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.

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