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Protest plans cloud Winter Olympic spirit

The excitement of the Vancouver Olympics starts to pale the minute you leave the airport and the economic recession becomes obvious, reports MiNDFOOD.

Protest plans cloud Winter Olympic spirit

“Oh, nooo. Don’t put it back in your bag. Here, give it to me,” the cheery Olympics volunteer said.

And with that she placed the newly validated Winter Olympics accreditation around my neck and proudly smiled.

“Welcome to Vancouver.”

Whether it’s Sydney, Beijing, Torino or Vancouver, you can be sure of one thing – the thousands of volunteers who sign up to be a part of this global event bring the same level of effervescence.

Sadly for Vancouver Olympic organisers that excitement starts to pale the minute you leave the airport and jump in a cab.

Barjinder M is at the end of his shift.

He’s worked twelve and a half hours and made $88.

Normally he’ll take in $250 but he hasn’t made that kind of money in months.

With a wife and two children he’s feeling pretty grim about Vancouver’s Olympics bid.

“Even after 9/11 business wasn’t this bad. The Olympics have hired drivers and cars. No one is taking taxis.” he said.

Canadians’ approach to life is often compared to that of Australians – laidback, easy going and vastly different to their neighbours south of the border.

But these Olympics are generating resentment and as the city approaches the opening ceremony, organisers are dealing with questions about the number of protests expected and what security has been put in place to ensure the games aren’t disrupted.

Very few games – summer or winter – have been held without some threat of protest.

But there are predictions Vancouver could be the scene of demonstrations encompassing a broader coalition of ‘antis’ than ever before.

Anti-poverty, anti-global, anti-capitalist – they’re presenting themselves as the biggest ever opposition to the Olympics themselves.

It’s a loose coalition going by the name Olympic Resistance Network.

The protests have become as much of a worry – if not more – than a possible terrorist attack.

And even International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge can see it coming.

At the executive board, discussions were had with Vancouver organisers about their plans to tackle the protesters before the protesters tackle them.

“We accept protest. It is a free democratic freedom of expression. What we want is no violence and for people to respect the laws of the country and then there is no problem,” Jacques Rogge said at a press conference later that day.

Vancouver spent almost $1 billion on security – 4,500 military, 6,000 police and 4,800 private security contractors.

I was shocked by those numbers. Their presence is far more low key than Beijing where officious military officers would prevent us from even cutting a street corner for a speedy return to our news studio.

The protesters have earmarked the opening ceremony as their target.

While the IOC seems confident they won’t disrupt the games, even the threat of it is a reminder that not everyone loves the Olympics these days – not even if they’re on the winning side.

  © 2008 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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