The Winter 2010 Olympics might not receive the usual widespread appreciation this year – instead, the games are facing harsh opposition by indigenous groups in Canada and international communities.
Concerned with ecological destruction on native land in Vancouver, increasing homelessness due to displacement and a number of other issues, anti-Olympics organizers have created a movement to challenge the Olympic industry and its impacts.
Organizers from the Olympic Resistance Network, an indigenous anti-Olympics organization, will be discussing reasons for growing opposition tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the East Conference Room of the Memorial Union.
“The main reason for opposing the 2010 Olympic games is to stand in solidarity with the indigenous people there in [British Columbia],” said Alapay Flores, a junior Native American studies and anthropology double major. “The Olympics is no longer about unifying nations in the name of world peace, but unifying nations to promote destruction. We can’t be quiet any longer.”
The ORN movement is embarking on a west coast speaking tour, traveling to various college campuses in California and Washington to shed light on the possible negative impacts of the Olympic games. Flores, part of the Seventh Generation Nation group established on campus in fall 2009, contacted the Olympic Resistance movement to bring their tour to the UC Davis campus.
Yet despite the opposition from various groups, this year will be the first time in Olympic history that aboriginals have been official partners in the Olympic games. The Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations will be jointly hosting the 2010 Games with the Vancouver Olympic Committee. The four host First Nations hold that the Olympics will have a lasting positive impact on Canada’s aboriginals and will educate peoples abroad on their cultural values.
“What people will learn is that we’re business people, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re visual artists and we’re performing artists,” said Tewanee Joseph, head of the Four-Host First Nations group in a press release. “We no longer want to be seem as just ‘dime store Indians;’ just beads and feathers. I think those stereotypes are very important for us to break.”
The Games, which begin Feb. 12, have worked to boost the economy by providing jobs for the indigenous. According to a Pricewaterhouse-Coopers economic report, Games-related training programs provided jobs for more than 200 people, while Olympic organizers have additionally given $58 million to aboriginal businesses.
However, groups like the ORN and Davis’ Seventh Nation Generation stress that the negative outcomes of the Olympic Games outweigh the benefits. Because the aboriginal cultures share a sacred bond with their surrounding natural world, which extends from Northern Vancouver and into Whistler, the increased construction accommodating the winter games has been viewed as desecrating their sacred grounds.
“They are staging the Olympics on stolen native land; this is illegal and morally unfit,” said junior international relations and history double major Danielle Sales. “They have no right to sell or lease the land for the benefit of corporations. They are not just destroying the land, they are destroying the souls of the indigenous as well.”
REBECCA SHRAGGE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.