The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games have come to an end. Canada won more gold medals than any country ever in the history of the Winter Games. And yesterday, Canada took gold in men’s hockey in an electrifying game against the USA. A fitting end it seems to a two-week barn-burner of patriotism and national pride.
But the celebration has its darker side, one that few Olympic enthusiasts know about, or perhaps care to know about. For starters, in 2002 Vancouver residents voted in favour of a $3 billion Olympics that have subsequently mushroomed into a $7-8 billion bacchanalia of subsidies and debt. These “unexpected” costs have put unprecedented pressure on the provincial spending. Over the next two years, provincial funding for the arts will be cut by a staggering 88% – a devastating blow to cultural groups in British Columbia. School closures throughout the Lower Mainland reflect more of the pressure that has been brought to bare on provincial budgets. Add to these the ongoing crisis in homelessness and poverty in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side and the ways that Olympic enforcement ran roughshod over Constitutional rights of expression and assembly, and you have substantive fodder for a critical conversation about the Olympic Games.
From February 11 to 14, the Anti-Olympic Convergence called for four days of Olympic resistance and protest – a mobilization and public expression of criticism during the first few days of the Olympics.
A key element of the anti-Olympic movement was getting the message out. Mainstream media tended to limit coverage to the more dramatic images of the “black block” vanadalizing windows and newspaper boxes. But the Anti-Olympic Movement had its own “embedded” media – the Vancouver Media Coop (VMC) – a collection of journalists from across North America pooling resources to provide immediate raw local coverage of Olympic protest.
Journalists mobilized to capture audio, photographs and video while others provided editing services and writing expertise. The VMC had footage of protests up and available to the public long before mainstream news outlets. Their audience swelled to over a million during the Convergence.
Located in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver at 16 East Hastings and next door to the Tent City squat built on a VANOC parking lot (as part of the campaign to raise awareness about homelesness), the Vancouver Media Coop became one of the key sources of information about the public expression of dissent during the Olympic Games.
I caught up with Moira Peters and Isaac Oommen at the VMC studios.