For many people, the arrival of the Pan Am games is heralded with the same kind of celebration as the Olympics. However, a local group doesn’t think it should be this way.
No Games Toronto is working to ensure that Toronto doesn’t succeed in its bid for the 2015 Pan Am games. The group made headlines when it staged a protest Aug. 31 outside U of T’s Varsity Stadium. But No Games Toronto is just an offshoot of a much larger organization, the Olympic Resistance Network.
The organization wants to keep the Pan Am games out of Toronto so that they won’t suffer the same fate as Vancouver after the Olympics were held there, says Christopher Shaw, an ophthalmology professor who serves as a contact for the Olympic Resistance Network.
“The city had to take over the financing for the Athlete’s Village,” he says. “It’s now on the hook for about a billion dollars. It’s gone into a deep hole over this. A lot of people here are in really deep shock.”
The groups plans “to resist the games with protests, and make a point about the game,” which he calls, “a circus that marginalizes people.”
He echoes the same sentiments as No Games Toronto’s blog: the games will throw the city into deep debt and money will be taken away from important programs like social housing and education, as occurred with the Olympics in Vancouver.
While his opinion may be an unusual one, Shaw admits this may actually help the organization. “It’s sort of a mixed blessing,” he says. “People are curious. This curiosity is essential, because the problems with the Games are all economic in nature, and most people find economics boring. A lot of people simply don’t want to hear it.”
But it’s that curiosity about their contrary viewpoint that causes people to pay attention. “People still want to know why we’re against it,” he says.
One of his strategies is to ask people, “Do you like the Olympics when it doesn’t cost you anything?” The answer is usually yes. But their opinion usually changes when he explains the games will typically cost the taxpayers more than $2.4 billion .
“Then it begins to hit people,” he says.
The people he has to convince in the end though are Games officials themselves. But he says he enjoys dealing with them. “It’s so easy to deflate them,” he says, “They go into patriotism and athletics because they can’t fight it on economic terms. But what price can you put on patriotism?”
This plea doesn’t seem to have members of the media convinced and No Games Toronto’s efforts have received negative press.
The Toronto Star reported the Game’s delegates didn’t see the protesters, as they were deliberately diverted away from them. However, The National Post reported a committee adviser referred to the protest as a joke.
Star columnist Royson James made the counterargument that the Games gave the city a reason to clean itself up.
For more information about No Games Toronto, and any upcoming activities, you can head to their blog at http://nogamestoronto.blogspot.com/.
“But No Games Toronto is just an offshoot of a much larger organization, the Olympic Resistance Network.” This is certainly news to the Olympic Resistance Network! While the ORN certainly supports the No Games Toronto efforts and both areas face similar problems, there is not a formal connection between the two. Despite simplifications in the media and by pro-Games forces, all opposition is not centralised. There are numerous groups and networks in many areas opposing the environmental destruction and waste; financial mismanagement and crony deals for developers and sponsor corporations; commercialization of public space; crackdowns on visible poverty; exploitation of Native land and resources; abuse of migrant labour; restrictions on free expression, assembly, and mobility; massive security structure of thousands of police, military, CSIS agents, and private security; broken promises on affordable housing and shelter spaces; imposition of public video monitoring; and gentification that accompany such mega-events.