HOW SIDNEY CROSBY STOPPED A REVOLUTION

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
—Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister

First of all, I hope Sidney Crosby’s head is going to be okay. These contact sports are certainly tough on the old noodle, as countless injury reports attest. Ironically, cheerleading kills more people every year than UFC. I actually read that. But what I’m talking about here is how Sidney’s overtime goal in the 2010 Olympics, giving the Canadian team the 3-2 gold medal win over the US in hockey, stopped a revolution.

Okay, Sidney’s goal didn’t stop the revolution. There was never going to be a revolution. This is Vancouver, for god’s sake. But the emotional timbre of the city pre-Olympics was undeniably bleak (can a timbre be bleak?). The sickening and inconceivable billion-dollar security bill was a shock from the original estimate of $175 million, blatant RCMP spying on anti-Olympics protesters was disconcerting, the utter lack of snow anywhere was like an omen, and the tragic death of a Georgian luger hours before the opening ceremony was simply painful to see.

People were ornery. People were edgy. Heck, some even grumbled.

Okay, in the end, let’s face it, it wasn’t only Crosby’s goal that changed the mood of the city. The revolution that was to be an uprising against political fiscal idiocy, corporate control of B.C. mind space and Big Brother, was also put on hold because Canada won a record number of gold medals in the Vancouver Olympics, and with each win our collective angst turned to pride, showing how fickle is the human mind. With every victory we the people became more sedated than the folks sucking back super-sized Soma in Brave New World.

And Crosby’s overtime goal clinched the mood, convincing us all, unabashedly, that the athletes’ victories were identical to our own: we all won gold, right? I think that collective deluded belief among sports fans, that they, too, win when their team does, actually has a medical name. If it doesn’t, it should. Either way, all I know is I personally didn’t get one endorsement out of the Olympics. Not even a phone call. Never signed an autograph.

And the other truth is, Vancouver just isn’t a revolting kind of place. Okay, little uprisings in the early ’70s and the IWW in the 1910s and the March to Ottawa in the dirty ’30s, and somebody broke a window when the Canucks lost in game 7 in 1994, and maybe a few others.

But the fact is, my friends, we’ve got used to good times, and a good standard of living, and our revolting boots are somewhere way at the back of our multi-car garages.

ALl THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD

This particular post is actually about the idea that the massive economic windfall of prosperity predicted if the Olympics came to town—early projections were ten billion dollars by key business players and local politicians—may have been Goebbelian propaganda (in the repeated ‘big lie’ sense).

In short, according to an article in the Tyee:

The Feb. 17, 2009 budget claimed the economic impact would be $10 billion. By Oct. 28, 2009, Small Business Minister Iain Black told the legislature that the Games would be “a $4 billion revenue-generating spectacular.”

For those keeping track at home, that’s a $6 billion drop in 8 months, which is twice what I made last year, after taxes.

But here’s the worst part about the Tyee article: it turns out folks with high IQs have actually studied the anti-climactic economic fallout of mega events in great detail.

One group from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts studied the economic realities of the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics. Afterwards, in 2006, the results were sent out as a warning call to governments. Politicians were urged to “…view with caution any economic impact estimates.”

I guess that warning, like the one Brooksley Born offered Alan Greenspan at the Fed, got lost in the convenient shuffle. I’m only kidding—I’m sure it was read. They just didn’t give a crap.

And it’s not that I am even one iota surprised about this extraordinary dislocation between tax-payer expenditures and limited return. Are you? Is anybody anymore? The North American bail-outs made the “rules of rip-off” even more extreme, cynical, up front and plundering.

Victor Matheson from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts offers this:

“While most sports boosters claim that mega-events provide host cites with large economic returns, these same boosters present these figures as justification for receiving substantial public subsidies for hosting the games. The vast majority of independent academic studies of mega-events show the benefits to be a fraction of those claimed by event organizers.

Isn’t that fraud? Or is it the Stalin syndrome: Kill one person, it’s murder; kill a million it’s a statistic. Kill twenty million it’s Mao. Steal a trillion, it’s Wall Street.

As for debt, it’s more like a cancer. Even diagnosed, we may not particularly feel it. But evidently it can be extremely painful when the debt collector cometh. Has he got an ETA?

The report said:

A May 2010 Holy Cross report found Salt Lake 2002 “had a modest short-run impact on employment and no significant impact on total employment in the long run.” That followed a Nov. 2008 report that found hotels and restaurants gained $70.6 million, but general merchandise sales fell $167.4 million. This happened, they say, because the Games caused local residents to alter consumption patterns and local residents and regular visitors were displaced by those attending the event.

And then a closer-to-home-truth from Vancouver.

Fast forward to Dec. 17, 2010, long after the last athlete went home and all the banners were gone. PricewaterhouseCoopers—in a study paid for and scheduled by Ottawa and Victoria [the tax-payer again—it never ends!]—downgraded its estimate, saying only $2.3 billion was generated over seven years. This, in a province where the Gross Domestic Product was worth almost $198 billion last year.

So there were gains, but galaxies away from the estimate. And what of the cost? Will outright manipulation, even lying, and costing the tax-payer billions of increasingly devalued dollars ever be considered fraud or illegal? Likely not, as long as it’s done by a certain group of people. The system is set up with endless technicalities as excuses and almost never any clear person or persons can be found to be blamed.

But it sounds again like public-subsidy for private gain.

Ah, politics. Ah, Wall Street. Ah, so-called free markets. Ah, mega-events.

The only hope now is, once again, Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid. Gold medal magic. If he can’t come back to the NHL, which would be tragic, maybe he’ll lead the revolution, which would also be tragic. But it would be good for press.

And if that doesn’t work, we can always Twitter. Hey, it works in the Middle East and North Africa, or so we are told. Personally, and call me crazy, but I would think that the world-wide economic crisis and the inability of people in Northern Africa and the Middle East to afford food was probably even more important than Twitter (and so-called democracy), but maybe I’m just annoyingly old-school.

What a world—and so much beauty, too! I need a glass of Soma. Anybody else?

Pete xo

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