February 27, 2010

Will Olympics make things better?

Olympic legacy leaves First Nations confident, but some worry of social costs

By Terri TheodoreVancouver organizers have committed to more than a dozen programs they promise will leave a lasting social, environmental or economic legacy in Vancouver.

"We've taken it as one of our goals and one of our responsibilities, frankly, in staging the Games to make sure that we were always considering what we could do to help those who are less advantaged here in the city," Renee Smith-Valade, chief spokeswoman for the committee, known as VANOC, has said.

"So we put together a comprehensive plan under our sustainability program that looked at not only our sustainability from the platforms that perhaps more people are used to, environmental and cultural, but also social sustainability."

Everything from homelessness to the environment is on the Olympic agenda for these Games—sometimes providing a lightning rod for critics who say Olympic organizers have failed to meet those goals or have even made things worse.
And:Harsha Walia, an human rights and homeless advocate, believes the legacy of Vancouver's Olympics will be benefits for a few and a lot of misery and suffering for the majority.

"You know the IOC will be gone, VANOC will be disbanded, but all of us will be left with a massive debt, a security legacy and increased police presence and more people still on the street."

John Rennie Short, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has followed the legacies of several Olympic Games.

Short said it's hard to say if the Games will be good or bad for the city because cost-benefit studies are "in the realm of fiction" and have only been done by people who want to promote the Games.
Comment:  It may be a mistake to expect Olympics-related social programs to make a big difference. I'd think in broader terms if I were a British Columbian Native. You've raised awareness of your history, culture, and art through the Olympics. Now build on that. Use this Olympics awareness to ask for more of everything.

And not just more money. More places at national and international negotiations. More discussion of how climate change affects you. More educational curricula and entertainment programming about you. Etc.

These things, in turn, will lead to more tangible benefits. Because businesses and government agencies are more aware of you, they'll include you in their thinking and planning. That will generate more jobs, schools, and health-care clinics.

Blacks provide an example

For a related example, consider the Civil Rights movement. Blacks didn't march to integrate particular drinking fountains and diner counters one by one. They marched to raise the public's awareness of their inferior status--of the laws and traditions making them second-class citizens.

That's why people like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Rosa Parks were so important: for their symbolic value. They proved that blacks could demand and do as much as whites. They caused whites to see them in a new light.

Once blacks raised awareness of their plight, people started challenging the laws and traditions. Eventually the drinking fountains or diner counters--and a million other things, too--became integrated. So blacks succeeded by tackling America's cultural mindset first. Once that started shifting, it rippled through society as a myriad of small changes.

For more on the subject, see Natives Are Winners at 2010 Olympics and Native Buzz at 2010 Olympics.

1 comment:

Lynette said...

I remember Cheryl L'Hirondelle discussing the issue of the Vancouver Olympics and potential homelessness at "The Dreaming" last year. Because of the Sydney Olympics rental prices went up across the city and large number of Kooris had to leave Eora lands for the first time and migrated to south east qld and elsewhere causing a major Indigenous population shift. Apparently the Atlanta Olympics and Barcelona before that also caused a major shift in populations of squatters and homeless people. Vancouver being the main residence of the homeless in Canada during the winter months - the possibility of this is of extreme concern. I would be very interested to know if this pattern is playing out any better in Van!