Olympic Diary: Vancouver 2010

By Michael-Louis Ingram, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: February 17, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C., CANADA (BASN) – The sting of death and an outpouring of protest made for an unsettling welcome to the latest edition of the Winter Olympics.

The tragic death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili prior to the official opening of the games cast a foreboding shadow over a billion dollar backdrop of politics and power.

Kumaritashvili, from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, had been one of several athletes who had complained about the course being very slick and dangerous because of the increased speed was participating in his first Winter Games.

The course had caused several near spills and one injury to an American female luger, making even more difficult the logic in waiting to make adjustments to the course until after a fatal accident forced action on the part of the handlers in Whistler and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

With the Parade of Nations yet to commence, the possibility of Georgia pulling their now six member contingent out of the Olympics was possible; until a statement by the team confirmed they would stay and compete “in the spirit of their fallen comrade.”

In spite of Georgia’s brave face, Kumaritashvili’s death has affected the rest of the team; the other luger on the team has dropped out, and the changes to the course may slow competitors down, but, in my opinion, didn’t make them any safer.

Our news organization had been credentialed; but as it turns out, not through the IOC or the United States Olympic Committee. The access (or I should say, lack of) has severely comprised what we had planned to provide in way of coverage.

Having said that, the least I can do is speak on what is going on around the city and the issues of major protesting and anti-Olympic sentiment that may not be discussed in the United States and elsewhere.

These issues will be something that will be discussed on “The Batchelor Pad” radio show ( www.thebatchelorpad.ning.com ) as well as the Black Athlete website.

Heading back to my old stomping ground here in the East End of Vancouver to get a feel for what and where the strong anti-Olympic sentiment is coming from, I can say the USOC & the IOC has no doubt seen the previous column (“Welcome to the Serial Killer’s Olympics”) because of the responses I got from some wannabe writers who were supposedly at Robert Pickton’s murder trial.

Without trying to be funny, I have already cussed out about 5 or 6 asshole “reporters” who think it’s alright for American citizens to be potential victims of a Canadian serial killer and imply the column speaks “glibly” on the issue.

If one white woman from an affluent background had gone missing, there would have been an all-points bulletin out; and no one would have waited over two years to find out if she was safe or injured or whatever; and once the word finally got out, where the fuck was the press to speak on why this delay in passing on information that could have saved many lives?

Ironically, they just revealed up here that a high-ranking Canadian army officer, Col. Russell Williams, former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton (one of the country’s largest military bases), has been charged with first degree murder (2 counts) and 2 counts forceful confinement, breaking & entering and faces other charges for home invasions and sexual assaults as an alleged serial killer.

Williams was also linked to Paul Bernardo, known as “The Scarborough Rapist,” another serial killer who did eight years for a murder, along with his then wife Karla Homolka in Ontario – a crime which pissed off the Canadian government because the American press in New York State did not roll with the imposed media ban.

According to published accounts, Bernardo & Williams were pals while attending the University of Toronto – Scarborough in the 1980s, where they studied economics.

The tie-ins from a sports standpoint in this are clear; the serial killer cover up was to squash any anti-Olympic initiatives in bringing this to the bargaining table; which led to the abuse of an Olympic kitty – so egregious that money was borrowed on top of the initial budget in less than two years to complete the project.

In addition, Canada is spending close to a billion dollars in security for this event; and this amount weighed against cuts in health care, education and services for the poor by the British Columbia Liberal – ruled government further exhibit disregard for the people who will be here long after the Olympic flame has been extinguished.

It is within this fuel a fire of protest exists…

Blatant corporate designs to pillage allocated funds without considering the plight of the poorer residents making up a considerable percentage of the two million inhabitants of the Lower Mainland area have spurred passionate responses from some advocacy groups.

Some First Nations groups have banded together to contribute to a site called No Olympics on Stolen Land, who have stated that most of British Columbia, unlike the rest of Canada, is “non-surrendered indigenous territory.”

Further indications about questionable financial moves include the recent news here about the cost of the Canadian hospitality house. It was built by American contractors (how’d that happen?) at a cost of $10.4 million dollars. A whole lotta cash spent – for what is essentially, a fucking tent!

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger coming to Vancouver to carry the Olympic torch (and perhaps pimp out a hi-speed rail deal with Bombardier, the company who built Vancouver’s SkyTrain and NYC’s airport shuttle) is an interesting sidebar as well, considering there are many other Canadians who were worthy of carrying the Torch.

Schwarzenegger’s design to have a high-speed rail line go thru all of Cali is the only Olympic event that matters to him.

Ultimately, this gouging of funds and naked cash grab disguised as a public works project sets the table for future situations (like Brazil with the 2016 Summer Games); and the expected exposure Vancouver will get from Pacific Rim interests may cause more outcries for protests after the Games are over.

Right now there are reportedly many protestors who have come from the states, specifically Chicago. While they have not been portrayed as “professional agitators”, the wearing of black, covering of faces and acts of vandalism (one attack was to a major department store along Granville St, one of the city’s main drags as well as branches of the Royal Bank of Canada) smack of tactics done in Seattle during the G8 summit.

There are also concerns that local police or Royal Canadian Mounted Police are using plainclothes cops as shit-disturbers, working within some of these groups to cause incidents which would discredit said groups intentions to have their issues aired peacefully.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has already had at least one press conference on this matter.

From a news presentation standpoint, local and national media is trying to put a positive spin on the Games, but they made a point to show the footage of the protests at the beginning of every newscast.

I firmly believe their conscience and the lust for information has forced management’s hand in this because the viral videos and TMZ moments that could stem from this made them understand they had better put it out there before someone else does – a true indication of the mother “eating her young.”

The showing of the Games in Canada shows their athletes as upbeat, but when a Canadian skier favored to win the gold was beaten by an American (who was the last to ski in the Moguls event) there was mixed emotion, but very little resentment from the crowd.

Whistler is warm for this time of year and the snow has been mixed with rain, making the base almost a consistency like sugar, dangerous for skiing at pro levels – some events have been pushed back because conditions aren’t likely to improve in the immediate future…

Right now Vancouver is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit and unseasonably warm; the forecast is consistent with the present temp, and should hold fast all week long.

The NHL has finished its present schedule of games and the players have peeled off to their respective countries’ sides.

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, who had been injured, scored four points in his last game, so he convinced the Team Canada brain trust that he was good to go.

Apparently much was made of the fact many of the players from the last Olympic side had been coming in banged up and weren’t forthright as to their condition, for fear of being left off the team; but with as deep a talent pool as Canada has for the hockey team, there will be enough second – guessing to last until the Stanley Cup if Canada ends up with anything less than gold – a point that is being hammered home by every Canadian media entity.

While there is mutual respect for the Swedes, Finns, Czech Republic and the Americans, there is a fear, yes fear of what the Russians could do. After all, they used to rule this bitch, winning seven gold medals in hockey; and with Alex Ovechkin’s love for Mother Russia as equally as passionate as any Canadian skater for the Maple Leaf, the spirit of teamwork and unity shown by Ovechkin, Malkin, Kolvachuk, Nabokov, etc. is something not connected with any Russian team from any of their past glory days.

And with the Games coming to next coming to Russia, there is no doubt snatching the gold from Canadian hands on Canadian soil is the mission; the Russian Bear swatting the Canadian salmon to the ground before greedily devouring it.

To be continued…