Raising campaign funds? I must admit I haven’t been looking all that hard. There’s only so much rhetoric I can take at one time. I did find a lovely Riot 2010? Riot Now! pamphlet, though.

Even if No2010 achieved its goal of stopping the Olympics, then what would happen? There never seems to be any plan with these movements, be it No2010, the Green Party, the Marijuana Party, or even the current NDP. I think that there is such deep-seated hatred of authority in these organizations that any kind of leadership or coordination is immediately shouted down. Meanwhile, the BC Liberals will probably be in power for the next 100 years. You can be sure they will pass any dumb idea that the Fraser Institute can cough up. It’s not because the Liberals are necessarily on the take. By the time the Fraser Insitute presents an idea for a bill, they’ve got all sorts of studies and petitions that make the legislature’s job much easier. The only people who even pay attention to protesters are running paranoid military juntas. Canada is nothing of the sort, so we’d do best to start acting like it.

Olympics

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So the other day Sara and I were watching the encore presentation Olympic Opening ceremonies. As for the ceremonies themselves, they were fantastic. With over 15,000 performers, complex lighting effects and wire-fu to put the best action movies to shame, I doubt any country is going to top this kind of spectacle for long, long time.

The encore presentation on the CBC happened at about 3:00pm, but we were intrigued to find out how NBC handled their coverage. Rumor had it that ratings in the States depended on the victory of their athletes, and events that Americans did poorly in were simply ignored. We wondered how this way of thinking would carry over the coverage of the opening ceremonies and the parade of nations.

At first things were pretty similar to the Canadian coverage, although there was more explanation of the performance in the commentary. It took away some of the fun of interpreting the meaning of the performances, but it was interesting to hear some of the facts about what went into creating them. For example, the ceremonies involved creating images the coordinated movement of thousands of the performers. Amazingly, no markers were used to keep them in place as they created the fantastic designs on the stadium floor. However, as the parade of nations started, things started to get a little weird.

On the CBC, as the parade of nations went by, we heard the stories of the flag bearers, the athletes and how they got to be where they are. Stories such as how one of Japan’s equestrian athletes had been competing since the 1960s, or how the US flagbearer was a refugee from the Sudan.

Later on NBC, the first thing they mentioned about Canada was how we liked to pay people to compete for us and how we never won a medal during the Montreal or Calgary Olympics. Sara and I looked at each other and said: “Did Canada just get dissed?”

It turns out we weren’t alone in being talked about this way. For every nation that came around the track it was how many medals this country won, or how much they didn’t win, or how they’ve yet to win a medal. It wasn’t really offensive I guess, but it really shows off the priorities of the American coverage.

If the Olympics are a grand international society party, I guess the television coverage of these shows would be the impolite whispers spoken in hushed tones around the punch bowl. If only we could translate and consolidate all of the myriad interpretations of this event. We’d get some serious gossip and if we’re lucky spark a diplomatic incident.

On a related note, I hope Tokyo gets the bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Just think of the events that can be inspired by Japanese game shows. Who would take the gold in an Olympic level competition of “Squishy-Squishy”?

The Tibet Problem

I only used to deal with Free Tibet every time there was a club day at my University. I regarded it with the same curious sidelong glance that I would give “Free Mumia”, “End Circumcision” or any other pet issue that required more charity than sense. Now that Beijing has decided to enter the first world and host an Olympic games, the Free Tibet issue has now plopped into everyone’s cornflakes and everyone seems to have their own opinion on it. You have the Free Tibet movement that wants everyone to boycott the games, the Chinese government and many immigrants who say nothing is going on in Tibet, the Tibetans themselves who are peacefully protesting and getting truncheoned for their trouble, the athletes who just want to participate, and everyone else in between. I guess it’s time for me to weigh in.

First off, no one has anything to gain by boycotting the Olympics. Not the Chinese, not the Athletes and most certainly not the protesters. Free Tibet tried to block Beijing’s bid to the games, but the move seems silly in retrospect. By taking a fire extinguisher to the Olympic Torch Free Tibet has gone from annoying buzzing sound to the elephant in the room. They couldn’t have garnered more international attention if they tried. Once the games are on, there’s a good chance they can actually be heard within China itself, whether it’s through smuggling propaganda or calling on a few athletes to make their voice heard.

And as for China, I have no sympathy. They want to have open trade and relations with the free world, yet the government believes it can pull all this Soviet-era crap on its own people. They cannot have it both ways. Their actions in Tibet may make sense to them. It may have been an authoritarian Theocracy before they took over. Foreign powers may have used dissident provinces of China against the nation at large in the past. But if they truly want to join the first world, they’re going to have to learn that the last thing you want to do to malcontents is make martyrs out of them and then lie about it to a media-savvy world.

I believe that the games are a wonderful venue for the world to come together in a spirit of friendship and competition. I also believe that engagement can do much more than trade embargoes and boycotts ever could. However, there is no place for secret police and national firewalls in an increasingly democratic world. When one country engages in such practices, it affects everyone. Companies and individuals are made to kowtow to a dictatorship that they never voted for. Sure, China’s a different culture, but at the end of the day we have to accept that some things work and some things do not work. China’s response to Tibet is not working.