Concerns mount with 1 year to 2010 Olympic games

We are now less than one year away from the start of the 2010 Olympics, which will take place February 12-28 in Vancouver and Whistler. As public concerns about the 2010 Olympics grow, and given the discussion at our Annual General Meeting in Edmonton, I wanted to resend this (slightly revised) email from November 2008 to all of you again outlining some of our concerns with the 2010 Olympics in Canada.

Media reports have highlighted concerns including: the Harper government using the Olympic torch relay to promote the war in Afghanistan (and conceivably using the Olympics to present Canada internationally as an 'energy superpower'); the security costs alone for the Olympics potentially topping $1 billion (money that should be invested in the social good, like housing and public water infrastructure); the presence (and possible continuation) of surveillance cameras in the area; corporations heavily in the tar sands as Olympics sponsors; and continued injustices (land and rights) for Indigenous peoples.

1. OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY MAY PROMOTE THE WAR

The Globe and Mail reported on August 26, 2008 that, "Ottawa is urging the Vancouver Winter Olympics organizing committee to put the Afghanistan war at the heart of the symbolically laden torch relay, saying that the first torch carriers could be veterans of the seven-year-old conflict...The proposal on the torch relay follow revelations last week in The Globe and Mail that the Harper government provided $20-million for the opening ceremony of the Winter Games to ensure the event 'adequately reflects' its priorities and 'to achieve its domestic and international branding goals.' The Harper government and the Vancouver organizing committee have each insisted that Ottawa will be only a source of ideas for the opening ceremony, not a decision maker, despite its funding (including a separate $25-million grant for the relay)."

This article is at http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com/news/2008/august/aug262008.html#20

2. OLYMPIC SECURITY COSTS MAY TOP $1 BILLION

CTV reported on October 12, 2008 that, "The release of the security budget for the 2010 Winter Olympics is being held up by cost-sharing negotiations between the federal and provincial governments and one critic (Chris Shaw of No2010) says that leaves planners with a blank cheque for spending...The initial budget for securing the Games was pegged at $175 million, though even the Integrated Security Unit itself said that was far too low. Now, one estimate pegs the budget at coming in at as much as a billion dollars. Federal Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said it wouldn't be inaccurate to say the initial budget will at least be doubled.....Since the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, all Olympic security budgets have been over a billion dollars."

This article is at http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081012/vancouver_2010_081012/20081012?hub=Canada

On February 12,2009 the Globe and Mail reported that, “Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan confirmed yesterday that security costs for the 2010 Winter Olympics will be in the range of $1-billion, a figure five times higher than original estimates.”

This report is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20090212.OLYMPICSSECURITY12/TPStory/?query=olympics

3. OVERALL COSTS COULD BE $6 BILLION

The Canadian Press reported on February 8, 2008 that, "The original Games bid book said the venues would be built for $470 million, with the costs shared by the federal and B.C. provincial governments. That figure was based on 2003 dollars, but soaring construction costs in B.C. forced VANOC to seek another $110 million from Ottawa and Victoria. The operational budget for the Games is $1.7 billion, with that money coming from sponsorship, TV revenues, ticket and souvenir sales. Add in the price of the venues and the Games cost more than $2 billion. Critics argue the real bill is closer to $6 billion...The tab for Vancouver's convention centre, site of the broadcast facility, has risen to more than $800 million from the original $500 million. The B.C. government is spending $775 million to upgrade the highway that links Vancouver to Whistler. Another $2 billion is being spent to build a transit line between the airport and Vancouver's downtown."

This article is at http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20080208/BC_vanoc_action_080208?hub=BritishColumbiaHome

4. CIVIL LIBERTIES CONCERNS

The Vancouver Province reported on February 26, 2008 that, "University of Victoria Prof. Colin Bennett said Vancouver and Whistler residents should expect 'pervasive, sophisticated' video surveillance at Olympic-related events. 'Even more important than the cameras is what they are being tied into' he said. Computers can be used to hook up videos with facial recognition software, information from social networking sites and even data gleaned from hotel bookings.'...Bennett said mega-events like the 2010 Olympics attract extensive security measures that remain in place afterwards....One example was Sydney, Australia, which hosted the 2000 Summer Games, and has retained surveillance equipment 'whether it was justified or not,' said Bennett. He said questions need to be asked about whether the cameras will remain in Vancouver afterwards, who has access and how long the information is kept."

This article is at http://www.canada.com/theprovince/news/story.html?id=ff476cb9-82b2-4d72-a912-bb7032d5bff7&k=6921

5. CANADA’S HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD

As a host country for a major international event, concerns have also been raised about Canada’s human rights record. Recently, as reported by the Canadian Press, “A United Nations panel is calling on Canada to improve the treatment of its Aboriginal people and other disadvantaged groups such as new immigrants and minorities The UN Human Rights Council mentions in particular the need to protect Aboriginal women who face discrimination in various areas including ‘employment, housing, education and health care.’ Canada's human rights record came under review in Geneva (in February 2009) with a Canadian government delegation appearing before the 47-country council for several hours.”

This article is at http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5hsyp3kbTeFwxMZEAFBTDZxH_SuvA

Additional concerns that have been raised include: Olympics-related public-private partnerships, environmental impacts (including cutting down a forest in Whistler for a medals podium that now won't be used), the 'sweeping' of the homeless off city streets, and the fairness of construction contracts.