Jane Sterk: The inconvenient legacy of Vancouver's 2010 Olympics

By Jane Sterk

When the Olympic flame arrived in Victoria, continuing attempts to stop the Games seemed almost silly.

A hundred or so held a rally, while thousands lined the streets to cheer.

The party has started. The billions are spent, the bulldozers done, the contracts long ago signed, the legislation passed, and the security forces are “standing by”. The what ifs are now for the history books or post-Games analyses calculating the real toll for our monthlong winter party.

They’re here—and the days of stopping them are gone. I accept that there comes a time when one knows that an event tainted by protest, or not, will proceed.

The Green Party of B.C. has opposed the Vancouver Winter Olympics from the start. When the Games were certain, we reminded British Columbians what we were promised to “buy in”—the commitments to social housing and facilities to serve our communities. And don’t forget the failed “Green Games” pitch. It hasn’t been a happy or comfortable role to fill, especially when as B.C.’s third largest party, it’s still difficult being heard.

But our message has been clear. The Vancouver Olympics were built from the ground up on broken promises and budgets. The Games have hindered, not helped, our province, and will continue to do so for years if not decades to come.

Don’t misunderstand me. I commend the many athletes who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of personal excellence, who represent their families, their communities, and their nations. Our party is based on health. I applaud the performers and artists who will display their talents to the world. My son will personally benefit—as the choreographer for Courtenay’s torch celebration who’s performing in the opening ceremonies. I know his hard work is matched by everyone involved in participating and planning the Winter Olympics.

However, when I think about the Olympics, I feel a great sense of sadness. Before it is over, it will have cost us a direct $5 to $6 billion. Nothing will compensate for the destruction of Eagleridge Bluffs to widen the road to Whistler. Nothing will make up for the virtual police state that will be imposed for the monthlong Games at an unbelievable cost of almost $1 billion. Freedom of speech and movement is threatened by legislation. The poor are targeted and the reality of poverty on our streets will be airbrushed from view.

Mostly, I am shocked at our misplaced priorities. We are five weeks away from the Copenhagen conference on climate change, the most important issue of our time. Every global alarm bell is ringing like tinnitus in our ears, and yet we as a province, as a nation, as a globe do little or nothing as the clock winds down.

A TD Financial report estimating the costs of meeting the government of Canada’s modest greenhouse gas reduction goals was issued just as the Olympic torch arrived. The story made the front page for a day, was buried well back the next, and gone from discussion by the third. Meanwhile, the torch continues its colour-page trek across B.C. and Canadian headlines day after day.

I don’t think it is a question of how we might have better spent the money. In reality, neither the B.C. Liberal government nor the NDP (who initiated the Olympics bid) would ever think to spend $6 billion on the common good.

I believe the real question is one for ourselves. What do you want to better your life and those around you? What is on your wish list for your family’s future? If it isn’t the Olympics or one-time mega projects, keep that in mind in 2013.

Will there be a legacy, a magical Olympic boost like the B.C. Liberals claim? Of course not. The legacy in the end will be that we spent countless future provincial budgets, our children’s legacy, our salvation from climate inaction, our provincial end to poverty, our development of a model justice system, and a crowning health-care masterpiece on a one-month winter party, a bridge, a highway to a ski hill—and a roof.

I only hope I’m wrong.

Jane Sterk is the leader of the Green Party of B.C.



Steve from Detroit

Nov 3, 2009 at 9:24pm

Many great points in this article, well done. For myself personally, I think the Olympics have become much to commercialized--or more accurately "corporatized". You have to go back to maybe the 1972 Olympics to when it was not so utterly corporate dominated. In the 1980s corporatism really kicked in with "Reaganomics" and Thatcherism. Its been downhill ever since...reaching new lows in the new millenium. We live in a day and age where corporations--not governments--run our lives. An example of this is how virtually every sports stadium everywhere is now named "Safeco Field", or "Rogers Centre"--and age old historic names are tossed into the ash heap of history. The Olympics are no exception to this corporatization. We lose ourselves, our identity, and our democracy as the corporate state takes over everything.

Jeffrey R. Griese

Nov 4, 2009 at 12:33am

Let us be clear, Jane Sterk leads a select coterie of eco-activists at the fringe of B.C. politics who seek to advance policies that would abridge property rights, sequester resources, and place a burdensome green 'Tax-Shift' on to the middle-class—ostensibly, all in the name of social justice.

We should understand also that the intentional Global Green movement must continually employ a rhetoric of fear surrounding the spectre of global-warming in order to convince the voter to support this platform of slow-growth, anti-human policies.

I take particular issue with Mrs. Sterk's assertion that the Olympics will bring about a "virtual police state" in British Columbia. The body of legislation put forward by the BC Liberals is intended to ensure the security of the athletes, spectators, volunteers, and vendors at the various Olympic events.

The $1 billion dollars of security funding is for our protection against those individuals who would seek to shamefully employ the Olympics as a stage to incite an embarrassing, or possibly violent, international incident—the tragedy at Munich haunts us still.

Before Mrs. Sterk rushes to condemn our duly elected government for its responsible legislation, perhaps she should pause to consider the secret police, mass surveillance, and political persecution so familiar to the Eastern-Bloc athletes who competed at the Moscow Summer Olympics in 1980. Incidentally, Canada boycotted Moscow.

So, no matter how one looks at it, Vancouver 2010 is not developing in to the Soviet-style police-state the Green Party tries so desperately to see.


Nov 4, 2009 at 7:24am

These games (that is what they are little games for grown ups) are a joke.

I notice last night on the TV that they are saying there are plenty of vacancies for the games in Whistler.

I also noticed that the Federal Gov had a block of tickets and returned them to the organizers and they will not be using them.

I also note that many people will be staying in Bellingham and points south and if they go to the games will daytrip but interest is low in the States unless they get some gold medals quick.

What a mess

Sorry, not entirely correct

Nov 4, 2009 at 8:46am

While I agree 100% that our Governments need to act now on climate change, I do not fully agree with your other comments that there will be no legacy left after the olympics. I don't know where to start, but much of the money was very well spent on creating two new rapid transit lines which will take cars off the road in the thousands. The sea-to sky hwy also, is much safer now - which will allow less congestion, fewer deaths and less mtce cost -in the long run to taxpayers. The UBC, Richmond, Killarney,Trout lake (in east Van) facilities (to name a few) will in the long run provide recreational opportunities for our citizens and our youth to keep healthy (stay out of hospitals) and off the streets - instead of becomming more "Left Coast -Pot-Head criminals". Upgardes to medical facilities in Whistler, Squamish, West Van, Vancouver and Richmond will be there after the olympics for everyone. Of course the economic spin off over the last 6 years has benefitted all of us by providing jobs, less Unemployment, economic stimulus and some hope for our youth. The list goes on, but I think you get the point. Although we need second sober opinions like yours to offset the "hoop la", I simply do not agree with all your negativety. keep up your good work but please - try to create a bit of realistic balance in your reporting in future. Most semi-informed folks will see right thru your one sided, leftist views - that cater to the alarmist -doomsdayers.

Steve from Detroit

Nov 4, 2009 at 7:50pm

Question for Jeffrey R. Griese (second post from top): Okay, if the Greens are as you say "anti-human", then are folks at the other end of the political spectrum, say GW Bush and Dick Cheney (both hard core capitalist republicans) "pro human"? Is unbridled, unregulated corporate capitalism "pro-human"? No, its not. Mountain top removal, dams that completely kill off entire salmon runs (look at what capitalism has done to the Columbia River--its now, sadly a chain of lakes with a fraction of the salmon it had before the dams)--unbridled, unregulated capitalism only benefits the corporate elites at the top of the pyramid. Look at the massive tent cities in every large city in USA now: that's the end result of your beloved capitalism, which is a modern version of feudalism or wage slavery for most working class people.

Your comments regarding global warming are equally misguided. Remember Hemingway's book "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"? Well, there ain't no more snow on Kilimanjaro, and all the sno-pack that was on the top of this mountain for thousands of years has entirely melted away just a couple of years back. This is but one example among many of global warming of which there is evidence everywhere around us. Massive (the size of Rhode Island) chunks of the Antarctic have been breaking off and melting for the last decade....and now the famed "Northwest Passage" that explorers of yore looked for in vain is now here! Because all the ice melted away. Only an idiot who is a shill for Exxon/Mobil thinktank would have the gall to claim global warming is a hoax at this point. Be that person you? :-D

We should understand also that the intentional Global Green movement must continually employ a rhetoric of fear surrounding the spectre of global-warming in order to convince the voter to support this platform of slow-growth, anti-human policies.


Nov 4, 2009 at 11:12pm

Well Steve as I recall it was your Green Party leader Ralph Nader and you the foolish green voter that got George Bush elected and defeated the greatest Green leader of all time. Result, a devasting and easily preventable attack on New York, a million dead Iraq's, $trillions spent on two useless wars instead of clean and green power, and eight years of the most environmental destructive US government ever.

Sterk here just managed to reelect an environmentally destructive fascist government in BC and nationally more stupefyingly irresponsible green nitwits are planning to reelect theocon Stephen "Tar Sands" Harper a not so closeted global warming denier for the third time.

Had the Green movement not been so successful at stopping new nuclear power over the last 30 years, hundreds of millions of people now sickened and dead from coal plant produced radioactive waste, dust, mercury, and arsenic, all over the world would be alive and healthy. Global warming and peak oil would be unheard of.

Now by driving us right over that as little as ten years civilization ending Climate/Peak oil crisis with your silly "renewable" religion, and your support of Big Coal/Oil's fight against nuclear power, Greenies are bound and determined to kill lots more folks in very big ways.


Steve from Detroit

Nov 5, 2009 at 3:12pm

Dear Seth--thanks for the kind words and letter of support :-D

Nuclear power is a big loser, dude. One Chernobyl is enough. Read up on Chernobyl: 600,000 suffered radiation exposure; 4,000 estimated deaths from cancer due to exposure to the fallout are expected. An entire city is now a radioactive wasteland. Well by golly that sounds like a solution to the world's energy needs (NOT). There is still no known viable solution for what to do with the ever accumulating radioactive waste generated by nuclear reactors. Oh--I forgot to mention Hanford on the Columbia--its leaching vast quantities of radioactive wasted directly into the Columbia River. Don't go fishing there--unless you want cancer, and kids with 3 eyes and 30 fingers and......you get the picture. Hanford is still a Superfund site...and they don't know how to stop the barrels of radioacive waste from leaching into the Columbia River :-(((

You seem a bit lost to blame coal for radioactive waste!? Making things up out of thin air? Or maybe listening to too much Rush Limbaugh :-D

We'll have to agree to disagree my friend. Forums such as this are usually counterproductive; only thinly veiled insults and animosity are exchanged.

My closing comment: The Green Party RAWKS!!!! May the Greens grow and grow and take over the world!!!! :-)

Die Grí¼nen í¼ber Alles!!!!!! Sie sind ganz wundabar :-))))


Nov 5, 2009 at 5:42pm

Bravo Jane! Mega-projects and the Olympics are extremely authoritarian in ideology especially when security is enforced to the extreme and expense that has been predicated. Green policies and values cater to decentralization towards community-based initiatives that are fundamentally more democratic, balanced and fair. Coming from Montreal at a time when nationalistic ideologies merging with an onslaught of infrastructure spending and union disagreements left the city and province much poorer for decades with a crumbling infrastructure and rampant corruption. Jane's right. We need to refocus on quality of life and prioritise our attention to the global issues that will reduce quality living conditions of the future if we do not deal with them and benefit in the process! The Olympics are creating false idol legacies that will not benefit British Columbians in the long run -- unless you're buying a condo at M or in the Vancouver Curling Club, that is.

Gordi Moore

Nov 5, 2009 at 11:41pm

In 1984, mention EXPO '86, and the naysay comments were just as we hear today about the 2010 Olympics. The improvements in the City of Vancouver since Expo are too numerous to mention ... but many of these improvements have reduced reliance on motor vehicle transportation.
I'm an old voter; I'm a member of the Green Party; I do not agree with many of the Party's policies; to sustain the world for my great grandchildren, the future must embody GREEN-ness in every possible, viable way.


Nov 6, 2009 at 2:09pm

Mr Detroit

With a modern reactor,a Chernobyl type accident is as likely as a giant asteroid strike. The civilization ending global warming/peak oil crisis from which only nuclear power has any chance of saving us is getting close to a sure thing.

Actually accredited UN studies show 75 total deaths attributable to Chernobyl. The city is thriving and the accident area is a wildlife park. Remember we had atmospheric nuclear tests right into the seventies. Lotsa Chernobyls there.

10000 people died at Bhopal And there are lots of Bhopal type plants scattered over North America. Where's the renewable faithful on that?

The nuclear waste problem is solved with the IFR and LFTR technologies. Old nuclear waste is fuel for them, their tiny bit of nuclear waste output is no more dangerous than the original uranium and could be stuffed right back down the mineshaft, and their fuel is useless as nuclear weapons material. A completed design for an IFR was finished 15 years ago by Idaho National Laboratories but Bill Clinton mindful of those oil company campaign donations and Greenie influence peddlers shut it down. GenIV reactors have worked for many years in the past before you Greenies with your Big Coal sponsors shut them down, are working now in India and Russia, and several more are under construction.

Coal plants spew a lot more radioactive active waste than nukes and kill and sicken hundreds of millions worldwide with their pollution. We would have hardly any if it wasn't for Big Coal and its greenie supporters.

Your Hanford stuff is minor league activist bullshit. Lots of cancer deaths and three headed fish up in the Tar Sands though. Wouldn't be any Tar Sands production if it wasn't for Greenies and their Big Oil sponsors shutting down the nuke builds.