The other side of the medal

Letters to the Editor, TML Daily, 27 February, 2010

(Photos: kk+ -- Flickr)

OLYMPIC gold, silver and bronze don’t come cheap for Canadians. Four-in-five respondents to a poll in British Columbia believe the games are being staged for the benefit of politicians and the elites, an online survey of a representative sample of 493 adult Canadians revealed. “Residents of the Winter Olympics host city are concerned about cost overruns and feel that the event is being staged for the benefit of politicians and the elites,” the Angus Reid Public Opinion poll found.

According to the report on the poll, respondents are more likely to refer to the Vancouver Winter Olympics as an event that is being staged for the benefit of politicians (84%), the elites (82%), and athletes and their families (79%). Fewer respondents think the Games are being staged for the benefit of sports fans (67%), children (34%) or people like them (26%). Furthermore, “despite recent assurances that the Games will break even, most respondents in Metro Vancouver and the Sea-to-Sky corridor, including Whistler, (63%) foresee a considerable deficit at the end of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.”

All of this despite the hype to sell the idea that all of Canada is represented by the Vancouver Olympics.

A reader in Montreal

Militarization

INSTEAD of real political, economic and military sovereignty and nation-building, these Olympics are being used to promote a pseudo-cultural nationalism and militarization of life. Replacing their right to be, the U.S. Empire tolerates its northern colonized subjects and allows them their bare bones of cultural recognition summed up in what they are not: Canadians are not Americans, Aboriginal Nations are not Canadian, the Quebec nation is neither Canada nor Anglophone, and Canada is not the United States. This militarization and pseudo-cultural autonomy are on full display at the Vancouver Olympics. The opening ceremony caught Canada in full annexed form and content. Outside, the city is militarized. Inside during the opening ceremony, Canadians, Aboriginal Nations and Quebec desperately tried to prove they are not like the colonizer, pretending to be sovereign beings with a particular identity when the political, economic and military reality has negated that sovereign being.

A reader in Vancouver

* * *

HERE in Vancouver in the epicentre of the national euphoria and chauvinism being promoted around the slogan “Own the Podium,” several features of the dark side of the Olympic effects are beginning to emerge. The entire campaign is based on the “one nation politics” promoted by the BC Liberal government’s Speech from the Throne in February. This speech contained a whole section called “Our Olympic Opportunity” which crowed about how Canada has “united us in pursuit of the highest goals,” that “Canada stands as a testament to the power of the human spirit, partnership and enterprise.” “These Games are Canada’s Games!” And further, “The federal government has been our greatest partner on every step along this Olympic path. Provincial and territorial governments, sponsors and legions of selfless citizens have all contributed in this national endeavour.”

But who has profited from it? Only the financial oligarchy. It is disgraceful.

A reader in Vancouver

* * *

THE broadcasters keep repeating how these games belong to all Canadians and scenes of the crowds at all the Olympic venues are supposed to prove the point. The media’s euphoria and manipulation of national sentiment for national sovereignty is in my opinion a most dangerous feature of these games. Many things bring to mind the 1936 Olympics, and these are equally troubling times in terms of economic crisis, international tension and danger of major wars around the world. When the young Canadian ice dancers took the gold and the U.S. took silver, the sportscaster proclaimed them “the first North Americans” to drive the Russians off top spot. When Canada trounced Russia in hockey, the same jingoism was seen which has nothing to do with the pride Canadians take in their athletes.

On the eve of the Olympics, the largest offensive of NATO was launched on a small town in Afghanistan. While Maple Leaf flags waved in Vancouver, Maple Leaf flags also stand behind the NATO missiles which killed nearly 30 Afghanistan civilians travelling in a bus convoy. Canadian soldiers joined in the butchery thousands of miles from home, but close to China’s western frontiers and Russia’s southern frontiers, one cannot miss the obvious geo-political significance of this deadly conflict now in its eighth year.

Nor can Canadians forget the virtual militarization of Vancouver and Whistler with 16,000 armed men and women, helicopters flying overhead 24/7, spy cameras throughout downtown – over 8 billion dollars spent by government for “security”– so that Canadians can be trained to accept an arrangement whereby police “make the rules.”

A reader in Vancouver

Human performance has no limits

IN ALL those Winter Olympics sports with scores that can be compared from year to year, athletes have achieved steady, sometimes dramatic improvements in results through most of the past century. For example, in March 1890, Oskar Fredriksen completed the 5,000 metre speedskating event in a record 9 minutes 19.8 seconds. In November 2007, Sven Kramer’s record time for the same distance was 6 minutes 3.32 seconds, over 30% faster. Speedskating debuted as an event at the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924. New records can be traced mainly to better application of scientific laws for the improvement of equipment, technique, and training methods. For example, the modern “klapskate” was developed at Vrije University in Amsterdam in 1985 and used for the first time in competitive speed skating in South Holland during the 1996/1997 racing season. The klapskate is constructed so that the shoe part can hinge up away from the blade to free the heel. Its superiority is due to the location of the pivot point around which the foot rotates, namely the hinge under the ball of the foot. When tested, the klapskate allowed speedskaters to generate 12% more power and to go 5% faster.

Some researchers claim that athletes are reaching the limits of human performance, a claim often brought up during the Olympics. It is part of the overall notion of “the end of” which the bourgeoisie wants to popularize, e.g., the “end of ideology,” the “end of history,” the “end of science,” etc. The ideological purpose of “the end of” is to spread gloom and doom about the future in order to preserve the status quo and to suggest that human beings have reached their pinnacle within the present society and that no more significant progress can be made in any field, including athletic performance. On the contrary, human performance will always improve and new athletic records will continue to be set, as human society advances to higher and higher levels. The bogus claim that athletes are reaching their limits is both an attack on science, whose application is the main source of performance improvement, and a complete denial of the role of the human factor/social consciousness in bringing about human progress on any and all fronts.

A reader in Edmonton

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