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Olympics ‘beautiful’ but IOC spoils cities: noted sportswriter Dave Zirin

Sportswriter Dave Zirin, who speaks in Vancouver tonight, has covered his share of Olympic Games, but there’s something decidedly different about Vancouver 2010: the protestors.

“Viewing the Olympics like a WTO or a G8 meeting is different,” said Zirin yesterday in an interview at the Vancouver Airport. The protest convergence planned at the Vancouver Olympics, says Zirin, is the first of its kind.

For Zirin, the Olympics are a double-edged sword.

“Typically, on a day in day out basis, sports in North America, particularly the US is incredibly narrow, and incredibly male,” he said.

“The Olympics are one of the few times where the air breathes a little bit, and you have women put in the front, and different kind of sports that people get to enjoy, and that is beautiful,” he said. “I just wish it could come à la carte.”

“I mean if there could be a way we could de-link this idea of an international festival of sports with the IOC, and let the IOC become an absolute relic of history, that would be something that I would support very happily,” he said.

Zirin is arguably America’s best-known progressive sports journalist, and an unabashed lover of sports. Having reported extensively on past Olympics, he’s become sharp critic of the way the Games manage to spoil host cities.

“There’s going to be a collision between what the Olympics do to a city, and how Vancouver sees itself,” said Zirin.

As Games time draws nearer, more and more British Columbians are feeling the pinch of Olympic spending. An EKOS poll released last Thursday found that a full 68 per cent of British Columbians polled believe too much is being spent on the Games.

South of the border, Zirin says that the story of the women ski jumpers is something that’s “definitely raised eyebrows in the United States.”

Especially problematic, says Zirin, is the idea that the IOC somehow has jurisdiction over the Canadian Charter. He wrote about the B.C. court of appeal’s November 2009 decision that denied women the right to jump in the games.

But when he returns back to DC on Thursday and sits down to write a piece about the 2010 Olympics, Zirin has an idea what he’ll want to lead with.

“What makes this different from other games, and I think this is going to be like, in sentence one of what I’m writing about, is I just find it amazing that there is going to be a protest convergence here during the games. “That is a first, that is history,” he said.

“I mean there have been protests at Games, most notoriously in 68 in Mexico City, but even in China there were protests, and some people were never heard from again, but the idea of a convergence built along global justice models… is new ground,” he said.

Dave Zirin will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Wed., Jan. 20 at the Maritime Labour Center, 1880 Triumph Street (corner Victoria Drive).

Dawn Paley is a regular contributor to the Dominion and The Tyee.

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