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36 Comments

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Olympic Spirit Extinguished by Protests

20091218torch.jpg
At precisely 6:16 p.m. yesterday, former TTC employee and 1948 Olympic gold medalist Murray Dowey was supposed to receive the 2010 Olympic torch at Yonge and College. Adam Giambrone (Ward 18, Davenport) was waiting on a 506 streetcar just east of the intersection, ready for Dowey to board the Toronto icon, torch in hand, and travel to Elizabeth Street. Hundreds of Torontonians lined Yonge Street with Canadian flags and coffee mugs, eagerly awaiting their glimpse of the Olympic symbol as it made its way south. But they all left disappointed—the torch never arrived.


Just as the anticipation was reaching its peak, a group of a hundred or more demonstrators crashed the party. Chanting “No Olympics on stolen native land,” the protestors broke through the police barricades and made their way north on Yonge, stalling and eventually bringing the torch procession to a halt. After several minutes of inaction, the motorcade was rerouted along Wellesley, and the torch was split in two in order to accommodate a scheduled visit to Sick Kids Hospital, and to appease the growing impatient crowd at Nathan Philips Square. In the end, there were more cops at Yonge and College than Olympic fans, as most of the spectators headed to warmer places.
The demonstration primarily consisted of members from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, No 2010, No Games Toronto, and No One Is Illegal.

20091218torch2.jpg
People waiting to see the torch at Yonge and College.


We here at Torontoist are not against demonstrations. They’re a central facet of democracy, and have played vital roles in pushing social and political change. And we sympathize with many of the cries of these protestors: it’s true that the Olympics are costing British Columbia and Canada quite a bit of dough. It’s also true that corporations partly fund them, and that they have already caused environmental damage with the building of new facilities and transportation routes.
20091218olympics3.jpg
Demonstrations like yesterday’s, though, won’t do anything to affect whether the Olympics run or not: let’s face it, the Olympics are happening. It’s a done deal. What the demonstration did manage to do was dampen the city’s Olympic spirit, and entirely ruin what would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many Torontonians. But we imagine that that was partially the point of the protests in the first place: the protesters may not control the outcome, but they can control the journey.
The torch will be in Toronto for another two days, so there’s lots of time to get your Olympic fix. You can check out the route here [PDF]. In the meantime, someone should tell Adam Giambrone that the torch isn’t coming.
20091218giambrone.jpg
All photos by Nick Kozak/Torontoist

Comments

  • http://undefined mark.

    I couldn’t disagree more. Just because you believe that nothing will stop the Olympics doesn’t mean people can’t oppose it and demonstrate against it. Think of analogies: A historic building is being demolished, does that mean you can’t hold a demonstration? A war is going on with no end in sight (eg Iraq, Afghanistan), does that mean we can’t demonstrate against it?

  • http://undefined Matthew

    Olympic Spirit is just a nice way of describing a successful marketing campaign by a multinational corporation. The Olympic protesters are heroes for standing up to this monstrosity.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    demonstrate != disrupt
    In addition, demonstration while hidden behind masks is cowardly. If you truly believe in this cause, you should be proud that we know who you are.

  • http://undefined fco

    Yup, sorry Alixandra, you’ve totally missed the point on what a demonstration is. I’m excited for your coverage of the lead up to Pam-Am games. Or the war we’re having. Because its happening IS JUST AS GOOD A REASON to protest it. In the mean time, read over what some of the organizations you listed, namely No One is Illegal, have to say.

  • http://www.guesswork.ca Patrick Metzger

    I don’t give a damn about the Olympics but destroying – to no good purpose – a special moment for a man in his 80′s is pretty appalling.
    And “a successful marketing campaign by a multinational corporation” is another way of saying “an event that has meaning for millions of people”. The protest is also marketing an agenda – it’s just that the cause is stupid, the approach repellent, and hence the campaign spectacularly unsuccessful.

  • http://undefined Sidra

    I don’t think wearing a balaclava is indicative of anything other than the fact that -10 is fairly chilly.
    Protesting is relevant and important. When something is wrong, it’s wrong regardless of whether it happens or not, and regardless of whether its opponents make up the majority or not. Apathy is awful, and social change doesn’t happen overnight.
    I’m surprised you’ve missed an important issue here: the Olympics are a direct attack on the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people- they will be happening on stolen native land, the homeless are being pushed out of the city, the poor are being criminalized.
    Shame on you, Vancouver.

  • http://undefined octpatp

    The protestors should be ashamed of themselves. Agreed with Dowlingm: They should take off their masks and show their faces. The masks are an attempt at intimidation, motivated by moral cowardice.
    The larger point here, however, is that this sort of stunt is complete anti-democratic. The protestors shouted down and imposed their will on the desires of thousands of others. They have every right to protest. But if they were truly democratic—that is, if they respected multiple points of view—they would have staged their protest on a different site and not interrupted the torch.
    The essence of democracy is a respectful dialogue of many voices. This protest is the equivalent of one person shouting down those she disagrees with. It’s childish and anti-democratic.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    @Sidra
    Hmm… I wonder if we looked at pictures from last night and counted how many people not protestors were wearing balaclavas how many we would find. Apparently the OCAPers then ended their day by boarding a streetcar without paying, so it seems that disruption of the TTC’s contribution to the torch run was not a coincidence.

  • http://undefined yokes

    Olympic Spirit Extinguished by Assholes
    Fixed.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    Twitter: @staged2sell_GTA Watching Mme. Torrie carrying the Olympic torch & thinking about her determination to walk again despite dr.’s prediction was very emotional
    >> Someone should tell that torch bearer she’s a stupid dupe for using the torch run to recover from a paralysing stroke and is being manipulated by the puppet masters and the people inspired by her are simply drinking koolaid.
    See, after the womens’ ski jumping decision I was getting all cynical about the Games (even though I’m going myself) but now OCAP and their fellow travellers have fired up my Olympic spirit again! Thanks dudes.

  • http://undefined rek

    So what happens now that the Olympics are cancelled?
    Oh wait. The time to stop the Olympics from coming to Canada was a few years ago, not when the torch is on its way to the games site.

  • http://undefined Solex

    >> Someone should tell that torch bearer she’s a stupid dupe for using the torch run to recover from a paralysing stroke and is being manipulated by the puppet masters and the people inspired by her are simply drinking koolaid.

    Word, 100X!
    The Games are bullshit, they deserve to be disrupted by protests, and the people of Vancouver are being fucked with, and will be fucked by, the fallout from this so-called ‘sporting event.’ Dowlingm, please stop drinking the Kool-Aid yourself, and try to find out what’s really happening with the Olympics-you can start by finding and reading Lords Of The Rings, New Lords Of The Rings, and The Great Olympic Swindle by Andrew Robinson.

  • http://www.torontoist.com David Topping

    THESE PEOPLE CHOOSE TO COME TO OUR COUNTRY, SO THEY HAVE TO RESPECT OUR LAWS!!!! I FOR ONE HAVE HAD MORE THAN ENOUGH OF THESE TAMILS TAKING OVER OUR STRE….
    Oh. Whoops. Natives.

  • http://undefined mark.

    Respectfully, I refer you to the first comment (mine) in this thread.

  • http://undefined Solex

    Don’t you think that people tried to stop this collasal waste of money from being staged? They did, you know. It’s just that nobody listens, like usual.

  • http://undefined Matthew

    I think this comes down to whether or not you think the Olympics are just a sporting entertainment event or have some greater spiritual or cultural significance that can justify the economic and social cost of hosting them.
    I stand by my point that if people think that the Corporate Olympics embody some magical spirit, they have been duped by some slick marketing. But if there really are millions of people who really want to SUPPORT these games, they should be able to pay for the staging of the games through ticket sales, pay per view and advertising. But it seems that a lot of government dollars get spent on Olympic infrastructure, and that’s bullshit.
    I would put forth the idea that the Special Olympics actually stands for the ideals that the Corporate Olympics pretends to. I would much rather see public dollars go completely to supporting the Special Olympics, and let the Corporate Olympics pay its own way.

  • http://www.nickkozak.com Nick Kozak

    I can’t help but add my own.
    Next time an Olympic Torch Relay worker donning their Olympic rings tells you sternly to get off the street, ask them if they own it. I think they might think they do, along with Coca-Cola, RBC and their 14 trucks.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    @Matthew Harper
    Having seen the effect of the Special Olympics Summer World Games when it was held in Ireland some years back, I would support any move to bring them to Toronto. They are a qualitatively superior event in terms of community building. I would certainly welcome them over the Pan Am games which are a taxpayer funded corporate event but without the recognition within the community and spin off social bonding that the Olympics has brought to Toronto this week.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    @Nick Kozak – do you stand in the middle of the road during Pride and St. Patrick’s Day too?

  • http://www.guesswork.ca Patrick Metzger

    “But it seems that a lot of government dollars get spent on Olympic infrastructure, and that’s bullshit.”
    You know that they don’t tear down all the infrastructure and throw it in the dumpster when the games are over, right?

  • http://undefined Matthew

    Yeah, I know. It gets used by our Olympic athletes to train for the next Olympics. Whoop-de-Do.
    Maybe they let some kids in sometimes, but I think there are already a lot of athletic facilities for the general public that currently aren’t able to cover thier operating costs. I don’t see any revenue sharing deals with the Olympics that are going to help that situation.
    We don’t need “Olympic-grade” facilities to fight childhood obesity.

  • http://undefined Andrew

    But saturating the TV with athletes competing in all kinds of crazy sports does nothing to combat child obesity, according to you?

  • http://undefined Andrew

    No, that’s pretty much par for the course for OCAP.

  • http://www.guesswork.ca Patrick Metzger

    Just because there are other pointless protests doesn’t make this one any less of a waste of time. Unless you’re a whiny nitwit with too much time on your hands and and an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

  • rek

    And it didn’t work.

  • http://undefined nealj

    I was amongst those waiting at Yonge & College last night for the torch when the protesters arrived and think it’s important to respond to some things in this article and the comments. The protesters, as mentioned, have a lot of valid reasons to protest – and in my opinion were incredibly effective at it, and I applaud them for that.
    Those commenting on ‘masked’ protesters – the photo in the article is misleading. I didn’t see anyone in masks, though to be honest everyone there (including those watching) should have been as it was f’ing cold out. While I can’t speculate on the motives of this particular mask-wearer I can certainly say the the overwhelming majority of protesters were very upfront about who they were and why they were there – no one was hiding behind anything.
    As an aside, the caption “People waiting to see the torch at Yonge and College.” is incorrect – nothing at Yonge & College looks like that. I think I see a reflection of Popeye’s in the window so that’s likely further North towards Bloor.
    Some people commented on the corporatization of the games – I couldn’t agree more. People were not overwhelmingly waving Canadian flags (at least not at Yonge & College), but were instead waving RBC flags, shaking RBC tambourines, and clapping RBC inflatable clappers. If you got near Nathan Phillips Square (which was eventually mostly closed to pedestrian access… only after the protesters succeeded at joining the crowds with their banners), you were overwhelmed with Coca-Cola and merchandise vendors.
    To those criticizing the protesters for spoiling something and ‘taking away’ something from people who wanted to enjoy it – don’t ever think that was anything but their intention. Most of their grievances related to stolen lands, something taken away from them. Whether or not you agree with their claims, that is their motivation and this form of protest made sense for it.
    I actually heard significantly more ignorance coming from those who disagreed with the protesters… in addition to the boos which one can sort of understand, on two occasions I heard people scream, completely unabashed, incredibly horrible statements. The first was when the protesters first arrived at Yonge & College from someone standing behind me who commented “the problem with this country is that the police can’t just shoot them” (besides the obvious offensiveness, this was kind of ironic as the police seemed pretty unprepared — there weren’t many of them there at all)… the second even more ignorant statement was a very loud shout of “go back to where you came from,” which, when shouted at indigenous peoples takes on a whole new level of ignorance and irony.
    I can see how people were upset that they didn’t get to see the torch go by, and frankly the organizers did a poor job of planning alternate routes and/or communicating to the spectators where they would be relocating… besides Yonge & College and the eventual accumulation of people at Yonge & Wellesley during the impasse, there weren’t many people lining the streets so a quick walk down to Gerrard would have given everyone the opportunity to see the torch up close – unfortunately, nobody bothered to tell them that.
    Sorry for the rant…

  • antiboy

    yeah but he’s already carried the torch once before so bugger him!

  • http://undefined thewatchmaker

    Covering your face has nothing to do with pride or shame. The RCMP regularly take photos at protests, especially when they think that some protesters might also be terrorists. It’s not unreasonable to suspect that you might become a victim of harassment, or to want to avoid getting a file (or growing a file) with the police.

  • http://undefined Cpt. Sunshine

    Who ever wrote this needs to learn some history. The torch relay wasn’t part of the modern Olympic games until 1936 when Germany was the host. It was invented by the Nazis’ top propaganda mastermind Joseph Goebbels as a way for the Nazis to show their power to the rest of Europe.
    The running of the Olympic torch has nothing to do “Olympic Spirit”, whatever that is. What the Olympic torch signifies is the very worst of our national and Imperial ambitious. It is still used for this purpose today. Think about how China used the games to influence world opinion, all while trying to hide it’s record on human rights.
    The protesters were never trying to stop the games. That would be ridiculous. What they were trying the do is break the one-sided media coverage on the legacy the 2010 games will have for Canada. In this respect they did a fantastic job.

  • Malcolm Tucker

    So in other words it was the usual gaggle of twats doing what they always do, which is fail to achieve their lofty goals again, and again, and again.

  • Malcolm Tucker

    You are Andrew Robinson and I claim my prize.

  • Malcolm Tucker

    Only because nobody, outside of them, gives a shit what they think.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    We should probably take basketball out of the Olympics too then, as it also debuted in 1936.
    The Nazis were evil bastards but not EVERYTHING they did was a bad idea – that’s why Volkswagen still exists.

  • http://undefined Solex

    Oops, I meant Andrew Jennings-sorry!

  • http://www.nickkozak.com Nick Kozak

    I tried to respond to this earlier, didn’t work. Anyhow, good question. I guess PRIDE is better prepared for the crowds with barricades set up. The point is though that I found the team of Olympic Relay employees arrogant and rude, something that I did not come across at PRIDE and its organizers.

  • http://undefined dowlingm

    Nick – Pride has had an annual event to refine their event management, along pretty much the exact same length of street. The torch run doesn’t get to run along the same length of road time after time to refine where barriers should go etc.