Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to Thoughtfully Voice Concern Over the BC Olympic Games

The Olympics are coming to Vancouver in a few months. Perhaps you have not heard? Perhaps you have also not heard of the widespread anti-Olympic reaction in British Columbia. There are a number of reasons why people are upset about the Olympics.

For one, taxes are going up throughout BC so that the Olympics can be paid for. However, with this tax hike only the lower mainland, where the Olympics are to be held will receive any form of economic benefit.

Second is that there are financial cuts to hospitals and the arts (in general) that are because of the costs associated with the Olympics. The arts have always been underfunded, and northern communities in the province have had notorious problems with their funding.

Third is that many of the contractors and other trades people are drawn to the lower mainland to work on Olympic projects. This is a drain of not only people but also resources in more general from other locations throughout the province. This results in a slow down of construction in areas outside of the lower mainland.

Fourth, there was very little consultation in the entire province on if they should host the Olympics and how it should be handled.

Fifth, some aboriginal groups are receiving disproportionate recognition before and during the games than other groups in the province.

What this boils down to is that there is a strong belief that the Olympics is positively affecting only the lower mainland, but the rest of the province is experiencing only negative affects. There are other problems as well, but these are but a few.

I sincerely doubt that BC is special in regards to how the populace regards the upcoming Olympics. Likely there have been many other instances of this happening. However some realism is required here. BC is a very large province and there is absolutely no way that the Olympics could be hosted throughout the province, nor represent the entire province and every special interest group that resides in the province.

Second, the Olympics must be paid for by someone. The federal government said early on that they would not commit too much money to the games. This left the burden to the province, and the lower mainland by itself could not afford such a cost. The fact that money is being taken away from the healthcare and arts should be no surprise. This occurs every time a politician or political party begins to suggest they need more money.

Third, as far as aboriginal groups are considered, they do deserve representation at the games. However, this recognition should be no larger nor smaller than any other group. Canada is a cultural mosaic and should be represented as such. In addition, no aboriginal group should have received special compensation, especially in light of certain groups that were given money so that they would take part in the game's ceremonies and for them to allow the games to 'transgress' across their territory. This has set a bad precedent.

Fourth, not every group can be consulted. Not every group can be equally appeased as well. There will always be at least one group in society that feels that they have been shunned and under-represented. However, the issue of having or not having the Olympics should have been more vocally and forcefully negotiated a long time ago. It is too late for the Olympics to just be canceled. This is also not just a matter of provincial pride, but also national pride. The entire world will be watching Canada and not just Vancouver. This is an excellent time for the country and the province of BC to show other countries that we exist and that we are vibrant, and not just some icy wilderness with everyone knowing everyone because the population is under 100. I strongly feel that many of the people who oppose(d) the Olympics did not voice their opinions soon enough, or if at all for that matter. It was not until this year that people began to become vocal and are now planning demonstrations at the Olympics. What will this accomplish I ask? Protesting at the Olympics will bring attention to the issues you feel are important. However this attention will not be had by the politicians outside of anger. News agencies will also give you attention, but this will be worldwide and the point you are making will likely not be transmitted clearly. Furthermore, protesting the Olympics at the Olympics will not stop the Olympics. It will not even pause them or make any politician rethink their stance on whatever it is you are trying to say (for instance homeless rights, saving the arts, or what have you). Instead the message will fall flat and the world will look upon Canada as a place that has some serious, deeply rooted problems.

Instead I suggest to those who are against the Olympics to reconsider why they are against it. Be realistic in what you are opposing and what you feel is fair. If you still feel that the Olympics were a mistake and are upset about issues like rising taxes and underfunding hospitals and the arts, then take issue with it after the Olympics. There is absolutely no point except for personal embarrassment to protesting the Olympics on TV during the games while the world is literally watching. This is what I would propose instead. Enjoy the Olympics if you can while it is occurring. Watch it on TV or if you live in the lower mainland, go visit any of the free events. Or, do not associate yourself with the Olympics whatsoever. Ignore it like a bad Christmas present and wait for it to go away and be regifted to someone else. Following the Olympics is a different manner. If you disagree with the Olympics, then do not purchase any lotto ticket that supports BC sports. This money goes to the Olympics. Second, protest freely, loudly, and forcefully FOLLOWING the Olympics. Make your voice heard that you are not happy with how the debt is to be treated and that you want some issues attended to. Third, do not vote for the same party. Vote for anyone but them. Fourth, run for office yourself. It is always the best solution to dealing with political matters that you disagree with. Fifth, if you live in a community outside of the lower mainland, then do not support that region in anyway, shape or form. Do not visit there. Do not buy the products of that region. Do anything but recognize that it exists on a map.

However, if you have stuck with this thread thus far, then here is a sixth possibility. Instead of silently griping about the Olympics, go to the lower mainland during the games. Meet with community leaders (city hall officials) and suggest a deal to represent your community at the games. If you cannot bring the games and its benefits to you, then bring yourself to them! I have not heard of any of the northern communities doing this. Set up booths that represent the tourism and industries of your community. Aboriginal leaders should also attend and promote their lands in the form of ecotourism, selling of traditional art, and other aspects of their culture and community that should be heard about. If your city has a local newspaper, such as the Prince George Herald, make sure that free copies of your newspaper are available to tourists at the games. This is a great and cheap way to advertise your community and newspaper.

There are many other ways you can make your voice heard, but please chose wisely. Not every path will be as profitable as the next, and some may leave a sour taste in the mouth of the person you are trying to sway. Think about what it is you are opposing and then consider rational and realistic methods of voicing your ideas, concerns, and oppositions.

Enjoy the games.

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