Wednesday, July 12, 2006

olympic spirit

All there is is this
Originally uploaded by eyecatcher.
I’ve held a deep distrust of the Olympics and the changes they bring to a city ever since I met a small business woman from Utah whose livelihood was threatened (and the quality of her neighborhood destroyed) almost immediately by the changes that came to Salt Lake City when they won the right to host the games in their city.

This morning’s story on the changes that are coming to Beijing in anticipation of the 2008 Olympics only feeds that distrust.

“Does this look like a scene from quaint Beijing or more like a war zone?” asked Pan Jinyu, 64, a local resident, as he stood on a narrow street pockmarked by flattened houses. Not far away, a red and white propaganda banner fluttered over a razed building: “Build a New Beijing and Welcome the Olympics.”

“They are doing it in stages,” [Said Mike Meyer, an American who lives in the Old Beijing neighborhood and has written a book about it.] “It’s progressing like a wave cresting.” He said the gradual approach had left many residents elsewhere in the city unaware of the scope of the demolition. Comparing it to New York, he added, “It’s like one morning you woke up and Chelsea was gone.”

From «Olympics Imperil Historic Beijing Neighborhood» in this morning’s New York Times
My distrust stems from wildass theories about sustainability, I suppose.

Isn’t it important, when building something, that the construction be appropriate to the native environment and can be put to good use for some future duration?

I’m not convinced that the new construction demanded by an Olympic venue is enduring construction. Sure, it’ll always be put to some kind of use (infamously, there was the soccer stadium in Sarajevo, used during the war as a burial ground) – but it’s one-shot wonder construction that serves a single event in history and then can do no better than to be appropriated for something else that it wasn’t necessarily intended to serve.

And to bulldoze a historic neighborhood – paying lifelong residents paltry sums before kicking them out on the street (one couple received $174K for property valued at $1.4 Million) to make way for crap construction, seems to me one of the worst kinds of property crimes you can commit.

London is one of my favorite cities in the world. I wasn’t one of the ones cheering when they won the bid.

The Gay Games are in Chicago this weekend – which is a good thing. But I heard someone mention on the news that this was the first step in proving that our city has the mettle to host the big shot Olympics. That we’re getting ourselves into position.

Please. God. No.

[Photo Credit: eyecatcher]
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