Tag Archives: Vancouver Olympics

VANOC, RCMP and the Olympics

Okay, another update. I didn’t post for the last two days because yes, I’ve ventured into Olympic land, only because friends came up from the US and I wanted to see them. Wednesday I braved driving downtown. Yes, driving, not busing, walking or other. One friend works for city parking and he said the parkades downtown are nearly empty because no one is driving.

Well, “no one” isn’t quite true but I left New Westminster around 4:30 pm, took the highway to E. 1 Ave., then turned down Clark Dr. to Pender St. I took Pender to downtown (already knowing which streets were closed) to Gastown but anticipating Gastown’s usual traffic jam I turned up to Hastings St. In retrospect I should have gone through Gastown to Richards. On Hastings I had about four blocks to go to Hastings and it took about 20 minutes, or about four lights to get through each light. Yes, there was traffic there but there was nothing to do but just endure. And true enough the parkade was empty.

I met my friends at the Kingston Pub on Richards St. and yes there were people but I seriously didn’t look around at anything else. The Kingston’s alcohol seems to be in the normal range but they had an ahi tun caeser salad for $19. That is overkill. I did get a serving of calamari for $10, which would have been quite fine but the batter wasn’t cooked all the way through, but they were crazy busy.

On Thursday I spent the day with my friends on Granville Island (where they are charging for parking, with a 2-hour limit, where normally it’s free parking). There was a huge Francophone pavilion but we didn’t go in, but we wandered into one studio to see a video broken glass show that was short and interesting. Bridges Restaurant is the Swiss House but there was a line-up even for a drink (the Swiss-Canada hockey game was about to start) so we didn’t get in there. We got into the Atlantic Provinces show (we say Maritimes) because a friend was working the show. Music with some tales of the musicians’ homes and slide shows behind. It was very good and fun. I wished there’d been room to dance as Maritime music always has you toe tapping. Basically there were line-ups for everything and I hate line-ups so a lot of patience is needed to get into any of the houses. But it is a free cultural Olympiad (some of it) and that’s kinda cool, fun and informative all at once.

Now I’ve been looking at the results for the Olympic games online but have not been able to get any so-called channel (CTV) to actually show what’s supposedly being broadcast live.And I have not gone to see the Olympic cauldron for which VANOC has received huge criticism for putting it (and everything else) behind huge chainlink fences so that people couldn’t see or take pictures. They’ve now cut holes and moved the fence in but it’s typical of the VANOC heavy handedness and the blocking of lanes (which they somehow didn’t have to do in Salt Lake City). And I’m not venturing to Whistler where you need a permit to drive (or do it after 6 pm) or have to take a bus that yes, you must also buy a ticket for.

Another aspect of the whole Olympics is the SECURITY, which doncha know does not include taking care of the violent anarchists. That falls to the city’s police force and is not included in the budget. But there’s the tale of a guy who is a doctoral student and works at a local hospital in one of the labs. He decided to be part of the Olympics and was interviewed to be a guard. He got his uniform, was accredited and worked two shifts. When he showed up for his third shift his security card didn’t work. In between the accrediting and working and the nonworking card he’d been called and questioned by the RCMP, that bastion of moral righteousness and law.

It’s not that he’s a protester. It’s not that he belongs to any subversive organizations. It’s not that he has any criminal record. It’s because he works with a nonviolent protester of the Olympics, a professor by the name of Chris Shaw. He works with the guy but doesn’t really know him and was in fact a supporter of the Olympics and did not believe in Chris Shaw’s point of view. But it seems even if this man who had already passed all the testing to be security for the Olympics did not pass the RCMP’s scrutiny because of working in the same lab as a nonviolent protester.

This is typical of the ineptitude and misplaced scrutiny of the RCMP. Of course, any time the media asks for the RCMP to comment they say they can’t because of privacy concerns. Those privacy concerns are really only for themselves because the media has usually already talked with the person on the other end. And if the RCMP actually used this tight of a scrutiny of their own members we might not have a man tasered to death at the Vancouver airport, or a man shot in the back of the head while in a holding cell. The RCMP used to be reliable, balance and upheld the law. They are so tarnished now they may as well get rid of the brass buttons on their red serge. They continue to pull the “Homeland Security” fiascos that George Bush would be proud of, while at the same time doing nothing to stop the anarchists who did smash store windows and injure city police. Between VANOC and the RCMP it’s amazing that we’re not all being questioned and ticketed.

So while you’re here enjoying Canada’s open hospitality (why is it that I almost wrote hostility) make sure you’re squeaky clean. And if you’re not, don a black hood and the RCMP won’t be able to see you. It’s just to bad the sports and arts of the Olympics are constantly overshadowed but the idiocy of ineptitude of the various arrogant and money grabbing Olympic committees.

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Vancouver and the Olympics

Well, I wasn’t really going to post much more on the Olympics. After all, they’ve started and no matter how much I dislike the amount of money spent, they’re in full swing. And it’s time for the athletes to shine.

I won’t be going to any of the paid venues because I can’t afford them. I’m not a big fan of crowds but there’s still a chance I can take in one of the many free events going on. It’s a bit odd on how quiet the media was about these until just a few days before. One or two newspapers listed them but I heard little on the radio, my main form of news.

Grey skies and flowers in Feb.

In the transportation end of things VANOC stressed (with many signs on the major thoroughfares) to take alternative forms of transportation for the Olympics. Walk, bike or transit the signs said. Then the “buts” began. But, said John Furlong, try not take transit when people are trying to get to their time-sensitive venues. He somehow missed that people had time-sensitive jobs and not all of us get free time to watch the Olympics. You can bike but don’t use transit at the same time because, although people are normally allowed to take their bikes normally, they can’t during the Olympics. Oh and you can walk, but don’t expect to actually get to where you’re going. Areas are cordoned off  without even a walkway through.

A friend of mine tried to get to the Arts Club Theatre to see a play a week ago, before the Olympics started. She gave herself plenty of time and took the SkyTrain. When she got off she went to take one of the small boats to Granville Island but the route was blocked off. She called Arts Club who would not change her ticket to another time and gave her a long circuitous route, involving a lot of walking, two buses and a shuttle to get to Granville Island. She never made it and found out later that Arts Club neglected to mention the train running from where she was, at Science World, right to Granville Island.

However, that said, extra SkyTrains and buses have been running, and another friend reports that her sister (visiting from Scotland) has made it on time to every venue in under an hour. VANOC seems to be doing a good job in having extra vehicles, as long as you can take transit under their terms. Don’t count on anything else and don’t count on taxis. In regards to other traffic around the lower mainland, it’s been the same as always or lighter and I’ve not had to deal with any changes, but then I’m avoiding downtown.

I live near one of the practice rinks. A few weeks ago they started cordoning off the rink from the gym, school and other facilities. I work out at the gym and was made aware well in advance of the upcoming inconvenience. They put up large concrete barricades and started erecting the chainlink fence. It’s not just a single fence but the outer fence is around six feet and the inner fence is 8-10 feet high. Thankfully, there is no razor wire at the top or slavering dogs running about. It was uglier until they put up the blue green branding tarps that’s part of the official Olympics look. I have to say this, the colors are nice and the blue and green must represent the greenery of BC, available all year round in the grass here in Vancouver, and the blue of the ocean (certainly not the sky, which is often grey in winter). And a bit of white.

Cameras clustered like grapes.

I wasn’t too happy to see Stalag 2010 going in and I still think it’s overkill. There are two security checkpoints around the rink, but not where the vehicles drive in. There is a third one for the official vehicles. But what I find even more ridiculous is the overkill of the spyeyes. These cameras are in clusters of three, plus a few other individual ones, plus the people in the three security booths, plus the guys in the parking lot, plus the person checking people’s passes, all behind the blue-green fence. And this is only a practice rink for something, hockey I would presume. Yikes!

Now as to the Olympics. Yes, I’ve seen some on TV. I watched some of the opening ceremonies and from what I saw they did look spectacular. Nicely done and I loved all the First Nations dancers and the giant drum. The speculation over the final torch bearer probably met everyone’s expectations with five bearers (Rick Hansen bringing the torch to the four: Nancy Greene, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Catriona LeMay Doan), and eight Canadian greats bringing in the Olympic flag (Donald Sutherland, Anne Murray, Romeo Dallaire, Betty Fox representing Terry Fox, Bobby Orr, Jacques Villeneuve, Julie Payette, Barbara Ann Scott).  But I didn’t watch it all. Still it does look world class.

The sports proceed apace and so do the protests. It is the right of every person to protest or not and do so peacefully. Unfortunately black robed and hooded thugs who care nothing about either the Olympics or the protestors’ legitimate concerns joined the crowds to cause violence and general anarchy, and put eight police in hospital the first night. I do not condone this nor support it in any way and those people should be arrested and locked up. They hurt everything, from the Olympics to the protestors to the police who are just doing their jobs. It’s one reason why I worry about going downtown and getting caught in some thug’s idea of a good time.

I hope the Olympics go well, I hope the athletes do fantastic and I hope the next venues to do the Olympics don’t feel the need to do one  upmanship and increase the ludicrous spending.

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VANOC Police State?

Well, Vancouver, are we about to be a police state? Will we feel more protected or more repressed with the beginning of the Olympics? The one billion dollar budget (that somehow the provincial government forgot to include when they were selling BC on this venture) for security means we’ll have such a plethora of police and guards that criminals are bound to take a vacation elsewhere.

A police state is defined as the “government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life” of the people. It’s hard to know in advance how our social life will be affected because two weeks before they start road closures (yes, 12 days before the Olympics) we still don’t know what roads will be closed. You’d think that they might at least let us know this in advance because it will inconvenience people. And of course road closures do curtail social aspects in certain areas and affect the economic realities of businesses in these zones. And let’s see, political life. Well, Stephen Harper has decided to prorogue parliament on another whim, saying it’s to get the budget in order. Errr, excuse me, but that’s what working every day as a politician is about, not taking a vacation from the hard questions. But let’s just cease any government until after the Olympics. I’m not sure Canada will have much difference from Beijing on repression.

Interestingly, this morning CBC interviewed the person who had been in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics security. He said police were in bright jackets so you always knew where they were. When asked about how he handled road closures he said he didn’t know because they only closed a couple of roads around the site. Unlike Vancouver, where routes into the downtown core will be closed completely, and other areas around the city will be blocked or narrowed to one lane. Anywhere where an athlete might go, might practice or might compete, will have numerous restrictions. Of course with no map yet of what areas this will be we, the simple citizens who live and work here will be left with a bewildering maze to maneuver last minute.

Oh and Translink and VANOC spoke the other day urging people to not take transit between 2 and 7 pm  so that people could get to their “time-sensitve venues.” So what are people supposed to do with those time-sensitive things called jobs? Signs put up at various intersections are already spouting to bike, walk or take transit for the 2010 Olympics. So which is it, VANOC? Do you want us to take transit but only when it won’t inconvenience all those people paying big bucks for tickets?

On top of that, we have had lessons by way of radio (and I can presume TV but I don’t watch it) on how to behave. Be nice to visitors, they say. Duh. Hello, VANOC, you’re dealing with Canadians and we are supposed to be polite by nature. Maybe not perfectly polite and we’ll be less so after we deal with delays in transit and road closures (and believe me, there is enough road rage/aggressive driving already). In fact, I’ve changed doctor’s appointments and moved them back so that I don’t have to go downtown during the Olympics. I’m not even sure I could get down there, let alone that it wouldn’t take four hours.

So the VANOC thought police are trying to bring us into line, make us behave, line up where we should and stay away if we interfere with their game. We will only be able to protest in set areas. We’ll see how that goes. I just wish all the ridiculous overkill in security (far more than heads of state even get) was not deterring from the actual Olympic feats of the athletes. As it is, I won’t be able to afford to go, I probably would not be able to drive up to Whistler without using some VANOC sanctioned vehicle, and I’ll be paying, along with everyone else for a long time.

This could have been cheaper if it wasn’t taken to olympic proportions. These people aren’t gods and nor is VANOC god. I really hope that we can survive this without feeling that we’ve been scrutinized in every direction. On that note, I haven’t heard from the VANOC thought police yet but because I’ve been protesting here I’m sure that I’m on their radar as some sort of subversive. I protest with words but VANOC would prefer even that to be repressed. Sorry, folks, but I find little to be shiny happy about with this. To the athletes, I hope you have a marvellous competition and that you’re treated well. You should be; we’re being told to greet you on bended knee.

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Big Brother IS Watching, You and You and Me

George Orwell, like a fair number of science fiction  writers (Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, Dick and others), visualized some aspect of a future world, perhaps an alternate world but created a story nonetheless that had some essence of things to come.

As Wikipedia says: The novel has become famous for its portrayal of pervasive government surveillance and control, and government’s increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication, many of its terms and concepts, such as “Big Brother“, “doublethink“, and “Newspeak” have entered the popular vernacular.

Indeed, the phrase “Big Brother is watching” is synonymous with too much government control, or the totalitarianism that Orwell feared. After 9/11 and the right-wing paranoia of the Bush administration we saw the rise of Homeland Security, where people’s rights were taken away. Some disappeared into Guantanamo without anyone knowing where they went, without any legal aid or advice. Others, while flying through the US, were shipped off to other countries for torture, regardless of what their citizenship was.  The phrase “Homeland Security” is reminiscent of the Fatherland (Hitler’s Third Reich) and the Motherland (Communist Russia). Though these last two are examples of extreme right wing and extreme left wing governments, they both encompass a totalitarianism and the circumventing of the rights of the individual, for the greater good, for the country.

It used to be that a camera trained on you and watching your every move was considered an invasion of privacy. Many years ago, before Homeland Security, my boyfriend had a friend in Calgary that worked for the local telecommunications company (at that time AGT–Alberta Government Telephones). He could not say what he did but it involved hidden cameras trained onto the streets outside the buildings. Every war commander knows that the way to break the enemy, to overcome them, is to either hinder or monitor their communications.  So every wise nation protects its communications and every ambitious or suspicious nation spies on its perceived enemies and communicates what it sees.

There are numerous instances of spy planes and spies. We accept that that is what countries do. There are cameras on you at the border or at your bank machine, to protect you. There are cameras on the roads now, webcams we call them, that show us the line-up at ferries, or freeways, or intersections, or borders. These are all informative pictures that we can use to plan around daily obstacles. But that is not their main purpose. They are surveillance methods to watch and control people, and to identify someone should there have been an accident, a murder, an escape.

There are those that argue that we need the greater security. We need protection from the evil terrorist/mugger/alien/your favorite bad guy. And yes, we do need some form of security, but there comes a time when government or police forces are also watching too much and our individual freedom is curtailed. I would say there is not one person who has not committed a small crime or infringement, whether it’s lying, cheating, jaywalking, running a yellow light, or drinking too much. Which means, that we’re all human and if allowed our little indiscretions, will most likely not make the bigger ones.

When I worked for Nokia, there were cameras everywhere. Corporate espionage is high. However, with all those cameras in the halls and the reception area, they were not allowed to train cameras on our workspaces, nor in the bathrooms. I’m not sure what the exact law it but watching someone 24/7 is not allowed. The head of security also told us that though they viewed all video footage they could not report on such things as two people having sex in the office. This video footage was only for such crimes as theft and breaking and entering.

Sarnia, Ontario is upset over a US surveillance balloon that watches over the river. The company claims it can be used for disaster planning, and other situations that arise. However, the mayor of Sarnia says that when the balloon (with camera inside that can see for 5 miles) first went up the company said it was for Homeland Security, but now they sing another song and say it’s not trained on Sarnia and it’s just research.

Google Earth has already heard concerns about their filming of much of the world, down to vans with cameras driving on the streets. And that many of these cameras take a picture of everything on the street, including you getting into your car, coming and going, and in some cases right into your windows to see what you’re up to. Sure, they claim it’s inadvertent but the pictures of us are showing up everywhere, even if we eliminate You Tube.

The 2010 Olympics will see a gigantic increase in security forces in and around Vancouver. They will be putting up many more cameras than are already up, by government and private businesses. After the Athens Olympics all extra cameras were supposed to come down. Instead the police turned them into citizen surveillance systems. Hello, Big Brother. BC’s privacy commissioner has promised that we won’t have the same situation.

Taken from A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada: “Despite the growth in CCTV, there is not convincing  research evidence that it aids in deterring, responding to and investigating crime.” That’s just one study but the Big Brother security folks want to sell cameras and keep their jobs and probably think we should live in a society that watches your every move and therefore you must behave. http://www.surveillanceproject.org/files/SCAN_Report_Phase1_Final_Jan_30_2009.pdf

There is a group counting the cameras in Greater Vancouver before the Olympics so that people can, in general be aware of how much surveillance there always is. But if you plan to come to the Olympics and actually venture anywhere public in Vancouver, you can bet that you’ll be filmed. In fact, there is probably not a street in any commercial area that doesn’t have one camera or another. It’s pretty impossible to remain invisible these days unless you’re in the boonies. Big Brother is here, and is watching all of us right now.  And maybe, just maybe, Big Brother likes to watch.

 

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