14 - 20 September 2000
Issue No. 499
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Not all are happyBy Amira Ibrahim
Human rights, social justice, living conditions of the poor and even globalisation: All have been raised among a long list of critical topics highlighted by anti-Olympic groups in Sydney. Extensive work has been carried out to mobilise local and international condemnation of alleged government violations of human rights, Aboriginal rights to land as well as financial corruption.
A non-violent demonstration is set to take place the day of the opening ceremony, rallying groups and individuals from all over Australia and other countries at Sydney's Victoria Park. A number of seminars and exhibitions have been held over the past two weeks disclosing the damage done to land and community.
Aborigines have also won permits to protest at the Sydney Games, offices in the city downtown area, the prime minister's Sydney office and state parliament. Workers Union and social justice activists organised a protest at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Melbourne.
The main focus of the protests is to gain recognition of Aboriginal rights to land as the country's original inhabitants.
A major exhibition that focuses on the 1838 massacre of Aborigines at Myall Creek is planned for the duration of the Olympics.
Aboriginal activists have been granted permission to stage peaceful, roadside protests, with more than 2,000 placard-waving people forming a human chain outside the Sydney Airport for five days last week.
"The Australian government had subjected the international community to a lot of lies and misinformation about our people and the status of our people living in this country," protest organiser Jenny Munro told reporters. "What we are trying to do is provide guests with another version of events rather than the government's version of history," she said.
Anti-Olympics groups prepared a list including 13 good reasons to hate the Olympics. Economic and political reasons topped the list.
According to the list, the Olympics has an international economic agenda of transforming Sydney into a 'global city,' which means further deregulation of trade and financial markets to attract investors.
Opposition groups see the Games as a huge waste of public money, warning that every gold medal for Australia costs $30 million of public money.
"The Sydney Games are consuming at least $6,000,000,000 of public money," a statement by the Anti-Olympics Alliance (AOA) said. "The Sydney Olympic Committee is spending over $3 billion, much of this coming not from sponsorship and ticket sales but direct from the country's budget. Why would all this money go to sports? No wonder the government claims it can't afford to pay teachers."
According to the statement, a housing problem is about to spoil the festivity of the Games, as rent increased in many Sydney suburbs, ranging from 10 per cent to 30 percent during the last 12 months.
On the other hand, workers unions and active groups mobilised a strong public opinion against illegal and inhuman practices by corporations sponsoring the games. "Nike refuses to sign the Code of Practice to provide basic safeguards to workers, and employs 70,000 children in Australia for $1-2/hour," the statement said.
It's not all about sports. "Olympic Games are bought with bribery and corruption," said the AOA report. It indicated that the host city bid process is nothing but large scale bribery of International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates. "Sydney bidders promised $2 million in grants to African Olympic committees in order to buy the votes of delegates from Uganda and Kenya. All up, the Sydney bid company budgeted $28 million for bribery of the IOC."
The report added that the IOC itself estimated that the Salt Lake City bidders spent $800,000 on bribing 14 IOC members. "Australian IOC delegate Phil Coles was suspended for accepting $65,000 in Bribes from Salt Lake City, whose organising committee officially budgeted $500,000 to bribe IOC delegates for votes."
A critical issue highlighted as another good reason to hate the Games is that it brings repressive laws and increased militarism.
"The Olympics Arrangements Act, together with regulations passed last year not only criminalises public dissent and political expression but gives untrained and unspecified volunteers even greater powers than police to sweep the streets of anything or anyone that attracts attention to the increasing opposition to social injustice," the statement said.
Under the new laws, public assembly is made illegal unless approved; distributing of material without authority is now an offence; one can be banned for six months or for life from public spaces, or heavily fined for breach of these laws.
Reacting to the planned measures, a leading Aboriginal activist has warned the Australian army of the dangers of "civil war" if protesters were shot during Sydney Olympics demonstrations. Murrandoo Yanner criticised new anti-terrorist laws which would give the army shoot-to-kill powers.
"It is disgusting. The last thing the army needs is a civil war in Australia and if they were to shoot any Aboriginal person, I doubt that any army person would be safe," Yanner was quoted as saying.
"I would give that warning clearly to those in charge of the army: don't go shooting Aboriginal protesters because you'll need to withdraw everyone in East Timor and have them on full stand-by over here, because the Aboriginal community won't stand for that."
The AOA report said indigenous Australians are still the most socially and economically disadvantaged section of the Australian community, with indigenous adults dying 20 years younger than other Australians, and a child mortality rate three times higher than non-indigenous children.
"Aboriginal people deserve an apology, not an Olympic police state. They will be campaigning during the Games for a treaty, for a repeal of mandatory sentencing, for an apology from the Federal Government, and for social justice and real land rights," the statement added.
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch has come under attack as well, his old files searched in an attempt to prove he is a fascist. "Olympic officialdom has a long tradition of fascists in its leadership," stated a speaker of one of the groups. "In the 1930s, while IOC officials praised what Hitler was doing, Samaranch was a supporter of Spanish dictator Franco," he added, indicating that the IOC spent $1.75 million in 1999 on public relations to polish up Samaranch's image.
Protesters describe the torch relay "a Nazi, fascist, racist, corporate greed symbol." The Nazis invented the Olympic torch relay for the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Anti-Olympic demonstrators contend that while the US was bombing the living daylights out of Vietnam, US athletes who went to the 1968 Olympics were encouraged by politicians to prove their superiority over their Russian counterparts. To the US establishment, they say, the Olympic Games were merely a propaganda episode to war.
They highlight an incident which took place shortly before the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games when demonstrators outside the stadium protested at the money that was being wasted on the event. Mexican police machine-gunned the demonstrators, killing 250. IOC chief Avery Brundage declared "the Games will take place even if I have to be there alone with five South Africans."