Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Arrogance and the Corporate Media Have Helped to Taint the Olympics

Before they even began, the Vancouver Olympic Games had been tainted by politics.

Pollsters and pundits suggested that they would be Harper's ace in the hole. That Canadians would forget his possible complicity in war crimes, and shutting out our elected officials, to declare himself our first dictator.

That he would win Olympic majority gold, as we all hailed the conquering hero.

But like everything this government does, they turned the Canadian Olympics into the Conservative Party of Canada Olympics; with all the ugliness that defines the Reform movement.

On Monday, the Vancouver Sun reported, Canada's Olympic image is taking a beating in media reports
This was not the face Olympics organizers had hoped to present to the world, but even with the competition under way, athletic accomplishments are sharing airtime and print space with questions over the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili and reports of riot police quelling masked protesters on the host city's main street. The image of polite Canadians has been taking a drubbing in media reports.

Yesterday, the Montreal Gazette ran an article; If arrogant nationalism were a sport, Canada would win gold. Canada Arrogant? We were never arrogant.
The Olympics are supposed to be uplifting. So far, the Vancouver Olympics are anything but. The problem starts at the very top: the Own the Podium initiative, that federally sponsored program that aims to overcompensate for the supposed ignominy of Canada's modest collection of medals at past Olympics by making this country the No. 1 nation in terms of medals won.

That's right, No. 1. Arrogance, not the Olympic spirit, is what inspires Own the Podium. Yes, let's not forget the Olympic spirit. It's that corny but terrific idea that, in the words of Pierre de Coubertin, "The important thing is not to win but to take part." That idea has become unfashionable in recent decades, but the organizers of these Games have consigned it to oblivion.

From Jason Kenney and his party's assault on our maple leaf, to reports that we may have cheated by not allowing other countries adequate practice time and deliberately designing the luge track to add obstacles that may have caused the death of a young man; we have turned these games, from what should have been a source of national pride, into a national shame.

They have been hijacked by a political party that has never put this country first, and according to David Eby, even the corporate media have joined in to muddy the waters further, by making the Vancouver Olympics one of most challenging ever for journalists.
Sponsorship dollars, concentrated media, short-term corporate decision making and anti-transparency initiatives by Olympic agencies have combined to make Vancouver’s Olympics one of the most challenging Olympic Games ever for journalists to navigate with ethics intact and story in hand. ... To the surprise of many, more than just sponsorship investments tied news agencies to the Games. Reporters were served up for the IOC as mascots for the Olympics. CTV proudly announced that 27 of its "storytellers" would actually be carrying the Olympic torch as it made its way across Canada.

Yes, media personalities from CTV, decided that they were more deserving to carry the Olympic torch than inspiring Canadians. Those same media personalities who back in the day when being a journalist meant something, might be trying to discover just what went on behind the scenes.

Stories of corruption within the IOC abound. Stories of ridiculous security, cost overruns, and people being evicted from their homes for no other reason than that they lived too close to the venues, and landlords cashed in on $500.00 dollar a night rates. Stories of an intentionally unsafe luge.

None of these things are on their radar.

And as Eby summarizes:

More than anything, journalists should rue this loss. Not the loss of the investigative resources that won’t ever be dedicated to digging into VANOC or the IOC’s sins, not the loss of access to government documents, not the loss of a fair process around accreditation, but the loss of the independent and trusted voice of the journalist.

What surely stings most about this loss is not that it comes as a result of decisions made by any individual reporter, but that the loss of trust comes simply because the biggest circus in the world came to town and Canada’s news outlets made better advertising agencies than truth tellers in the short-term math of the boardroom.

Trusted voice of the journalist. I think I remember those days. But sadly they went out with the mullet.

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