Yesterday we attended the live taping of CBC’s Cross Country Checkup, where the topic was Olympic fever. “For years Canada’s best athletes have been focused on these 17 days in February. The city of Vancouver has been working flat out too. British and American media are now criticizing the result. What do you think? Have the Games been a Canadian success so far?”
Listen to the podcast here.
Beyond the expected patriotism and self-congratulatory rhetoric, some of the Games discussion centred around the financial conditions faced by Canadian elite athletes throughout the years of training it takes to become a contender in an Olympic games. In contrast to the millions of dollars per year that elite athletes from other countries can earn (hint: look for those nations with the highest medal counts) most Canadian athletes are self-financed and can receive, at most, about $15K per year from the Canadian government. (It’s worse than that for retired Olympians; listen to the show to hear how they have been entirely passed over by VANOC. No invitations to participate in ceremonies. No free tickets to games. Nothing.)
Since I am entirely obsessed with the abysmal cuts facing BC’s arts sector, I couldn’t help but compare the dedication and financial poverty of Canadian Olympic athletes to the dedication and financial poverty of Canadian artists. Sandra Garossino has already posted on the similar struggles faced by artists and athletes:
“The vast majority of athletes, even Olympians, toil in obscurity throughout their sports careers. No televised draft ceremony, sponsorship deal, or six-figure signing bonus awaits them. Most struggle financially, if they aren’t utterly and completely broke.
In spirit and temperament, they share so much with artists…If they do manage to enter, sans the imprimatur of celebrity–the only real currency of our age–no one will know who they are. Self-important young media executives will push past them in a rush to meet the conquering gods.”
And there’s the rub. In a highly corporatized, celebrity obsessed (here’s that buzzword) neoliberal age, money, celebrity and power supersede real dedication, hard work and talent.
But I wonder why we haven’t organized to create a “not-for-profit organization devoted solely to raising funds and awareness for Canada’s” artists/writers/poets? Do we “pay it forward” and help each other out like the athletes, or are we too busy fighting each other for an ever-shrinking piece of pie?
In other, related news:
– Claire Lacey has written a full account of the In(ter)ventions conference on her blog Poetactics
-The Olympic Tent Village Voice Issue 1 is out
–W2 Community Media Arts recently hosted a panel discussion on disability arts with Ruth Gould (UK: DaDa) and Geoff McMurchy (Canada: Kickstart). View the webcast here
-The W2 Real Vancouver Writers’ & Culture series wraps up this Wednesday, Feb 24
–VIVO continues to host the politically-minded Short Range Poetic Device webcast
-Everyone is too drunk
Nikki Reimer blogs and plans arts events in Vancouver, where she is a member of the Kootenay School of Writing and a board member at W2 Community Media Arts. Her poetry has been published in such magazines as Matrix, Front, Prism, BafterC and filling Station. A chapbook, fist things first, was recently published by Wrinkle Press and a book, [sic], is forthcoming from Frontenac House. She has never been to grad school. (Photo: Rory Zerbe)