Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘celebration capitalism

Olympics and Anti-Olympics

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In preparation for this month’s ACLA conference, here’s Jules Boykoff in New Left Review on anti-Olympics activism in Vancouver.

The IOC would introduce British Columbians to ‘celebration capitalism’, the whipsaw inverse of Naomi Klein’s ‘disaster capitalism’. From day one, the Olympic party was a full-on budget-buster. The five-ring price tag was originally estimated at $1 billion; by the month before the Games, costs had ballooned to $6 billion, and post-Olympics estimates soared into the $8–10 billion range, with the City of Vancouver alone kicking in nearly $1,000 for every single person in town. The model followed was so-called public–private partnerships, in which the public pays and the private profits. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson—a New Democratic Party-style liberal—was no exception; when it came to the Olympics, the co-founder of the Happy Planet organic juice company was guzzling the public–private partnership Kool-Aid. 

Vancouver has become a poster city for neoliberal-era gentrification, the gap between rich and poor widening into an abyss. As a measure of what Henri Lefebvre would have called its ‘spatial contradiction’: Vancouver is reputedly the most liveable yet the least affordable global city. In 2010 the median house price was $540,900, while median household income was $58,200. Nowhere is the difference between nouveau riche and old-school poor more glaring than in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, an 8-by-15-block strip of gritty urban intensity that—outside aboriginal reserves—is Canada’s poorest postcode. Yet the sharp juxtaposition between high ‘liveability’ and dire poverty does not undermine Vancouver’s status on the silver-frosted terrain of global capitalism. Hosting mega-events like the Olympics tends to enhance this status, a massive extra boost for turbogentrification.