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Native groups oppose Olympics
Sunday, December 06 2009
 
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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The anti-Olympics coalition in Canada clearly states its position on the home page of their website (www.no2010.com): “No 2010 Olympics on Stolen Native Land – Resist the 2010 Corporate Circus.”

In late October, protesters were preparing to confront the Olympic torch relay along its 106-day route across Canada. “In Victoria, with the Olympic flame arriving on a plane from Greece just a day before Halloween, anti-Olympic groups are planning a street festival and a ‘zombie march’ along Victoria’s streets,” according to the Canadian Press. The paper also reported that opponents of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games range from “native groups and anti-poverty activists to civil rights advocates and opponents of Canada’s seal hunt.”
Among various reasons for opposing the Winter Olympics, which begin in mid-February 2010, the Resist 2010 coalition cites the Canadian government’s exploitation of “largely unceded and non-surrendered Indigenous territories” in British Columbia.

The Resist 2010 organizers argue that a “fraudulent treaty process” legitimizes the government’s control of Native land for the “benefit of corporations, including mining, logging, oil and gas, and ski resorts. Meanwhile, Indigenous peoples suffer the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, imprisonment, police violence, disease, suicides, etc.”

The Resist 2010 analysis notes that the modern Olympics have a “long history of racism,” and have served to promote colonialist and authoritarian regimes. You may recall that there were protests of the torch relay prior to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, by Tibetans and others opposed to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.

As I learned a couple years ago, there also were protests of the torch relay through Europe before the 1936 Games – the Nazi Olympics in Berlin. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum organized a 1996 exhibition on the controversial 1936 Berlin Games, which explained how the games were designated for Berlin prior to the 1933 Nazi seizure of power. Hitler used the Olympics as a propaganda device to enhance the stature of the Third Reich.

An international boycott campaign protesting the Nazi regime’s anti-Semitic policies was launched; but the head of the American Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, a Nazi sympathizer, opposed the boycott of the Berlin Games and declared, “The Olympic Games  belong to the athletes and not to the politicians.”

Brundage later had Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, the only two Jews on the U.S. Olympic team, removed from the 4 x 100 relay. It is suspected that Brundage did not want to embarrass Hitler by having two Jews win an event in his presence. (Hitler, whose vision was of Nazi global domination, planned to build a 400,000-seat arena, the Deutsches Stadion, in Nuremberg, and stage the Olympics forever in Germany.)

The Resist 2010 activists also point to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, which were preceded by a massacre of 300 students; Brundage, who was then head of the International Olympic Committee, did not acknowledge the murderous repression by the Mexican government.

In addition to the issue of broken treaties, there is growing opposition to the further development of Alberta tar sands, a massive industrial project that involves profound environmental consequences. This issue has been front and center in protests of the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The Alberta tar sands exploitation involves massive strip mining to expose bitumen, a compound like asphalt, which is melted with steam and upgraded into synthetic oil.

A group called the Polaris Institute has organized the Tar Sands Watch Campaign (www.tarsandswatch.org), which is trying to educate the Canadian public about this toxic and disastrous energy extraction project.

They also point out that the MacKenzie Gas Project, which is designed to bring more natural gas from the High Arctic to fuel the Alberta tar sands development has “serious implications for Aboriginal peoples, especially the Dehcho First Nation.”

Finally, the Cowichan sweater, an iconic symbol of the Pacific Coast in Canada, will be produced for the Canadian Olympic team – but not by First Nation artisans. Instead, a more expensive knock-off sweater will be produced by another outfit under contract to the Hudson Bay Company. The Bay will market its hand-knit sweater for $350, compared to the $215 charged for the Cowichan original, according to the Vancouver Sun.

This is the latest Olympic-related insult to Native people in British Columbia.

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