Sunday, February 28, 2010

Politicizing the Olympics

Dear Mr. Ignatieff,

You don't know me and we've never met. I've read one or two of your books and voted for your party on occasion, although that was mostly due to lack of options and just to spite our current President Prime Minister.

I am writing this letter in response to a recent news article that appeared in the Toronto Sun which examined whether or not our esteemed Prime Minister was paying for all those prime seats at Olympic events that the average Canadian such as I would love to have but can't afford. It appears that 5 people were given all access passes to the Games, one of them being Mr. Harper and one of them being yourself (the others being Harper's lackeys).

Despite this, Mr. Harper has decided to take the high road, recognizing the privilege he has as well as the hard economic times that we're in, and has decided to pay top dollar for each event he attends. This happens to be as much as $1100 a ticket.

I understand the minuscule amount this number is when you take into account the billions of dollars that went into making sure we hosted such a wasteful prestigious event. Yet, it is the symbolic nature of the gesture that at least shows he is making an effort. Not only this, but his lackeys are paying for their tickets as well.

What was your response to this? What did you say when asked about your free pass to all the Games? You are not going to be bullied by Mr. Harper's gesture and will be most certainly using your pass because you, and I quote, "don't want to politicize the Olympics." I am befuddled. Who in their right mind actually believes that the Olympics has nothing to do with politics? You fashion yourself as an Academic (capital A) and have based this on holding positions at such illustrious institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, London School of Economics, and my current institution, the University of Toronto.

I presume after such a broad career at such a high level you would have come across at least one of the multitude of works that examine just exactly HOW political the Olympics are. I emphasize the 'how' because all of these writers start from the presumption that the Olympics ARE political. Everything about them is political from the funding $ to the selection of the city to the opening ceremonies to which events athletes can compete in.

You might have heard something about countries boycotting the Olympics in 1936, 1956, 1976 in Montreal (our country!), 1980, and 1984. There was also talk of boycotting the most recent summer Games in Beijing. You might have heard about how Hitler used the 1936 Games to promote White Supremacy, about athletes in Mexico who performed the Black Power salute on the podium, how 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed in 1972 (if you haven't heard of this one, there's a movie you can watch. Go to Blockbuster and ask for Munich. Steven Spielberg, Eric Bana, Academy Awards, is any of this ringing any bells?), how a bomb went off in Atlanta in 1996, or perhaps how Iranian athletes would rather withdraw than compete against Israelis. Each of these events has very little to do with athletics and almost everything to do with politics. Heck, even here in Vancouver we have people dressing up like it's Halloween and smashing windows. No doubt, the Olympics are political.

Make no mistake, I will still not be voting for Mr. Harper. His politics alienate me, his constituents enrage me, and his insistence on looking ridiculous confounds me. Nor will I vote for his lackeys which often enrage and confound me even more. Yet, your stance and subsequent statement strike me as petty politics, a low blow if we are to stick with sports talk. But your shot did not score, your trick did not fully rotate, you missed a gate... You looked foolish and little while your opponent made the right gestures.

This is what frustrates me most about your tenure as Liberal leader. Instead of making any substantive talk or, even better yet, any substantive action, you are content to mud wrestle with your opponent. If you were both young, attractive women this might be acceptable to a large percentage of the population but unfortunately you are both men who are many miles past young. What frustrates me even more, is having to admit that Mr. Harper was right on this occasion.

You'll understand, and hopefully forgive me, if I tell you there's really no way I can vote for you either in any upcoming election. Not strategically to block Mr. Harper, not for change. I want change as much as the next guy but something tells me you're not really the kind of change I want.

I hope you enjoy watching the Closing Ceremonies, say howdy to Mr. and Mrs. Harper for me.