IOC's false patriotism and disrespect of indigenous peoples
This is the second in a series of four articles on the dominator energy that came to town as the Olympics. The first article explored how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) misled businesses about the potential economic benefits that would come from hosting the Games. Bullying, coercion, and intimidation cast an unsettling shadow over the whole event.
Along with competitions, celebrations, and cultural events, IOC brought an energy field of darkness to the city. In order to gain maximum profit from the event, IOC caricatured the people of Vancouver, turning them into stock figures at best and cartoon figures at worst.
It is well documented but often forgotten what IOC really is. An insider describes the illusive, always-in-transit corporation like this: "IOC is the least accountable multi-national corporation in the world. It comes in, uses local resources, lives on tax dollars from the countries that host it and then vanishes...always leaving a large debt."
The smoke and mirrors of mad flag waving and false patriotism obscures this practice long enough for IOC to extract huge profits. Where do the profits go and who is the "THEY" that runs this whole show and keeps it going? Maurice Cardinal, author of “Olympic Momentum”, is clear about who does not benefit. Ironically, the athletes whose efforts are what create the Olympics make little in return, except for the gold medal winners who are able to leverage their wins into horse and pony shows, recounting their story over and over again at events arranged by major public relations firms representing these lucky few.
Cardinal has much to say on the subject of the smoke and mirrors manipulation of IOC. He says IOC could never work its dark magic without the eager cooperation of the media. Individual journalists may honestly wish to cover all dimensions of the story but with IOC pouring money into the advertising sections of their newspapers, Cardinal postulates that media management sets the tone for reporters to become Olympic cheerleaders.
During the first week of the Olympics, negative comments about the Games appeared widely even though Global TV, CTV, the Province, the Courier and the Vancouver Sun enjoyed lucrative Olympic sponsorship roles. Initial media reports focussed on the whole spectrum of protests and criticisms of the Olympic machine.
A young Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in the luge competition on day one of the Olympics. The media also headlined Nodar’s death as a negative reflection on the Olympics. The luge track was paid for and undertaken by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC). COC ignored reports of it being dangerously fast. IOC blamed the luger for his death as did Olympic media partners.
When Alex Bilodeau won the gold medal for men’s moguls in the second week, the whole energetic mood in Vancouver changed overnight. Prior to that event, CBC’s Peter Mansbridge was excited to invite Cardinal to participate in a panel discussion about critical issues emerging from the Olympics. This panel never happened because “patriotism” kicked in, Cardinal said. He speculates this is where IOC sponsorship dollars may have begun to play a pivotal role, taking the win and using it to whip up a frenetic patriotism.
Whatever the case, the tone of the Olympics changed in the second week and pro-Olympic stories populated media reports. VANOC and IOC went into what I call "big-money superdrive," pumping patriotism as the only true Olympic story. People in Vancouver got to stare at ridiculous, 18-story-high posters on downtown buildings and on posters throughout the transit system, all designed to pump up Vancouver's patriotic fervor. “The result was a wild euphoria that acted as an amnesiac. The high was so intense it was like a drug," one woman said. "It was hard to remember the critical issues like social inequity, debt, human trafficking, surveillance, stolen native lands, homelessness, environmental issues, rights to free speech and assembly, and corporatization of public space--things that had mattered to people very much."
The one-dimensional posters of rosy-cheeked, predominantly white, athletic, young people as representative of Vancouverites did not do justice to the wonderful diversity of citizens who live in Vancouver, in my view. There were also monstrous maple leaf flags displayed in downtown Vancouver during the Games.
Patriotism on display during the Olympics in downtown Vancouver on Twitpic. Posted on February 16, 2010 by Maurice.
In addition to the signage, the Olympic machine marketed a line of clothing that turned the name "Canada" into a logo. I do not need a sign on my shirt telling me where I live, any more than I need a stamp on my forehead telling me who I am. IOC stereotyped Canada. This one-dimensional portrayal was disrespectful of this marvellous multicultural country.
IOC uses patriotism to keep people excited about the Olympics, Cardinal said. When people understand how much the Olympics cost them, patriotism will wane very quickly.
When VANOC won the Olympics, it made a deal with IOC to protect Olympic sponsors by buying up all available advertising space on billboards, buses, taxicabs, and the transit system. It was then up to VANOC to re-sell the space. No one but official Olympic sponsors could advertise in these public spaces to generate business for themselves. A very small number of Olympic sponsors bought advertising inside the city buses and only a very small portion of advertising space was resold. Olympic sponsors knew they did not have to buy advertising space because people had already bought tickets for the events so their market was in place and taxpayers were who would be paying the advertising bill.
I am sure that I was not the only citizen who felt the patriotism hype was silly. I would not say that Canadians are intensely patriotic. We love our country but it is without fanatical patriotism. I know Canadians to be a laid back people partly, I believe, because we are grounded safely and securely in a deep interconnection with Mother Earth. We are a free people who live happily in the centers of our own stories and lives, rather than being externally referenced to outside authority figures telling us what to think or who we are.
The best Olympic documentation of what a Canadian is, in my opinion, was made by Chris Wheeler, the Torch Reporter, who chronicled the stories of thousands of extraordinary people as the Olympic torch moved through their lives. The videos were remarkably powerful vignettes of unpretentious people simply telling the multidimensional stories of their diverse lives and their love of Canada. These stories carried a very different energy from the false patriotic hype and hoopla that the Olympic machine pumped out.
As much as the patriotism lies disturbed me, what I understand happened with the indigenous peoples of Canada upset me even more. In Vancouver and area, we live in the unceded traditional lands of First Nations peoples. It is a wrong that has yet to be addressed while gross discrimination and injustice are still being acted out daily by the dominant society against aboriginals. First Nations peoples have every right to protest many wrongs.
Cardinal said that the First Nations issue almost destroyed IOC in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Because IOC knew Canada’s First Nations peoples would leverage the same kind of power, it smartly got Gordon Campbell to befriend them in 2003. The peoples of the Squamish, Musqueam, Lil'wat and Tsleil-Waututh nations were the "Four Host First Nations" of the Olympics. Campbell did a 180 degree about face and suddenly showed great interest in native rights as soon as Vancouver won the Olympic bid. First Nations peoples were promised many things if they agreed to keep quiet and not protest indigenous issues like occurred in Sydney. It will take time to see if the monies used to buy their silent cooperation have any merit. The promises made will be hard to live up to and governments have a history of stalling until promises are forgotten. This dimension of the story has to be told.
As a white person who has spent over 30 years educating myself about Canadian aboriginal peoples’ culture and spirituality, I was shocked and saddened to see how they were used as window dressing during the Opening Ceremonies. I say this because I have a deep respect for and honouring of their sacred ceremonies and their dancing. To see this commodified for IOC’s benefit with the participants objectified and dehumanized as trivial entertainment deeply disturbed me. It was an example of the ignorance and disrespect that underlies the more subtle and sophisticated forms of racism today. During the International Women’s Day conference, Maori elder Hinewirangi Morgan described it well as “elegant racism”.
Photo by Beatrix Belibaste from Wikimedia Commons...Author's Note: I would like to acknowledge that I have not received permission from the Inuit peoples to use this representation of the Inukshuk symbol in this article.
Another important example of elegant racism was the blatant misappropriation of the Inuit peoples’ Inukshuk symbol. The Olympic machine marketed an Olympic representation of the symbol for its sole profit. At no time did VANOC, IOC, or COC acknowledge that the figure was not theirs to profit from, nor am I aware of even any thanks they offered for using this symbol.
When IOC’s dominator energy came to Vancouver, it was not good for the people who were used, manipulated and reduced to puppet figures in IOC’s dark drama.
My next article will explore the "un-embrace" of social media and the purpose of Cultural Olympiads Digital Edition (CODE) during the Olympics.
It will also talk about the most important juice around the Olympics, which was not patriotism. HINT: How do you identify a real Canadian? If you whisper the “h” word, (s)he quivers…