Forgotten among the medals


I watch, with millions, the spinning symmetry, the aerial magic, the split-second speed of the super-bodies—and I see the pain around the eyes from a flood of lactic acid, forgotten in the exaltation of everything coming together at the right time, culminating in a personal best, a first, a gold. This is not, man-on-skates-goes-real-fast. It is, in it’s purest form, a celebration of the body as temple. And it’s as inspiring as a new idea. And I, like millions, am caught up in the spell of sport—the Olympiad—the Olympic spirit.

WEB_OlympicTentVillage-SH_2010_01 The problem—and it is always the problem of any gathering rooted in fascination—is with the money changers that hang around the temple. That so much planning, energy, creativity, imagination, not to mention time and money (six years and six billion dollars) can be concentrated on a 17 day event with only rudimentary forethought for the bodies of the displaced, shames the enterprise.

For example, according to Dr. Christopher Shaw in an interview with This Magazine, the 250 units (Athletes Village), once promised for social housing, will now have to be sold to recoup a mushrooming 60 million dollar operating budget. (This needs watching.)


That the IOC, a country unto itself, is never burdened by social cost, that developers are subsidized but seldom bound to social welfare considerations, that aboriginal communities have been split by money and promise, that tokenism is no where near dead, that governments continue to talk a good game–is the detritus left over from the supposed legacy. And that’s the tarnish.

It’s time to give the Olympics a permanent venue. It’s time to focus on the fun and beauty of sport for its own sake. Most of all it’s time to realize that, as Vancouver resident and tent-dweller-for-a-night Gillian Young says,

If we can’t take care of our brothers and sisters, then we’re not going anywhere.


  1. Thank you for bringing this up! I like to rejoice with those who rejoice but when there seems so much greed caught in this and pain to those already in pain aren’t we missing something?

  2. I am not a fan of the Olympics on any measure — so its ironic that I have spent much of my waking life for the past 3 years on one the matters discussed in this article… the affordable housing units in the Olympic Village.

    For the record… Vancouver City Council has not made a decision about the 252 units of affordable housing promised in the Olympic Village – which because of when they were built were anything but affordable to construct. The cost is not Olympic “operating budget” related… its the cost of rushing construction to a deadline (like say the cost of using an overnight courier to deliver at x-mas eve) alas this is the cost of “inclusivity” for an otherwise… by its very nature… elitist event. The $900 million spent on security is an interesting amount of money to be spent on this. Even the IOC thought it was over the top. Not sure what exactly the purpose of the fighter jets and army helicopters that are a constant in the skies this week are in aid of… Speaks to somebodies values. Its not too late for Vancouverites and others to call or e-mail Vancouver City Councillors and tell them what they think the right decision should be on this matter.

  3. Daniel, it’s good to hear from someone “on the ground” so to speak. I’ve read similar posts and articles that raise eyebrows over the security costs and the military-like surveillance. Yes, somebodies values are on display. And thanks for the update on the Athletes Village to social housing question. Sounds like there could still be a reasonable outcome here. Hopefully there will be many who take time to call up their city councillors.

  4. Actually, thanks Steve! Couldn’t agree with you more. Hats off to Chris Shaw and the protesters, and Daniel for weighing in.

  5. While in agreement with all of the sentiments about, I found myself choking up a bit as IOC president Jaques Rogge declared the Olympic games closed and then called on the “youth of the world” to reconvene in 2014 at Sochi, Russia. Something in that sounded hopeful.

  6. I didn’t know that and I really appreciate this post, Stephen. It’s quite the eye-opener. I’ve always looked forward to the winter games on television. Never gave two bits for the summer games. I guess that sounds crazy coming from this far south of the ice-line. Four years future I very well may not tune in. How many meals will six billion dollars buy?


  7. Thank you David, Great to have support from south of the ice-line. I think you may be a closet Canadian:)

    Sam, I think the better side of the games are all about hope, but it gets lost for those on the peripheral, the displaced. Perhaps the “youth of the world” can begin the shift.

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