Podium Politics and the Olympics
For clarity, I'm pro-Olympics - with a twist, which means I love the sport but hate the politics.
Anti-Olympic activists are hoping our governments will succumb to pressure and embarrassment after the world sees firsthand through their street protest, the mistreatment of Vancouver's homeless - a condition made worse as a result of gentrification driven by the 2010 Olympics.
In reality though, the world will never see it for the very reason activists think they have the upper hand. Locals might see it, but the world won't, because at this late date, it's not news, at least not global news.
The only thing our governments will be embarrassed about is "disruption" ... regardless of the reason, which means they will do anything and everything to prevent it. They are proactive, not reactive, and just because they talk about and prepare for the worst does not mean it will happen. The 1972 Munich massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes is still a brutal reminder of what does occur. Consequently, if one hundred people show up protesting anything, the Canadian government will be waiting with one thousand law enforcement zealots hopped up on patriotism ready to use extreme prejudice to quickly snuff out even a small spark. Bud Mercer, RCMP Chief Superintendant in charge of 2010 Olympic security, and his partnering law enforcement agencies, plus the military, have a billion bucks to keep street protest under control and to prevent acts of terrorism, and they won't be shy to spend every penny of it and more.
It's not a coincidence Olympic protest of local issues during Games time rarely makes the international light of day. It's usually stopped before it starts, or it's diverted to a side street. Locals see it, and pay for it, but the rest of the world is focused on sport, not politics. The only time you have the world's attention for local issues is in the ramp up, and that train left the station long ago. Many so called "social media experts" in Vancouver were too interested in aligning with mainstream news media on the Olympic ticket instead of doing the right thing. Getting onboard now is simply grandstanding. Our research indicates that once the Games begin protestors are viewed with derision and as unpatriotic. Local issues like homelessness have little interest because not enough people can relate globally. Beijing 2008 displaced 1.5 million people to make way for Olympic infrastructure and facilities, but you hardly heard a peep about it. There were however bigger issues that did break through - like Tibet for example.
Canada's First Nations people, as long as they are organized, have the greatest potential to create the loudest and most enduring noise. Their message has the cachet to reverberate around the world for years. Canada's longstanding national disgrace regarding Aboriginal neglect and racism has a bigger voice than local homeless issues. However, if they make a mess of 2010 protest it will set their cause back by decades and they will only have themselves to blame. Australian Aboriginals figured it out way back in 1998 before the 2000 Sydney Summer Games hit town, and very effectively leveraged Olympic momentum by sending a clear message to the world about their plight.
There is a pecking order regarding Olympic protest, and local homeless issues are low on the scale.
For example, and I don't mean to be trite or an alarmist, but for all we know Al Qaeda terrorists could be arguing among themselves whether or not they will have more global impact if they a.) blow up a Vancouver building with stolen ammonium nitrate, b.) release deadly gas on the new Canada Line skytrain, c.) poison Vancouver's main water source, the Capilano reservoir, d.) cause a landslide on the Sea to Sky highway, the only road between Vancouver and Whistler, or e.) simply shoot an American jetliner out of the Vancouver sky with a handheld rocket launcher.
The U.S. government issued a 2010 Olympics travel alert to their citizens for good reason. America and Canada are at war and the Olympics is a prime target regardless of what Canadian politicians say. To disregard or not take the potential threat seriously is incredibly naïve. I don't like it either, but only fools ignore history. BTW, don't be surprised if more Americans than expected decide to drive to Canada for the Olympics.
On yet another level, while all this Olympic tension and chaos simmers, BC drug lords will muscle in on Vancouver territories newly opened due to recent hits and arrests, and ramp it up with a vengeance after the Games are over and when BC has no money or incentive to continue the fight. If we can't keep homeless shelters open past April because of lack of funding, we certainly won't have the money to continue to fight the $7 billion a year BC drug industry when the Olympic spotlight is turned off.
Most people think all this protest stuff erupts spontaneously, but it doesn't. It's all well choreographed well in advance by both sides including activists and politicians. And the closer we get to the actual sporting events, the more radically and exponentially things change.
BC Premiere Gordon Campbell and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will soon start to disassociate themselves from the Games, at least in the public spectre, and will only show up at protected events where protestors and unaccredited news media will NOT be allowed access. Our politicians, worried about citizen journalists, and just like VANOC's CEO John Furlong recently did, might even resort to issuing statements through pre-taped interviews claiming they are too busy to talk to local news media directly. So much for mainstream news media claiming they defend democracy. Mainstream news media, especially those who are Olympic partners will look the other way and shrug because they have more serious things to worry about. Like whether they will have a job come June.
As soon as the Games are over, and hidden Olympic costs become more evident to the average person, politicians who previously supported the Games will run for cover when asked how they so seriously screwed up what they promoted as a slam dunk. And other politicians, who over the last few years were grandstanding and obscurely opposing the Games because they were more interested in media face time than results, they'll go ballistic providing sound bites attacking the pro-Olympics opposition party. All too little too late.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper never really got behind the Games so he doesn't have much to deny or say now, but just to ensure he remains inaccessible he prorogued the government until after the Olympics are over, shutting Canada down tighter than a drunk driving BC premier in Hawaii. In case a serious Olympic emergency pops up the Canadian Military has the power to enact Marshall Law and to do it even before Harper has a chance to assemble his vacationing team. Prorogued or not, Harper will however be available to sign off on last minute funds if necessary, because after all, it will be his name bandied about internationally during an 11th hour 2010 Olympic meltdown, and not premier or mayor what's his name.
Premier Campbell, who in 2003 and throughout the lead up to the Games claimed political ownership of 2010, will be very hard to nail down after taxpayers become more cognizant of overrun costs, in fact it slowly started a few months before the Games. He will also finger point and look for a scapegoat, blaming the recession and maybe even citizen journalism for ruining his event. If he does, we will roast him alive, at least I will. That won't stop him however from being paid huge sums by the IOC to go to London, Sochi and Rio to tell everyone there what a great job he did here.
Mayor Robertson, who picked up the Olympic baton towards the end of the race from former Mayor Sam Sullivan will simply repeat as he has already that he wasn't involved in the early stage planning. The most he could say would be to tell us how he would have done things differently, but if he does he better have his story straight, or like Campbell he will also be an easy target for citizen journalists. Robertson would be best advised to keep his head down and his mouth zipped unless he still wants to help figure out who leaked the Athlete's Village boondoggle document. Robertson, more than all other politicians has the best chance to come out of 2010 looking respectable, but only if he resists the temptation to take any credit for anything and remains self effacing.
Local newspapers and TV broadcasters, especially those who are Olympic partners and who made a small fortune shamelessly and sometimes secretly shilling 2010, will go crazy illuminating "hidden costs" they should have warned taxpayers about years ago. They too will primarily blame the recession, but will also finger point looking for scapegoats and accuse social media of sabotaging the 2010 Olympics, much like Furlong did in the fall of 2004 during a Vancouver Board of Trade event when he misleadingly blamed unaccredited news media for undermining the Athens Summer Games, which as you know suffered a $12 billion deficit. If Vancouver mainstream news media don't acknowledge partial blame for our 2010 Olympic tax burden citizen journalists will drive one more, and maybe in some cases the final nail in their coffin, at least I will.
After the last Olympic athlete goes home Vancouverites will initially look around at each other mumbling wtf? How did we get so snookered?
As usual, Olympic sponsors will quietly slip away to the next Host region conquest. Except this time Canadian taxpayers will follow them online to London 2012, Sochi 2014, and Rio 2016. After the Vancouver 2010 social media dust settles, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, GM, and all the other Olympic sponsors will think very seriously about how Olympic involvement impacts their brand in the internet era. You can bet the IOC won't be happy.
How do I know all this? Simple. Since 2003, my company carefully researched the impact the Olympics had on past Host regions. We then published a book describing our findings way back in 2006 that accurately predicted much of what you see happening in Vancouver today. We also sent free copies of our book, Leverage Olympic Momentum to many local civic leaders and politicians, which means that four years ago they had a real good idea how it would roll out in Vancouver today. They chose to ignore history, and instead, repeat it.
Remember, I'm pro-Olympics - with a twist, which means I love the sport, but hate how Olympic athletes and Host communities are treated. Our goal was to inspire civic leaders and politicians to encourage pro and anti-Olympic factions to work together to develop community friendly solutions before 2010 hit town and before the damage was done. Unfortunately, Olympic organizations, and their partners mainstream news media, sell more headlines and make more money when taxpayers are planted like mushrooms and kept in the dark. They create a din that is hard to be heard above and misleadingly lace their conversations with promises leading everyone to believe they will prosper. As you can see now, it's not the case, and it never could be based on an outdated and broken IOC business model.
Divide and conquer is a common management-style corporations use to protect their lucrative business model. The IOC promotes a George W Bush political/war mantra of "You are either with us or against us" that very effectively keeps people in Host regions polarized. If you fight with each other you don't have time or resources to fight with the IOC and the clock soon runs out.
You don't have to be clairvoyant to predict the 2010 Olympics outcome.
You just have to know how to read.
Maurice Cardinal has two decades of experience in the entertainment industry managing projects with companies like Capitol EMI, CBC, CBS, Grammy Award winning artists and also Fortune 500 companies, plus he has managed special events with a variety of Canadian politicians and two US Presidential Teams.
He has managed projects for the '88 Olympics in Calgary, and Expo '86 in Vancouver, plus Radio City Music Hall, the Houston Astrodome, and thousands of venues in between around the world. For the last ten years he produced and co-wrote a business newsletter (about managing news media in a crisis) read by thousands of executives and politicians, including a dozen U.S. senators and MBA students at Harvard Law School.
In addition he has designed and produced community-based internet communication campaigns and has managed projects in Canada, United States, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. He has twenty years experience in the traditional world of marketing, operations and promotion, plus a decade and a half exclusively as a new media communicator, developer, and advisor.