Subject: Little IOC Games, all made of ticky-tacky
NB - Yesterday marked the one-year countdown for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Much of the clamor has been over China's involvement in Sudan. Certainly an important issue and it appears to be gaining traction as the sexy issue; the term "Genocide Games" has caught on. Also making noise are protests over Tibet and Falon Gong.
Bringing up the rear -- and in real danger of being the also-ran issue -- is mega-displacement from mega-events. But it's not just Beijing. It's Vancouver and London and likely Chicago in 2016. It's not only the Olympic cities, but also the Bid cities. It's happening in New York which didn't even get the games, but bid for 2012. And it happened in Atlanta, still reeling after the 1996 games a decade ago.
Martin Slavin of London describes it this way:
"Like all con tricks it works best by arriving suddenly in the locality, promising 'fantastic' outcomes to the greedy and the needy, getting a binding contract signed by the 'urban elites' of the host cities (a contract which clearly says 'the IOC is not responsible for the overspend, you are'), raising a political storm of protest amongst a vocal minority (who are eventually worn out from the effort of challenging the juggernaut), then departing to a new city to work the old con on a fresh set of startled punters. That's why the Olympics is always on the move. No-one would let them do it twice in their lifetime."
Anti-displacement isn't about anti-Beijing. Or anti-sports. It's more anti-IOC and the institutional enabling that allows it to happen wherever it goes. COHRE got the ball rolling, but it will take those of us in all the IOC-impacted cities --- to pressure the IOC and others to take responsibility.
Of course we in New York are reminded daily of the juggernaut of forced evictions. The new New York Times Building is now open and I can lean just a little away from my computer to see it out my window. Yet the NY Times caused the evictions of around 40 small business so it could take advantage of sweetheart tax financing from New York politicians. New York didn't get the games, but we're impacted by the destruction left in the bid's wake.
So here's today's ditty from the gray Lady on IOC displacement. - Tenant
August 9, 2007
Little Building Defies Beijing’s Olympic Ambitions
By JIM YARDLEY
New York Times
BEIJING, Aug. 8 Beijing observed the one-year countdown to the 2008 Olympics on Wednesday night with fireworks and pageantry at a celebration in Tiananmen Square. A few blocks away, Sun Ruoyu and her sister saw the streaks of color in the sky but did not dare leave their battered home.
Sun Ruoyu, 55, sat on a bulldozer behind her family home. Ms. Sun, an Australian citizen, refuses to move out.
Liu Bowen for The New York Times
The two-story building where Ms. Sun’s ancestors opened a bakery in the 1840s their clientele included the Qing emperor and his court has been on Beijing’s demolition list since Monday. Local officials have notified the Sun family that the building is along the route of the Olympic marathon. Land is needed for a beautification project. A bulldozer is parked outside.
Demolition is not new in the surrounding Qianmen area, a historic neighborhood being razed and rebuilt as a shopping district for the Olympics. What is unique is that Ms. Sun is refusing to leave. She is the last holdout on a street once lined with shops. Landscapers have already covered the rest of the block with saplings and a sheet of green grass. Her building is an unsightly stump marring the view.
“I’m just waiting for them to tear it down,” Ms. Sun, 55, said during an interview Wednesday afternoon inside the building. Her defiance is articulated on posters in English and Chinese that she has affixed to her door. “This is illegal!” one poster declares. “I have to use my life to protect our house!”
The official message of countdown week is that Beijing is on schedule in preparing for the Games. Stadiums and sporting venues are nearing completion. Crews are working to finish new subway lines and roads. Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, told the Chinese state news media that preparations were “truly impressive in every regard.”
Ms. Sun has tried with little success to attract attention to her family’s case. Reports have circulated on the Internet, but local newspapers have not touched it. Forced evictions are politically sensitive in China; other cases of holdout homeowners have inflamed nationwide public opinion and fueled anger over corruption. A term of art has even arisen “nail house” for buildings whose owners refuse to move even after neighboring buildings have been knocked down.
On Wednesday, knots of people gathered outside Ms. Sun’s address, reading the posters and official documents taped to the door. An Australian flag hung at the rear of the building. Ms. Sun said she and her husband emigrated from Beijing to Melbourne more than a decade ago and became Australian citizens.
Her father had leased the building for many years, including to a state-owned grocery store, before opening a restaurant there himself in 2001. Ms. Sun said the building was famous as a bakery in Qianmen, an area that was known for its shops, provincial guesthouses and brothels during the Qing Dynasty. In the spring of 2006, Ms. Sun said notices appeared in the neighborhood that buildings would be razed. No other explanation was provided, she said.
Months passed, and other businesses along the block began to close. Then, early this spring, local officials presented a notice explaining that the Sun family would have to move in the name of slum clearance. The notice said that the city was preparing the course of the Olympic marathon and that buildings in the area needed to be demolished.
The notice concluded by thanking the family for supporting the Beijing Olympics. Last Friday, another local official returned and posted a notice declaring that the city reserved the right to demolish the building at any time after Aug. 6, or Monday.
“They didn’t even talk to me,” Ms. Sun said. When the bulldozer arrived on Wednesday morning, Ms. Sun greeted the driver at the rear of the building. “I said, ‘You can’t dig here,’ ” she recalled. “I climbed onto the bulldozer, and he stopped.”
Ms. Sun, who returned to China this year, has sought help from the Australian Embassy. An embassy staff member who advised Ms. Sun declined to comment on the case. But Ms. Sun said she had been told by the embassy that it had little influence in such matters and that she should seek a remedy in China’s legal system.
A Chinese official involved in the case, reached by cellphone on Wednesday night, refused to comment. Judging from the noise in the background, she appeared to be attending the celebration at Tiananmen Square. At that ceremony, Liu Qi, the president of Beijing’s Olympic organizing committee, repeated a slogan that he said Beijing residents have embraced to prepare for the Olympics.
“I participate, I contribute, I enjoy,” he said.
On Wednesday afternoon, as Ms. Sun spoke to reporters inside her building, police officers interrupted the interview three times. At one point, they demanded passports and journalist identification cards. They later asked whether an article would be written about the case and then left.
Ms. Sun believes that the Olympics are only one reason that local officials want to knock down her home. She said one official told her that the area would be made into a park for the Olympics but that it would be developed later as a residential and commercial area. Officials have offered the family about 1.6 million yuan, a little more than $200,000, for the building not enough for what is expected to become one of the city’s priciest districts. The family has refused.
“No matter what they offer, I won’t be able to afford an apartment here,” she said. “I want to be able to live here.”
She added: “They’ve used the Olympics to strip people of their property. They’re doing things against the spirit of the Olympics.”
So, for now, Ms. Sun and her sister, Ruonan, 56, are waiting. The downstairs restaurant is closed. Demolition of adjacent buildings has caused so much shaking that the walls are cracked.
The family has hired bodyguards to protect the sisters as they sleep in the empty house at night.
“Sometimes, I’m afraid they are coming for us,” Ms. Sun said. “I’ll take a look out the window if I hear something.”
Jake Hooker contributed reporting.
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