Thursday, July 05, 2007

Five Ring Real Estate Circus

Two articles on how the sports angle of the Olympics is merely a cover to allow unbridled windfalls for developers.

Developer Jack Poole, head of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Bid Corporation, famously addressed real estate developers in 2002 : "If the Olympic bid wasn't happening," he told the developers, "we would have to invent something."

Until reminded by this Georgia Straight article, Developers are the Games' real winners , I had forgotten that Premier Gordon Campbell had been former Mayor Art Philipps point man in negotiations between the city and real-estate giant Marathon Realty regarding the rezoning of Marathon's massive land holdings on the north side of False Creek. Campbell subsequently became a Marathon Realty development officer, Marathon sold the lands to the province at three times their worth prior to the rezoning and Campbell went on to become premier and holder of the Olympics purse strings.

For an update on developers who sit on Olympic committees and how they have benefitted, continue reading here.

George Monbiot : "Everywhere they go, the Olympic Games become an excuse for eviction and displacement. The only certain Olympic legacy is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich."

"City authorities want to run the Games for two reasons: to enhance their prestige and to permit them to carry out schemes that would never otherwise be approved. Democratic processes can be truncated, compulsory purchase orders slapped down, homes and amenities cleared. The Olympic bulldozer clears all objections out of the way."

Citing the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions study which reports that since 1988, over 2 million people have been driven from their homes to make way for the Olympics, Monbiot provides a history of the Olympic bulldozer at work in each Olympic city. One instance:

"In Beijing, 1.25m people have already been displaced to make way for the Games, and another quarter of a million are due to be evicted. Like the people of Seoul, they have been threatened and beaten if they resist. Housing activists have been imprisoned. One man, Ye Guozhu, who is currently serving four years for “disturbing social order”, has been suspended by his arms from the ceiling of his cell and tortured with electric batons. Beggars, vagrants and hawkers have been rounded up and sentenced to “Re-Education Through Labour”. The authorities are planning to hospitalise the mentally ill so that visitors won’t have to see them."

Monbiot, who does support the concept of the Olympics, suggests that rather than moving the Olympics every four years, that they "stay in a city where the damage has already been done."

This will never happen as long as developers are running local governments and can successfully con their constituents into believing that the Olympics is somehow about sports.


Unknown said...

They should just choose a permanent site (Athens and Calgary maybe) and quit dicking around. More time, money and energy is expended on bidding to host the games than on building affordable housing, or dealing with the aftermath of the five-ring circus.

bigcitylib said...

Same kind of thing happened during Expo. They booted everyone out of the skidrow hotels thinking they could rent the rooms at exorbitant prices to fair visitors. In the end they had to invite the original tenants back.

Alison said...

Good point, Rev. I haven't lookedinto what the initial bidding costs.

BCL : Yeah. *Mayor* Mike Harcourt proposed no-eviction legislation, time-limited to Expo, to prevent hotel owners from evicting their tenants in order to convert their rooming houses into "boutique hotels" for Expo visitors.
*Alderman* Gordon Campbell voted against it.

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