FIVE-RING CIRCUS: Olympic Games boom for developers, bust for everyone else Review by Roy LaBerge Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities about the Olympic Games, by Christopher A. Shaw, New Society Publishers, Cabriola Island, B.C., 321 pages, $19.95.
Christopher Shaw, a professor of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia, has this advice for any city considering applying to host the Olympic Games: Don't.
Shaw is a founding member and lead spokesperson for the No Games 2010 Coalition and 2110 Watch, organizations that unsuccessfully opposed Vancouver's bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
In Five Ring Circus, Myths and Realities about the Olympic Games, he contrasts the promises made about the benefits the Games would bring with the results they are actually producing.
Advocates of the Games promised that they would aid the poor by creating job opportunities and social housing; that the Games would be the greenest ever, and would enhance First Nations' financial dreams and showcase their culture. The business sector and its chief cheerleaders, the Vancouver Board of Trade, never exactly a hard sell, were promised a bigger convention centre and a raft of goodies, including enhanced tourism. Organized labour got promises of unionized jobs raining down from the sky.
Instead, the Games are delivering a doubling of Vancouver's homeless rate, rising poverty, an erosion of civil liberties, an increasing crime rate, increasing rents and evictions, and a looming ecological disaster. First Nations are gaining nothing.
Several of the evictions resulted from the city closing hotels that housed poor people. The city wants the hotels sold to developers who plan to tear down the old buildings and put up hotels to accommodate the Olympic tourists in 2010.
Another promise was that the Games would benefit Vancouver financially. Instead, taxpayers will be paying for them for three decades or more.
Shaw points out that, to earn the bid, taxpayers had to foot the bill for a new convention centre, a light rail system (partially underground) to the airport, and expansion of the 120-kilometre highway from Vancouver to Whistler.
He maintains that Olympic bids are constructed by and for real estate developers: "Virtually every bid for the last 15 years, likely longer, has had a major development project at its core." Shaw notes that this was true of Barcelona (1992), Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), and Athens (2004). It is abundantly true of this year's …