Thursday, March 05, 2009

The following statement comes from the A-Infos website, but its origin is at the Northwest Common Action platformist organization. As the 2010 Winter Olympics draw nearer the opposition to the games grows stronger. Out Vancouver way the recent news of gang warfare (a great tourist attraction) has overshadowed the financial scandals that are growing day by day as to the contracts for construction that may or may not be completed with extra heapings of government money. In actual fact very few, if any, Olympics have ever been held without a hit to the public purse, however much some private businesses may profit. Here's the statement of solidarity with the opposition to the games. The following has been edited to eliminate repetition errors in the original.
International support for Statement: Solidarity and Unity in Opposing the 2010 Olympics:

The Olympics Resistance Network is a space to coordinate anti-colonial and anti-capitalist efforts against the 2010 Games within Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. Our organizing is based on the recognition that the Olympics is taking place on unceded Native land, and exists to create a movement for all anti capitalist, Indigenous, anti poverty, labour, migrant justice, housing, environmental justice, civil libertarian, anti war, and anti colonial activists to join forces. We come together on the basis of anti-oppression principles and with a respect for diversity of tactics. In addition to building ongoing educational and resistance efforts, we are working towards a convergence between February 10th-15th 2010, based on the call by the Indigenous Peoples Gathering in Sonora, Mexico to boycott the Games.
We recognize that we, the Olympics Resistance Network, represent part of a wider movement opposing the 2010 Olympics. Therefore this statement aims to encourage solidarity and unity amongst the diverse groups, communities, and movements who are opposed to and/or critical of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The negative effects of the upcoming 2010 Winter Games are already quite clear:
* Expansion of sport tourism and resource extraction on Indigenous lands.
There are over $5 billion worth of resort plans since the Olympic bid, despite
significant grassroots Indigenous opposition for example around Kamloops and
Mount Currie. According to the Native Youth Movement, "The Olympics opens up our
land, our sacred sites, and our medicine grounds to big corporations, but we
want them to know that our land is not for sale."
* Increasing homelessness and gentrification of poor neighbourhoods
especially Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. It is projected that the number of
homeless in Vancouver will triple from 1000 homeless people since the Olympic
bid in 2003 to over 3200 people by 2010. According to a report by the
Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, the Olympic Games have
displaced more than two million people around the world over the last 20
* Unprecedented destruction of the environment. This includes massive
deforestation in the Callaghan Valley to build the Whistler Olympic Center,
clearcuts of Cypress Mountain which is a designated 2010 venue location; massive
sand and gravel mining operations to build construction materials; and the
destruction of Eagleridge Bluffs due to the Sea-to-Sky Highway construction. In
2007, 71-year old Pacheedaht elder Harriet Nahanee and 78-year old
environmentalist Betty Krawcyzk were two of the arrestees at a blockade opposing
construction at Eagleridge Bluffs. Harriet Nahanee contracted pneumonia at the
Surrey Pre-Trial Center. She died a few days later, while hospitalized, on Feb.
24, 2007.
* More privatization of public services and ballooning public debt. The
total cost for 2010 and related construction will be close to $6 billion, with
Olympic venues alone costing over $4.5 billion. For example, taxpayers are on
the hook for $875 million for the 2010 Olympic Athletes Village's construction
costs alone.
* Union busting through imposed contracts and vulnerable working conditions
especially for migrant labour. There are an estimated 3,000-5,000 temporary
migrant and undocumented workers in the Olympics-fuelled and speculation-driven
construction industry that are prone to hyper-exploitation and are vulnerable
given their lack of full legal status.
* Increased funding (up to $1 billion) for the police, military, and border
control agents in the name of so-called national security. Sociologist David
Lyon has dubbed Vancouver 2010 "the Surveillance Games" since security
operations will include over 13,000 RCMP, military & other security
personnel as well as joint US-Canada military & North American Aerospace
Defence Command operations.
* Criminalization of the poor. Former Mayor Sam Sullivan has written "I
believe we have a tremendous opportunity to use the upcoming 2010 Games as a
catalyst to [solve public disorder problems]." Plans to "cleanse" the city's
core of the poor include increased funding for private security initiatives such
as the Downtown Ambassadors; passing of the Safe Streets Act which prohibits
sitting or lying down on city sidewalks; banning dumpsters from the downtown
core; and more.
Given this devastating reality, we are aware that there is wide-spread opposition to the 2010 Winter Olympics. This ranges from those who are opposing the negative impacts of the Games to those who seek to boycott the Games; from those who desire to raise public awareness about the Games to those who choose to engage in direct action against the Games and its sponsors; from those who are concerned about single issues surrounding the Games to those who are concerned about the overall impact of the Games.
Despite our differences in analysis and strategies we believe we have a significant opportunity to come together and voice our opposition to the 2010 Olympic Games. This statement of unity does not call for us to fully agree or stand by each other's tactics or ideas, although we believe we have much to learn and understand from one another. Rather, this statement calls for a basic unity in expressing our critique of the 2010 Olympics Games and committing to finding ways to work and support each other in our complementary efforts to expose this two-week circus and the oppression it represents to so many communities and sectors.
Leading up to the 2010 Olympics, police and security forces already have and will continue to surveil, target, infiltrate, repress, and attempt to divide our movement ( We realize that we may have many differences in analysis and tactics and such disagreements are healthy. However we believe such debates should remain internal and we should refrain from publicly denouncing or marginalizing one another especially to mainstream media and law enforcement. In particular, we should avoid characterizations such as "bad" or "violent" protesters. We respectfully request that all those in opposition to the 2010 Olympics maintain our collective and unified commitment to social justice and popular mobilization efforts in the face of massive attempts to divide us.
Please share this statement with others. We ask that if your group agrees with this statement and the basic principles outlined within it, to please email your endorsement to
In solidarity, Olympics Resistance Network.
Endorsed by 2010 Watch, Alliance for People's Health, Anarchist Blackcross Melbourne, Anti Poverty Committee, AntiWar @ Laurier, Christian Radical, Community Solidarity Coalition (Victoria), Edmonton Small Press Association, off and Dance, Free Lex Wotton - Australia, Gerald and Maas Inc, Grandview Woodlands Area Council, Healing the Earth Radio, Indigenous Action Movement, Indigenous Peace Education, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement-Guelph, Industrial Workers of the World, Joey Only Outlaw Band, Native 2010 Resistance, Native Youth Movement,, No2010 Victoria, No One Is Illegal-Ottawa, No One Is Illegal-Toronto, No One Is Illegal-Vancouver, Oil Sands Truth, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Rising Tide North America, Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group, Sound Resistance Radio, St'at'imc NYM, Stratford Action For Equality, Sudbury Against War and Occupation, Teaching Support Staff Union Social Justice Committee, The Grey Tigers Seniors Group, UBC Colour Connected Against Racism, Vancouver Island Community Forest Action Network, Vancouver Status of Women, Warrior Publications, Wild Earth, Work Less Party, Common Action.Related Link:
Oh yes, Olympic games are always touted as an unalloyed benefit for the communities that host them. The reality is usually quite different. Here's an article from the No Olympics on Stolen Native Land site. that talks about what the real cost to Vancouver may be.
Olympic Glitter Not Always Gold:

"So this is really just...profit for the hotels and that goes back to shareholders back at the corporate headquarters back in New York City rather than actually sticking in the Vancouver economy"

"In Lillehammer, host of the 1994 Winter Games... 40 per cent of the hotels went bankrupt and two new alpine facilities were sold for US$1 to prevent bankruptcy."

Olympic glitter doesn't always mean gold: Economists:
By Stephanie Levitz,
VANCOUVER, B.C. - The colours of the Olympic rings, history says, represent the nations of the world. But when prospective host cities look at them, they see gold.

Each Olympic bid is preceded by reams of impact studies that promise billions in economic benefits to a Games host.

For the 2010 Winter Olympics, the figure cited most often is $10.7 billion, which takes into account the number of jobs created, the value of having a new convention centre and tax revenues.

But rarely are the same studies applied after the Games, economists say, making it almost impossible to judge whether a host's Olympic dreams do come true.

"People are apprehensive about what they might find," said Edward Mansfield, an associate partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, which is conducting a multi-year study of the 2010 Games for the federal and provincial governments.

Before the bid was awarded to Vancouver, consulting firm Hardy Stevenson went to past hosts and did their own study of the actual social, economic and environmental outcomes of the previous Games.

Expectations and reality didn't always meet up, said Dave Hardy, the firm's principal.

"There are some cities where they weren't met, some cities where they feel they were met but they're putting on a brave face, and other cities where I think they were considerably exceeded," he said.

That's in part due to how hard Games committees and host cities work to leverage the Olympics, he said.

In Lillehammer, host of the 1994 Winter Games, not enough was done to capitalize on potential tourism, he said.

The result was that 40 per cent of the hotels went bankrupt and two new alpine facilities were sold for US$1 to prevent bankruptcy.

Pre-Games studies also use variables that can't take into account unknown factors, like the weather or how well the city performs as a host.

They also don't reflect the cost.

When a trio of sports economists looked at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, they found all that glittered wasn't exactly gold.

In a 2008 study of tax receipts from the period during the Olympics, hotels and restaurants did do extremely well, as forecasted.

But they didn't do well enough to make up for the US$167.4 million lost in other areas of the economy.

"Most economists who are not working for the sports leagues or working for the event managers always come up with numbers that are a fraction of what the event organizers promise," said Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts and one of the authors of the study.

One factor almost never taken into account, said Matheson, is how much money being spent by or during an Olympics actually stays in the local economy.

An increase in hotel prices doesn't mean hotel employees' wages go up too, he pointed out.

"So this is really just money that is kind of a windfall profit for the hotels and that goes back to shareholders back at the corporate headquarters back in New York City rather than actually sticking in the Vancouver economy," he said.

The study most often cited in connection with perceived benefits for the 2010 Games was done by Intervistas in 2002, long before this fall's spectacular economic collapse.

But the authors say they don't feel the current economy will have much of an impact on 2010, as the payoff from a Games is more closely tied to Olympic construction and the legacies left by venues and increased tourism.

Ticket and merchandise sales for Vancouver's Olympics have already exceeded expectations.

The Calgary Olympic Development Association estimates that the '88 Winter Olympics facilities have contributed $925 million to the gross domestic product since those Games.

Canada's tourism industry is getting more than $40 million to capitalize on the Games, but linking tourist visits to the Olympics is a figure that's very difficult to quantify, Mansfield said.
"What we're trying to do is say . . . how many visitors do we think we would have gotten and then contrast that to what we actually get," he said of the work his firm is doing.

"And then say well, is that suggestive that Olympic exposure had a role."

The $10.7 billion that B.C. politicians use is the highest end of the estimates in the 2002 study.

The figure includes potential spinoff from the $900-million expansion of Vancouver's convention centre, though the centre isn't included in the province's own Olympic budget.

Without including the centre, the highest economic impact is estimated at $4.2 billion.

B.C. politicians stress that given the current economic climate, any benefit provided by the Games is worth it, especially since the province is running a $740-million deficit for the next two years(So...let's make it more via "boosterism", a classic right wing trait-Molly).

But when they tout Games' benefits, they don't mention that the deficit is only $20 million less than the provincial Olympic budget.

"It's basically going to be a subsidy to the rest of the world, if you want to think of it that way, for hosting that event," said Rob Bauman, an economist who worked with Matheson on the review of the 2002 Games.

"Whether that ultimately pays off, that remains to be seen."
The public budget for the coming Olympic Games is fantastic, and still gowing as the public gets stuck for more and more of the cost. Here's another article from the No Olympics on Stolen Native Land site about what that money could be better spent on.
What $6 Billion Could Buy:
Got $6 billion to spend? Let's luge! Or maybe not
By Pete Mcmartin, Vancouver Sun, February 24, 2009
But by our incomplete tally and with another year to go until the Games (the cost of the 2010 Winter Olympics, not including an added $725 million for security) it's about $6,000,000,000.

For $6 billion, you could fund the entire budget of the seismic-upgrading program for B.C. schools four times over. The program has been criticized repeatedly for its slow pace. To date, of the hundreds of elementary and secondary schools that need upgrading across the province, only 32 have been completed. The B.C. auditor-general, in his report of Dec. 4, 2008, wrote that "the approved budget of $1.5 billion will fall far short of the amount required to retrofit the at-risk schools identified in the original assessment."

- For $6 billion -- assuming that a first-class fourth-year constable in Vancouver costs an average of approximately $100,000 in annual salary and benefits -- the city could hire 3,000 new police officers for 20 years. Beset by increasing gang violence, and the rising costs of investigations due to that violence, the Vancouver police force claims that for large metropolitan areas, its police per capita ratio remains among the country's lowest. [No2010 note: bad idea]

- For $6 billion, you could pay the tuition fees of 345,383 University of B.C. arts students for their entire four-year program, or the four-year tuition fees of 314,004 UBC science students, or the four-year tuition fees of 287,853 UBC engineering students, or of 100,963 UBC medical students.

- For $6 billion, you could pay the salaries of UBC's 587 full professors -- who, according to UBC's media relations department, earn an average salary of just over $140,000 -- for 73 years.

- For $6 billion, you could pay the cost of educating all 550,000 elementary and secondary students for 1 1/3 years.

- For $6 billion, you could build not one but four Evergreen Lines to Coquitlam, and still have a few hundred million left over in change. The future of the line, which has been promised for years, still appears to be in doubt because of a lack of financing commitments from the federal government.

If one chose to build only one Evergreen Line, the remaining billions could not only eradicate the expected $100-million-plus shortfall in TransLink's 2009 operating budget, but any shortfalls for decades to come. There would be plenty left for new buses.

- For $6 billion -- assuming that the cost of social housing is now about $300,000 per unit, up from the 2007 estimate of $200,000 per unit -- you could build 20,000 units of social housing in the city, or a number about equal to the entire existing stock in Vancouver.

- For $6 billion -- assuming a recent investigation by the Province of government money being spent in the Downtown Eastside is accurate -- you could fund all of the several hundred social welfare institutions in the DTES that receive federal, provincial or municipal funds for more than 16 years. That includes social housing, food banks, charities, drug and addiction services and welfare payments.

- For $6 billion -- if the ballpark figure kicked around in previous discussions about redevelopment is accurate or even, indeed, within the ballpark -- you could build not just one new hospital to replace the aging St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver, but six of them.

- For $6 billion -- and my thanks for this to colleague Vaughn Palmer, whose knowledge of all things government is encyclopedic -- the government could waive the sales tax for a little over a year, or waive the property transfer tax for six years, or pay the entire public service payroll for more than two years.

Also, for $6 billion, Palmer's note stated with what I believe was a hint of mischief, you could run the premier's office for 500 years.
It wouldn't be my first priority.
Finally, once more from the the No Olympics on Stolen Native Land site, a report on a more recent Olympic screw-up, the recent beijing Olympics. If even those uber-capitalists, the Chinese Communists (irony intended) can screw up is there any doubt that others will do likewise.
Beijing's Olympic Building Boom Goes Bust:

Beijing's Olympic building boom becomes a bust
By Barbara Demick, February 22, 2009, LA Times
Reporting from Beijing -- "Empty," says Jack Rodman, an expert in distressed real estate, as he points from the window of his 40th-floor office toward a silver-skinned prism rising out of the Beijing skyline.

"Beautiful building, but not a single tenant."
Completely empty.
So goes the refrain as his finger skips from building to building, each flashier than the next, and few of them more than barely occupied.

Beijing went through a building boom before the 2008 Summer Olympics that filled a staid communist capital with angular architectural feats that grace the covers of glossy design magazines.

Now, six months after the Games ended, the city continues to dazzle by night, with neon and floodlights dancing across the skyline. By day, though, it is obvious that many are "see-through" buildings, to use the term coined during the Texas real estate bust of the 1980s.

By Rodman's calculations, 500 million square feet of commercial real estate has been developed in Beijing since 2006, more than all the office space in Manhattan. And that doesn't include huge projects developed by the government. He says 100 million square feet of office space is vacant -- a 14-year supply if it filled up at the same rate as in the best years, 2004 through '06, when about 7 million square feet a year was leased.

"The scale of development was unprecedented anywhere in the world," said Rodman, a Los Angeles native who lives in Beijing, running a firm called Global Distressed Solutions. "It defied logic. It just doesn't make sense."

Construction cranes jut into the skyline, but increasingly they are fixed in place, awaiting fresh financing before work resumes.

Boarded fences advertise coming attractions -- "an iconic landmark" or "international wonderland" -- that are in varying states of half-completion. A retail strip in one development advertised as "La Vibrant shopping street" is empty.

In a country where protests are rare, migrant workers stand in front of several construction projects, voicing their grievances.

"Our boss ran away with the money and he is nowhere to be found," said Li Zirong, a migrant worker from Shaanxi province, who was a supervisor on a stunning building with windows shaped like portholes.

What makes this boom-and-bust cycle different from those in the West is that there is no private ownership of land in China, making local governments de facto partners in the real estate industry, which earn huge fees from leasing and transferring land.

Huang Yasheng, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, traces the blame for the bust to the Chinese Communist Party and its reluctance to allow a true market economy.

"The lack of land reform fed into the real estate bubble and now it's coming back to haunt them," said Huang, author of "Capitalism With Chinese Characteristics," published last year.
"There should have been more checks and balances on the ability of the government to acquire land."

The government spent $43 billion for the Olympics, nearly three times as much as any other host city. But many of the venues proved too big, too expensive and more photogenic than practical.

The National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, has only one event scheduled for this year: a performance of the opera "Turandot" on Aug. 8, the one-year anniversary of the Olympic opening ceremony. China's leading soccer club backed out of a deal to play there, saying it would be an embarrassment to use a 91,000-seat stadium for games that ordinarily attract only 10,000 spectators.

The venue, which costs $9 million a year to maintain, is expected to be turned into a shopping mall in several years, its owners announced last month.

A baseball stadium that opened last spring with an exhibition game between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, is being demolished. Its owner says it also will use the land for a shopping mall.

Among the major Olympic venues, only the National Aquatics Center, nicknamed the Water Cube, has had a productive afterlife. It's used for sound-and-light shows, with dancing fountains in the swimming lanes where Michael Phelps won his gold medals.

All around the Olympic complex, there are cavernous empty buildings, such as the main press center for the Games, that still await tenants.

A shopping arcade that stretches for a quarter of a mile across the street from the complex is empty, the storefronts papered over with signs reading "famous stores corridor."

"They wanted to build 'the world's biggest this' and 'the world's biggest that,' but these buildings have almost zero long-term economic benefit," economist Huang said.

Moreover, the makeover of Beijing for the Olympics led to an estimated 1.5 million residents being evicted from their homes, according to the Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions.

In this vibrant capital city of 17 million, there is an insatiable demand for housing, yet prices remain far out of reach of most residents. American-style free-standing homes are being advertised for more than $1 million in gated communities with names like Versailles, Provence, Arcadia and Riviera. Within the Fourth Ring Road, a beltway that defines the central part of the city, two- and three-bedroom apartments are offered for $800,000 in compounds named Central Park and Riverside.

"These are like New York prices, but we are Chinese. We don't have that kind of money," said Zhang Huizhan, a 55-year-old businessman who owns a Chinese furniture factory. He has been looking for five years for an apartment for him and his wife within their budget of $150,000.
The average salary in Beijing is less than $6,000 a year.

Louis Kuijs, a senior economist at the World Bank in Beijing, said a lack of government supervision of the real estate industry tempted developers to build only for the luxury market and to ignore the mass market.

"If you think demand is endless for anything you build and you have just 200 square meters of land, you will build high-end apartments to make the highest profit," Kuijs said.

To its credit, the government recognized in 2007 that the real estate market was headed toward a bubble, economists say. In an attempt to make real estate more affordable, restrictions were introduced on ownership of second homes and on foreign home buyers. But the measures came too late, accelerating the crash of an already weakening market.

The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics reported this month that housing sales in the city dropped 40% last year. Chinese economists have predicted that housing prices will drop 15% to 20% in Beijing this year. Shanghai has experienced a similar decline.

"You can look at this perhaps as a healthy correction in the market," Kuijs said.

In the longer term, he said, "China's urbanization and overall development is going to lead to a very large additional demand for housing in the city."

Before that happens, the situation could get worse. Most of the real estate has been financed by Chinese banks, which have avoided writing down the loans. Eventually, they will be forced to, and that probably will have a ripple effect throughout the economy.

"At the end, somebody is going to have to pay the piper," real estate expert Rodman said.
Nicole Liu and Eliot Gao of The Times' Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.


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