Gord Hill: Why protest Vancouver's 2010 Olympics?

By Gord Hill

There are many reasons to protest the Olympic Games. It is a multi-billion dollar industry run by an elite clique who sell the five rings to the highest bidder, using sports as a commodity and a platform for corporate advertising. Their main goal is profit, in collaboration with their partners: government, local organizing committees, and corporations (construction, real estate, tourism, TV, and media, as well as sponsors).

The Olympics have a long history of association with fascists, colonialists, and authoritarian regimes (i.e., the 1936 Hitler Olympics, the 1968 Mexico City Olympic massacre, and the 2008 Beijing Summer Games). Since the 1980s, they have displaced over three million people and contributed to massive increases in homelessness (as we’ve seen in Vancouver).

Due to massive construction projects associated with the Olympics, from venues to infrastructure, there is both widespread environmental destruction, as well as huge public debts. As part of security operations, police, military, and intelligence agencies receive millions of dollars for new personnel, equipment, weapons, et cetera—strengthening the creeping police states we see around the world (and south of the border) and further eroding our alleged “freedoms” and civil liberties.

Some naysayers ask: Why protest since protests don’t change anything, and the Games are gonna happen anyway? Their question is based on the apparent futility of protest.

To begin with, protests are but one tactic used by social movements. They help raise awareness and mobilize people. The U.S. black civil-rights movement started out as small protests and grew into a mass campaign of civil disobedience. This forced the government to enact reforms and to desegregate the South. Protests weren’t the only activities carried out by the civil-rights movement. They also organized forums, held workshops on legal rights, registered black voters, printed newsletters, et cetera.

Protests and civil disobedience were what made change both possible and necessary, because not only did they draw international attention to racism in the U.S., they also made it impossible for the apartheid system in the South to go on as it had before. By the 1970s and ’80s there were black mayors, chiefs of police, et cetera. Today, there is a black president.

People who say protests don’t change anything don’t know history. And those who say the Olympics can’t be fought don’t even know their own local history.

Over the last three years, the anti-Olympic movement has forced Vanoc off the streets, to the point where it no longer holds large, public ceremonies (as it did in 2007). Anytime the organizing committee does have events, it requires a large policing operation to secure it. This is because we have successfully used direct action to disrupt Olympic events.

The effectiveness of direct action and protest can be seen in the struggle for social housing in Vancouver. This campaign increased in 2006 when the growing ranks of homeless began to become a major political issue, linked to Olympic-related construction, gentrification, and tourism.

By the fall of 2006, housing and anti-poverty groups were having large, noisy protests and began occupying empty hotels. Over two dozen people were arrested, many of them members of the Anti-Poverty Committee. These actions raised the profile of homelessness and dislocation.

Since 2007, various levels of government, along with Vanoc, have had to respond with measures to limit the loss of low-income housing units, and to appear as though they are addressing the issue. By 2008, the homelessness crisis, along with the Olympic Village fiasco, determined the outcome of the Vancouver civic election.

Homelessness became a public issue because people organized, educated, and agitated for change. Without the political pressure exerted by the protest groups, without community resistance, the situation for the poor and the homeless would be far worse than it is today.

Why protest 2010? Because as history shows us, the limits of tyrants are set by those whom they attempt to tyrannize.

Gord Hill is a member of the Olympic Resistance Network and maintains No2010.com. He is also an artist and carver. On February 12, 2007, he was arrested after storming the stage at the unveiling of the Olympic countdown clock.

See also:
David Eby: Looking forward to civil liberties threats during the 2010 Olympics
Laura Track: Downtown Eastside residents lose out in the 2010 Olympics
Maureen Bader: Olympic security budget will create a big brother legacy

Comments

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113 Comments

Foresight

Mar 19, 2009 at 10:38am

There goes Canada as We knew it. We let the corporations finance our politicians and buy our votes, We get nothing in return. Remember when We had music, arts, sports and other programs in our elementry schools? Has our 'finance minister' forgotten everything he learned in business/accouting classes? Does he run his personal finances the way he ruins B.C. finances? When was the last time We had a "politician working for the People"? Sold-out in the best interests of the corporations. So don't feel bad if some American takes your job. You can always move !

H. Harpold

Aug 25, 2009 at 3:14pm

When the world comes to see, why not show them where Gordon Campbell shits. Right into the ocean, no treatment at all. Ya lets show the world.

Concern Citizen

Oct 22, 2009 at 8:46am

"Homes not Games"? Perhaps if you put down the bottle and spent more time on your resume as opposed to freeloading downtown Vancouver, the Olympics wouldn't be such an issue for you.

The Blackbird

Oct 23, 2009 at 8:52pm

Yeah, Gord! Good on you and on the Straight for publishing this piece. Protest marches and other demonstrations and excellent work by some local nonprofits have shown that change can occur by drawing attention to issues the powers that be didn't appear interested in dealing with at the time.

I was drawn into the situtation a year after things started, during the civic workers' strike in the summer and fall '07, but a lot has happened over the past two years and I've documented it for you. I hope the Straight's web editor won't mind my offering a link from The Tyee. It offers evidence that Gord's statements about the effectiveness of protests are bang on.

http://thetyee.ca/News/2009/10/16/RenovictionCity2/index.html

Glad your voice is being heard by a wider audience and good to learn last week that while you wouldn't sabotage electrical power lines yourself, you wouldn't condemn the action either.

Meet your trickster, ISU.

Mark Bradley

Dec 18, 2009 at 5:19am

You people need to get a life. Nothing better to do than bitch and complain about everything and anything.

SB

Dec 22, 2009 at 5:13pm

protest topless, legal for all.
Gordo took the shirt off my back

Anise

Dec 29, 2009 at 12:35am

Mark,
I think complaining about these things is warranted. Complaining about a bad movie, bad traffic, the guy in front of you in the grocery store line or any other numerous bull complaints I hear in the popular discourse on a daily basis are a waste of time.

I stand up for what I believe in in three ways: my vote, my voice and my feet marching on the pavement. I will exercise these until the end of time, ESPECIALLY to maintain yours and my right to do it.

chet koone

Jan 15, 2010 at 10:51pm

we are all official sponsors of the olympics. at 6 billion and counting, that's $2000 each between 3 million people in bc

grain

Jan 19, 2010 at 6:28pm

"my city held the olympics and they didn't even get me this crappy t-shirt"

Mike O'Leary

Jan 22, 2010 at 9:25am

The bottom line is these people will protest anything, just to be heard.
Half of them do not know why they protest.
The other half don't have jobs.
But it is amusing to watch