Live From Vancouver

No Games co-founder Bob Quellos and organizer Martin Macias, Jr. were invited to Vancouver to participate in a conference criticizing the winter games. Martin was pulled from the passport control line at the Vancouver airport on Saturday, February 6 and grilled for over two hours on his intentions and his Canadian hosts. Read Tom Tresser’s account in The Huffington Post. Although this story was widely reported in the Canadian and U.S. northwest media, it was blacked out here.

Here are posts that Bob reported while in Vancouver.

When Snow Melts: Vancouver’s Olympic Crackdown

Dave Zirin, The Nation

News Flash: Winter Olympic officials in tropical Vancouver have been forced to import snow – on the public dime – to make sure that the 2010 games proceed as planned. This use of tax-dollars is just the icing on the cake for increasingly angry Vancouver residents. And unlike the snow, the anger shows no signs of abating. As Olympic Resistance Network organizer Harsha Walia wrote in the Vancouver Sun, “With massive cost over-runs and Olympic project bailouts, it is not surprising that a November 2009 Angus Reid poll found that more than 30 per cent of [British Columbia] residents feel the Olympics will have a negative impact and almost 40 per cent support protesters. A January 2010 EKOS poll found that almost 70 per cent believe that too much is being spent on the Games.” [ download a PDF of this poll]

Officials are feeling the anger, and the independent media, frighteningly, is paying the price. Just as Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was held in November for trying to cross the border for reasons that had nothing to do with the Olympic Games, Martin Macias Jr., an independent media reporter from Chicago, was detained and held for seven hours by Canada Border Services agents before being put on a plane and sent to Seattle. Macias, who is 20 years old, is a media reform activist with community radio station Radio Arte where he serves as the host/producer of First Voice, a radio news zine.

I spoke to Martin Macias today and he described a chilling scene of detention and expulsion. “I was asked the same questions for three and a half hours in a small room. They told me I had no right to a lawyer. I went from frustrated and angry to scared. I didn’t know what the laws were or how the laws had been changed for the Olympics. I kept telling them I wasn’t going to Vancouver to protest but to cover the protests but for them that was one and the same. This is bigger than me. We need to ask who is exactly ordering this kind of repression. Is it the government? The IOC? Why the crackdown?”

Then insult on top of injury when they deported Macias and insisted he pay his own way out of the country. “They wanted me to buy a $1,300 plane ticket back to Chicago. I said ‘no way’ and now I’m in Seattle.”

Martin’s story is not unique. Two delegates aiming to attend an indigenous assembly taking place alongside the games were also detained and turned away.

For people with just a passing knowledge of our neighbors to the north, it must all seem quite shocking. When we think of human rights abuses and suppression of dissent, Canada is hardly the first place that comes to mind. But there actually is a long history in Canada of this kind of abuse of power. The latest chapter in that history has been written during the pre-Olympic crackdown of 2010. Now as protestors and independent, unembedded journalists gather for the February 10-15 anti-Olympic convergence, as tax dollars go toward importing snow, the need to silence dissent becomes an International Olympic Committee imperative.

As Chicago’s Bob Quellos, who entered Vancouver successfully after accompanying Macias, said to me,

“Walking the streets, residents here are very clear about who is responsible for the billions of dollars of Olympic debt they will be paying off for generations. They are outraged that the over $1 billion that is being spent on security has placed a cop on almost every corner of Downtown Vancouver. And they are outraged by the government’s priorities. For example, while Vancouver’s Downtown East Side struggles with poverty similar to third-world countries and social programs continue to be gutted, VANOC is spending an untold amount of money helicoptering in snow to the Olympic venue of Cypress Mountain that would otherwise be a mud hill due to the warm weather.”

It’s not hard to deduce why the snow is melting: it’s the heat on the street.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]
View the full article in its original form at: http://www.thenation.com/blogs/notion/528319/when_snow_melts_vancouver_s_olympic_crackdown

4,000 Protest Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

Listen to a press conference called by the Olympic Resistance Network.

Vancouver covered in anti-Olympic flyers

Resist the Games!Resist the Games! Resist the Torch!

You don’t have to walk far in Vancouver to find flyers or graffiti in opposition to the 2010 Olympic Games. Here’s just one example.

Taxi companies struggling amid Olympic hype

Andrew Weichel, ctvbc.ca

Updated: Mon. Feb. 8 2010 11:30 PM ET

Vancouver taxi companies say the 2010 Winter Games are set to drive them out of business.
Black Top Cabs president Amrik Mahil says the last few weeks have been the slowest his company has seen in 15 years.

“We’re down about 40, 45 per cent in fares,” Mahil said. “All four companies in Vancouver, they are struggling just as much.”  Mahil cited the recession, the opening of the Canada Line, and a number of provisional Olympic transportation measures for the drop in business.

On Jan. 24, the Passenger Transportation Board temporarily relaxed the boundary restrictions for 35 per cent of the cabs in Metro Vancouver. Now, Black Top’s 197-car fleet has roughly 330 more vehicles from across the region competing for Vancouver fares.

The board has also granted 44 temporary taxi permits to handle the influx of Games tourists. It all adds up to bad business for Vancouver’s local cab companies. “If things keep going the way they are, we’re going to start losing drivers,” Mahil said. “They don’t want to drive if they’re not going to be making money.”

Passenger Transportation Board director Jan Broocke said the measures were put in place to ensure both Olympic tourists and locals would be accommodated during the games. “Our plan was designed to allow the existing supply to be used more efficiently,” Broocke said. Asked why the relaxed boundaries were implemented so early, Broocke cited a bad tip.  “We had heard anecdotally that there were media coming in early, and there could be some people coming in prior to the actual Olympics,” said Broocke.

But the Games themselves are just days away, Broocke said, and cab drivers’ patience will be rewarded with thousands of possible fares. Mahil isn’t so sure. He says traffic restrictions that prohibit all vehicles, including taxis, from stopping in Olympic lanes means picking up passengers could prove difficult.

“You go in that lane and stop, you’re going to be ticketed,” he said. “Mobility’s going to be a big problem for the next few weeks.”

See this article in its original form at http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100208/bc_taxis_hurting_100208/20100208?hub=BritishColumbia

Stop civil obedience: Fight the Games

By Harsha Walia, Special to the Vancouver Sun

http://www.vancouversun.com/story_print.html?id=2536175&sponsor

They’ve been dubbed everything from the Surveillance Games to the Bailout Games to Olympics Inc., and British historian George Monbiot has aptly characterized the Olympics as “a legacy of a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich … Everywhere they go, they become an excuse for eviction and displacement; they have become a license for land grabs.”

It is trite to comment on how taxpayers are the real sponsors of the $6 billion-$7 billion Winter Games. According to Kevin Walmsley of the University of Western Ontario’s International Centre for Olympic Studies, most host cities incur a high debt. Corporate sponsors, on the other hand, use sports as a commodity for their merchandising and are provided with exclusive deals under the ruling ideology of market fundamentalism. For companies like Petro-Canada and the Royal Bank of Canada, complicit in the world’s largest industrial project and environmental disaster that is the Alberta oilsands, sponsoring the Olympics provides the much-needed platform for corporate greenwashing.

With massive cost over-runs and Olympic project bailouts, it is not surprising that a November 2009 Angus Reid poll found that more than 30 per cent of B.C. residents feel the Olympics will have a negative impact and almost 40 per cent support protesters. A January 2010 EKOS poll found that almost 70 per cent believe that too much is being spent on the Games.

Despite corporate sanitized billboards full of smiling people adorned in red, international media have picked up on this rapidly creeping sense of dread. A commentator for the Manchester Guardian declared that “Vancouver looks more like postwar Berlin than an Olympic wonderland,” while Sports Illustrated writer Dave Zirin quips: “When I arrived in Vancouver, the first thing I noticed was the frowns.”

Much like the failed financial commitments, the IOC and Vanoc have failed on their token social promises, which included protecting rental housing and ensuring that people are not made homeless. The reality is that Vancouver has experienced a 300-percent increase in homelessness since the Olympic bid, while approximately 1,600 new market housing and condominium units are being built around the Downtown Eastside.

According to Downtown Eastside resident Joan Morelli, “There is a condo tsunami overrunning our neighbourhood, where will we go?” A damning June 2007 report by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions found that two million people have been displaced in host cities over 20 years.

Under the guise of this exceptional two-week party, we are left with irreversible policies of corporate welfare, gentrification, land grabs, surveillance and massive debt.

It seems, then, the real question is not why are people protesting. Rather it is: why would you not protest? I would rather be remembered as a community that stood up to defy this five-ring circus, rather than yet another passive host city that has been duped by the IOC and its government and corporate cronies.

As recently deceased U. S historian Howard Zinn reminded us: “Our problem is not civil disobedience, our problem is civil obedience … Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country.”

Harsha Walia is an activist.

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