Feb 13 2010

Protesters No Match for Olympic Spirit in Vancouver

I wandered among the costumed weirdos and black-masked anarchists at the protest. This was the big anti-Olympics event in Vancouver on the opening day of the Games. I soon came to the conclusion that the Olympics and our city’s politicians have nothing to worry about for the duration of the games and probably for some time to come.

Ask a protester what they were rebelling against that day and you’d almost have to expect Marlon Brando’s answer from the Wild One: “What have you got?” This wasn’t a protest against the Olympics. It was a protest against “the system.” But disaffected oddballs and shadowy loners does not a revolution make.
vancouver 2010 winter olympics protests jonathon narvey new media

Accompanied by my friend and fellow National Post contributor Adrian MacNair, I first met a pleasant comrade from the Young Communist League who seemed positively cheerful about the new members his group had signed up. His organization was present to make the point that government ought to be spending more on the housing, students and day care rather than Olympics. Those are actually policies that I’d be happy to get on board with. Still, you don’t have to be a follower of an ideology legitimizing mass murder and gulags to get that done. He seemed awfully polite. I assume he’ll go mainstream at some point an inevitably join up with the NDP.

Then I met the man disguised by a mask imprinted with the words “free speech area”. When I asked him what he actually had to say about the Olympics — or anything, for that matter — he clammed up. Evidently, free speech is a right best reserved for times other than when pretty much everyone in the world wants to know what you have to say.

I met a young Cree woman who carried a sign that claimed “Canada is Illegal”. Her group, “No One is Illegal”, evidently believes that the Olympics organizers ought to have gotten the written consent of every living First Nations person in the country before proceeding with the event. The enthusiastic support of the Four Host First Nations that have actually resided here since before the arrival of the first Europeans evidently wasn’t good enough.
Vancouver protest politics no one is illegal canada

Next up was the lady in town from Sochi to protest having the next Olympics in a region steeped in the memory of the 100-year old genocide of 1.5 million Circassians by Czarist Russia. She seemed earnest enough. But I honestly don’t know if Russians, much less Canadians, will even see a real connection between this historical tragedy and the 2014 Winter Olympics. Besides, if the Russians can’t do anything official on a part of their territory that hasn’t already been steeped in blood or mired in historical injustice, well, the world’s biggest country is going to have an awful time finding anywhere they can hold any sort of international event.

Then there was the group shouting “Shut down the tar sands!” Protest signs indicated that the Olympics were somehow responsible for mass-murder as a result of our odd habit of digging up stuff out of our ground that people all over the world seem to need to run their factories and heat their homes. I have to confess, I never bothered to talk to anyone about this. I’d already gone down enough rabbit holes.
Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics protest no blood for oil

The point is that the protesters against the Olympics are guided by a hundred different agendas. None of them really has much to do with the Olympics. That’s why the event only pulled in a few hundred angry souls, surrounded by a larger number of curious spectators who were not necessarily in sympathy with any of their goals.

The time to disrupt the games was clearly on the first day. But the lunatic fringe seems only to have alienated a wider base by their odd rhetoric. They didn’t pull the numbers and by the time the Olympics opening ceremonies were set to begin, most of the protesters who came out were already sullenly on their way home to plot and plan… and probably do nothing else for the next few weeks. The reinforced lines of police, some on horseback, that came to greet the rally were not pressured as at the “Battle of Seattle” or similar venues. It seems that the Games can safely ignore the divided and not particularly successful protests from here on in.

I decided to find out for myself what these protests were all about

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10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Protesters No Match for Olympic Spirit in Vancouver”

  1. Fredon 13 Feb 2010 at 6:21 am

    Agreed.

    For the most a sad bunch of deluded middle class kids pining for some altruistic utopia thingy or a bunch of losers and failures in life who can’t accept that their the pathetic position of their life so far is their fault.

    Rather a tragic, pathetic lot, the lost rump of society, the failed flotsam of humanity.

    Put the lot of them together and you’d get a couple of dozen working brain cells.

  2. David Zeglenon 13 Feb 2010 at 6:51 am

    Jonathon,

    Thanks for the video work, I would have enjoyed being a live spectator myself. It’s irritating to see how in vogue kuffiahs have become as part of the ‘activist chic’ movement.

    Anyway, in the mist of all that chaos you sifted through, the only concrete point that emerged from the protests was the debt issue, which is an understandable concern, but not something that, in my mind, can be evaluated properly until after the games. The surplus profit angle has gotten a lot of coverage historically as a way for protesters to put heat on the history of Olympic events given the past track record, but this strategy begins to make protesters sound like grubby capitalists as well as eviscerates the nuanced range of interests that exist from event to event, city to city.

    Either way, I don’t see the use in reducing an Olympic event to a s
    ingle value financial surplus and past games, like the ’88 Summer Olympics in Seoul, demonstrate that past host cities have realized the potential for the games to transform its international relations and national morale, while not necessarily incurring debt or generating outstanding revenue. What do you think?

    What exactly is with the First Nations debate in Vancouver regarding approval from tribes? I’ve read conflicting information, not helped by Naomi Klein’s bit in the G&M about ski resorts.

  3. ckon 13 Feb 2010 at 8:05 am

    What about the Poverty Olympics? The Homeless and their advocates? They clearly knew why they were out.

    Seems in a city with about 18% child poverty rate, spending billions on the Olympics and basically telling its own poor to f-off so it can be easier for all to pretend they don’t exist is enough to make them and perhaps other people with a conscience to be pissed have reason to protest.

    It seems obscene to put on such events that benefit no one. Heaven forbid these athletes should actually have to go to school and get a real job like most of us strugging out there.

    Given today’s slushy start, I’m gathering that karma has indeed taken over.

    These games will be another money loser and the tax payers of Vancouver will be stuck with that bill for years to come. Just ask one of us Montrealers about that one. We just finished paying off our 1976–30 years later.

  4. The_Icemanon 13 Feb 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I went downtown too to take some pictures. I credit you for actually stopping to talk to those clowns. I got a lot of dirty looks because I was laughing hysterically as I was photographing them…but talk to them? What are you nuts?

  5. Mister Old & Crankyon 13 Feb 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando.
    Damn kids these days!

  6. Mister Old & Crankyon 13 Feb 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando.

    Damn kids fooling about with their internets and tubes don’t know films.

  7. jnarveyon 13 Feb 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Error fixed.

    Sincerely, Mr. Young and Optimistic.

  8. craig andrewon 15 Feb 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Saw the protesters tonight Slamming the Taliban and fighting for Women’s rights under the Taliban as well as education for all. Oh no sorry that is why are troops are over there fighting with thier lives. The protestors were calling our brave Men baby killers and saying we should pull out and I guess let the Taliban have thier way.

  9. khephraon 16 Feb 2010 at 11:17 am

    So because educated citizens have myriad reasons for resisting oligarchy, their objections are frivolous?

    Listening to the video, assuming that was you asking the questions, it seems obvious that you’re generally unfamiliar with Olympics or Canadian history. Are you really so ignorant of the plight of Canadian aboriginals?

  10. […] has his post up here and more pictures here. He also has a good YouTube video of some of the interviews with the […]

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