Monday, March 1, 2010

Mental Health Mondays- Olympic Observations

Hey Athenites,

I live in Vancouver, Canada, and the past couple of weeks have been crazy with Olympic fever. Yesterday I accepted an on-call job at the Molson Hockey House, the largest of the temporary Houses built around the city where Olympic fans congregated to drink and watch events. I didn't know what to expect.

It was loud. Really, really loud. A generic rock band played hits like "Barracuda" and "We Will Rock You." Everyone seemed to be wearing red and white, running around with ruddy faces and ringing cowbells. The MC had a white suit on and appeared on the stage once in awhile to yell "GO CANADA GO" and pump his fists in the air spasmodically. I'm not a huge fan of the Olympics and, being completely sober, failed to see what all the nationalistic fuss was about. Yes, I'm very grateful that I live in Canada, proud even, but don't understand how sports are the best way to showcase this.

So I'm wearing my starched white blouse and black apron, standing in the corner by the scalloped potatoes with all the other food runners. One girl has been working 17 days straight. She seldom smiles, and when she does, it's after some kind of dark joke, or after she's burned herself on the steam from the hot holder. I can understand why: 17 days of ear-deafening roars and obnoxious drunks, standing 10 hours a day for $ 10 dollars an hour.

In the staff eating area, I'm surrounded by servers, bartenders, food runners and managers. Some of the girls there are Molson Girls. These are girls who are hired to hang out in the drinking areas. I notice that they're all blonde, clear-skinned, and thin. One of the guys I work with ask them what they do. "Oh you know," one of the many long-haired blondes answers with a whiny voice, "we talk to people and play games!"

The most sobering part of the night was seeing a group of security guards kick an over-zealous fan out. I'm not sure what he did wrong, but they threw him down on the ground as hard as they could and started punching him. This was during the closing ceremonies, when the head of the Olympic committee was giving a speech about how sport brought people together. I find myself thinking how can this be true when we're only being brought together to prove how much better we are than another group?

One part of the Olympics that hardly got any coverage were the protests:
collectives, NGO members and community members gathered to protest Vancouver's lack of affordable housing, gentrification, and holding the Olympics on stolen Native land (Vancouver is un-ceded Coast Salish territory). I didn't go to any of the Olympic protests, though I have a very close friend who was deeply involved with them. She recounted to me a few of the goings-on at the tent city that had been assembled at Hastings and Abbott, surrounded by gentrified buildings. She said that one had a huge Canadian flag on it. On another one, someone had lowered a sign that says "Build Resumes Not Tent Cities." In one of the buildings someone can't sleep and keeps yelling "COCKSUCKERS!" at the protesters.

Numbers are flying everywhere, but the estimated cost of the Olympics is somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 billion dollars. This money could have been spent developing social housing, but what's the glory in that?

What do you think of the Olympics?


Pivot Legal Society- Advocacy on behalf of marginalized people

No Olympics on Stolen Native Land

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