July 02, 2013

Trail of Tears Olympic torch relay?

Tulsa Is Using The Trail Of Tears To Market Its Bid For The 2024 Olympics

By Travis WaldronThe city of Tulsa, Oklahoma is preparing to bid on the 2024 Summer Olympic games, according to a report from the New York Times. Should the city actually submit a bid, it would be a wild longshot: as the Times explains, the Olympic workforce amounts to half of the city’s population, the city has a third of the hotel rooms required by the International Olympic Committee, and the estimated cost is equivalent to half of Oklahoma’s state budget. Plus, using the Olympics to market a city, as organizers hope to do, isn’t usually a good economic idea.

But the most absurd part of Tulsa’s Olympic bid amazingly isn’t the bid itself—it’s that organizers apparently think incorporating the Trail of Tears on the Olympic torch route as a “nod to the state’s American Indian history” is a good idea:In a nod to the state’s American Indian history, the Olympic torch would be led along the solemn Trail of Tears, not far from where field hockey would be played in Tahlequah.A little history for Tulsa’s organizers: the Trail of Tears is the result of one of the most pernicious laws in American history—the Indian Removal Act of 1830—and it is a marker of policies that nearly eradicated an entire indigenous population of people. The death toll on the trail ranges from the government’s record of 400 to others that estimate more than 4,000 died on the march. It doesn’t merit a “nod” from Olympic organizers, especially not when mega sporting events like the Olympics have a tendency to displace poor and indigenous populations to make room for facilities or to shield them from media and tourist attention. What it merits is education and awareness about the fact that large segments of the Native population are still struggling with the after-effects of government policies slanted against them, even more than a century and a half after they walked that trail.
As usual, there was more to the story:

Tulsa Disavows Olympics Bid Using Trail of Tears as Sales Pitch"We are not actively seeking an Olympic bid," Tulsa Sports Commission Senior Vice President Roy Hoyt said at a press conference yesterday. "Or supporting it."

The press conference, called by Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Hoyt, was set up to make it clear that a 2024 Summer Olympic Games bid was not an official city effort, at least not anymore.

The original idea for the bid came from Neil Mavis, who moved to Tulsa from Atlanta in 1997. Mavis was living in Atlanta when that city successfully bid to host the 1996 Summer Games, and that effort was his inspiration for trying to bring the massive sporting event to Tulsa. According to the Tulsa World, "Mavis made a pitch to the City Council in August 2009, when the Olympic Exploratory Committee included then-Councilor John Eagleton.

"In April 2011, the mayor and all nine councilors signed letters asking the U.S. Olympic Committee to invite Tulsa to make a bid.

"More recently, this May, Bartlett signed a letter designating Mavis as the mayor's official representative to the U.S. Olympic Committee 'to advance the city of Tulsa's interest in bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics.' Mavis even got to use city of Tulsa business cards."

Although Bartlett and Hoyt emphasized that the logistics and cost of staging the Games would likely be beyond anything Tulsa could reasonably do (it's estimated the Olympics would cost $5 billion, more than half the state of Oklahoma's annual budget), uproar in Indian country over Mavis's Tulsa2024 website's outrageous use of the Trail of Tears atrocity as a sales pitch must have been a factor in their decision to call this press conference to distance the city from the effort--at least it's hoped so.

Tulsa2024.com states: "Over half of the States in the USA are of Native American origin. The Olympic Torch would travel though these Native American named states and follow one, or more of the many Trail of Tears to Indian Territory, and end in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, headquarters of the Cherokee Nation. The Olympic Torch would then travel from Tahlequah, OK to Tulsa to the start of the 2024 Games."
More on why this would be a bad idea:

Tulsa's Olympics Bid Involves Shitty Trail of Tears Gimmick

By Meagan Hatcher-MaysOrganizers have proposed that the Olympic torch be carried down the “Trail of Tears” to honor the state’s Native American history. What an honor! Nothing reflects the Olympic spirit quite like that time the federal government forced thousands of Native American to walk from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern United States all the way to Oklahoma. I personally can’t think of a better tribute to the thousands of Indians who died during removal than to line the Trail of Tears with throngs of jubilant white people, cheering on some random local carrying a torch sponsored by Coca-Cola.

I’m just spitballin’ ideas here, but you know what might be a better way to honor the Native Americans of Oklahoma? How about addressing the fact that almost 30% of them in Oklahoma live below the poverty line? What about dealing with the health issues faced by the Native American population in your state? Native Americans suffer from higher rates of depression, PTSD, high blood pressure and diabetes. I know that organizing a parade celebrating an open flame at the end of stick probably sounds like a lot more fun than devoting effort to any of these problems, but maybe investing resources in some of your most vulnerable citizens might be a better way to go.
Comment:  For more misuses of the Trail of Tears, see Trail of Tears Basketball Tweet, Trail of Tears Fireworks, and "Mail of Tears."

No comments: