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The 2010 Winter Olympic Tragedy

February 13, 2010

In the past 24 hours the news coverage of the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics In Vancouver, Canada has included the tragic death of one of the athletes. While the death of this athlete is tragic, the greater tragedy is what has happened to the people and the city of Vancouver.

Left sportswriter Dave Zirin has noted in several of his weekly columns in the past year that any city, which has hosted an Olympics in the past 30-years has incurred a massive debt. The 2010 Winter Olympics has been no different, with Vancouver Sun reporting a year ago that an estimated $6 billion dollars had already been spent in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Some estimates put the total between 10-15 billion and still rising.

The incredible cost of these Olympics begs the question – who is paying the bill? According to the 2010 Olympic Watch Committee the city of Vancouver and Canadian taxpayers are picking up the tab. But the monetary costs of the 2010 Olympics are not the only costs.

The group no2010 reports that the construction of roads, ski resorts and other Olympic facilities is causing a tremendous amount of deforestation, soil erosion and providing the British Colombian government greater access to Native land. The Canadian government never signed formal agreements with Native communities in the Northwest part of Canada and now Native people fear that the Olympics provides a cover for more government and corporate intrusion into their traditional lands.

Local News Coverage

As would be expected, the local news coverage of the 2010 Olympics is nothing short of adulation. The Grand Rapids Press front page for February 12 is devoted to the opening of the Winter Olympics with the headline, It’s A Five-Ring Circus. has a 2010 Olympics features section and WOOD TV 8 has major online coverage to add to their broadcast coverage, which is not surprising since NBC is the US network host of the 2010 Olympics.

The only critical murmur about the Olympics in local news was a very brief online posting by Press writer Troy Reimink, which raises the cost of the Olympic games question, but ultimately dismisses this criticism in light of the greatness of the US athletes.

This dismissal is in contrast to the Indy media coverage of the opening ceremonies, which included 2,000 protestors being confronted by police. Democracy Now! also reported the protests and a people’s summit that took place in contrast to the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremony.

The no2010 committee put out this excellent video that provides some historical context to Olympic resistance and what people have been doing in preparation of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Wheeler permalink
    February 13, 2010 5:49 pm

    I was surprised, even shocked, to see that four Indian bands were featured prominently in the opening ceremonies as the official “welcomers” to the Olympics. To me, this implied a kind of acceptance and inclusion that was hypocritical on a number of levels.

    Also, by stating in the narration that these were “the four First Nations,” it suggested that the four most important Nations as a whole agreed to participate in the ceremony. In fact, it was four individual bands–and they could only find four to agree to perform.

    Even an enthusiastic review from the Vancouver Sun admitted of the ceremony, “It celebrated four First Nations bands that chose to participate in the event and the First Nations culture in general, putting it up front and central in the production as if to suggest a level of visibility in the mainstream culture that is what Canada hopes for, rather than what Canada is.”

    Meanwhile, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, issued a statement saying that the government is using events like the opening ceremony to mask “appalling and disgraceful levels of poverty” suffered by Canada’s indigenous people–in direct contrast with the lavish amount of money being spent on the Games.

    Employing the Olympics as a means to gain control over native lands seems to be just one of several problem that indigenous people are having with this event.

  2. Kate Wheeler permalink
    February 14, 2010 1:58 pm

    As a postscript–I wanted to post the link where I saw the Indian parts of the ceremony, but I can’t. I watched the First Tribes segment in a clip on YouTube. There were a number of opening ceremony clips posted on Saturday morning–I also saw another one that featured giant totem poles. But by Saturday afternoon, they were all pulled off by NBC.

  3. Kate Wheeler permalink
    February 14, 2010 2:19 pm

    Found a clip of it on the NBC site, for anyone who’s interested:

    Listen carefully to the narration–first it makes it sound like the bands have the authority to speak for their entire nation, and then the narrator offers a welcome on behalf of all the Indian nations of Canada.

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