I wanted to start writing this post the day I noticed the Olympic clock showing 50 days to go until we get our “world-class” screw. The marketing is amping up. There are reports in the paper each day about another fucked up thing VANOC is doing to screw artists, small business people and of course the daily invasions of privacy by police and RCMP towards any dissenters and their acquaintances.
I was talking to some friends the other day about feeling like I needed a plan for when the Olympics are officially here. I started to imagine what I would do if I had unlimited resources and Bond-like equipment at my disposal, and I was a shape-shifter. I would perch myself on the top of Shangri-La (the highest building in the city of Vancouver) and I would set up my lair. I would have all kinds of tracking equipment. I would document everything that was happening everywhere for the entire Olympics. I could zoom in anywhere. Not sure what I would do from there. Mostly I just wanted to float above it, watch all of it, not the games, but the dynamics in the street. I feel afraid. I wonder if it will be like a lot of things that happen in this city, a lot of hype and then nothing. Or will it be like the many riots that have happened in this city over the last 100 years, resulting in deaths. I am trying to think of a third option, but all I seem to be left with is this sense that something deeper will be lost after everyone has gone home with all their souvenirs, Believe t-shirts and quatchi dolls.
What will be lost? What do I think I would see high on top of Shangri-La? I would watch the city I fell in love with lose any sense of innocence it ever had. Expo was a mild plundering, but the Olympics is a whole new level of criminal. No place is innocent, certainly not Vancouver. It’s not like we haven’t experienced collective trauma as a city. So how does this feel different and what do I imagine will happen to this not-so innocent place? Not sure. I just know that the city will be armed with a level of security that we have never seen before and it’s pretty clear that VANOC, and the City have no qualms about taking away our human rights for the sake of the games. People aren’t going to behave, and they shouldn’t. People are pissed, and for good reason.
People are losing their homes, they have friends that are losing their homes, we are paying more and getting less, and there are people dying on the streets. It’s magical actually, how we can put up new buildings on Hastings Street and nothing seems as bad, like somehow the problem with homelessness dissappeared. We can dress up the streets, repave, put in benches, gardens and nice bathrooms, and the poverty and addiction has vanished. It’s not just the Olympics that are trying to create the illusion that Vancouver really is “the best place on earth”. Our planning department, developers and local BIA’s have used it as an excuse/incentive to gentrify. To create a false reality. Where people are pretty, healthy and wealthy, and everything is “fine”.
So what do I think is going to happen? More accurately I will hope, because I can’t know. So I hope that no one gets hurt, but people have already been hurt. I hope that the Olympics will be the the much needed kick in the head to knock us out of our naval gazey complacency. Maybe that’s what we’ll lose, our sense of security that we live in the best place on earth, and that we need to fight to keep it that way, make it that way, and no political party, or international sporting/cultural event in the world is going to do that for us.