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  • Anti-Olympics Activists Take on Los Angeles, Paris


    (ATR) Two cities will sign hosting contracts for the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games next month, but activists say it is not too late to derail the process.

    The Lima Convention Center will stage the 2017 IOC Session
    Activists from “NOlympics LA” and “Non Paris 2024” tell Around the Rings their goals are to get the next two Olympic host cities to reconsider their commitments. They understand public support is not yet on their side, but are leveraging knowledge from previous successful anti-Olympics groups.

    Boston, Budapest, and Hamburg withdrew during the 2024 Olympic bid process. The commonality in each bid’s demise was the threat or consummation of a referendum. Hamburg voters disavowed the Games, Budapest withdrew before voters could have their say, and Boston dropped out amid an expected referendum and a lack of public support.

    Both activist organizations say the Paris and Los Angeles bid committees have approached organizers for dialogue. To date, neither group has taken the committees up on the offers for different reasons.

    NOlympics Engages the Public

    NOlympics LA organizers Steve Ducey and Ann Orchier told ATR that LA 2028 reached out to speak with the group for a one-on-one meeting. However, Ducey and Orchier say the organization prefers to do all of its dialogue in public settings, and has invited the bid committee to such meetings. LA 2028 did not return requests for comment about potential future engagement.

    Later tonight NOlympics LA will hold a public forum “to discuss and illustrate why a 2028 plan would negatively affect thousands of lives.” The group will hold three panel discussions focused on three core opposition beliefs: housing and displacement, police militarization, and accountability and oversight.

    NOlympics LA was born out of the Democratic Socialists of LA’s housing and homelessness committee, Orchier says. As the committee worked with homeless advocates in LA they heard concerns over a lack of opposition movement to the potential real estate speculation that the Olympics could bring. NOlympics formed and started its online push earlier this year, around the time negotiations between the IOC, Los Angeles, and Paris began.

    NOlympics activists on the streets of Los Angeles (NOlympics LA/Twitter)
    “In a lot of ways a lack of an opposition movement helped bolster those claims that everyone wanted [the Games] here,” Orchier said. “It sort of helped posit this idea that if people weren’t that excited there would be some sort of organized opposition. In our minds, the reason there wasn’t an organized opposition was because all of the people who are concerned about the Olympics are dealing on a day to day basis with life and death issues.”

    The group was present at the recent LA City Council meeting that authorized the signing of the 2028 Host City Contract. Opponents to the bid chanted “let us speak” as council members voted. Protests over the decision continued through a scheduled press conference after the vote. It was the first major public opposition to the LA Olympic bid, coming two years after the process started.

    Entering so late in the bid process could be seen as a hindrance for opposition movements. Ducey said “it would have been great” to have started an opposition group earlier, but the group’s strength has grown through the recruitment of new coalition partners.

    NOlympics LA hopes to continue its mission through education programs, and broadcasting the stories of Angelenos that will inevitably be affected by the Olympic project. Earlier this month Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti discussed opposition to the 2028 Games on the Dan Patrick Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He said even with polls showing eight to 10 percent opposition means there are “hundreds of thousands of people against” the Games in LA. Garcetti then said that “there are millions supporting [the Games],” counteracting that opposition.

    The extra four years of preparation for LA 2028 gives NOlympics more time to achieve its goal of having the city return the right to host the Olympic Games. The group cites the referendum in Denver that caused the city to return the 1976 Winter Olympics as proof the movement could work.

    “There’s too little accountability, too little transparency, too little democratic oversight of the process itself and of its economic benefits, “Ducey said. “We don’t feel there is a good way to stage a Games.”

    Paris Opposition Seeks Referendum

    Non Paris 2024’s opposition to the city’s candidature for an Olympic Games began two years ago, with a core belief: “the consultation of the population should have been a prerequisite for the submission of the candidature.”

    Non Paris 2024 demonstrators at the Eiffel Tower (Non Paris 2024/Twitter)
    Julien Delatour, an organizer from Non Paris 2024, told ATR that the group has declined to speak with Paris 2024. Delatour says that the issue of the Olympic Games candidature “is a political act and therefore [bid officials] are not the right ones” to whom they should express concerns.

    A Paris 2024 spokesperson told ATR that the bid's underlying belief was to be "transparent and open to discussion at every stage of the candidature." They added that there has been "no debate or question" refused from opposition movements and citizens of Paris during the bid.

    "Protesters, whatever their motivations, help us to be better and more precise every day," the spokesperson said. "We are committed to continually improving our Games project, and any views that we can take on board to help us on this journey is important."

    Like NOlympics LA, Delatour says the group believes that Paris’ Olympic candidacy has been opaque, anti-ecological, and aims to gentrify different parts of the city. The group has a demonstration planned for Sept. 13 in Bercy Park, coinciding with the upcoming IOC Session. So far, more than 30,000 individuals have signed a petition calling for a referendum on the 2024 Games.

    Non Paris 2024 has collaborated with Olympics opposition movements in Boston, Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles and Tokyo. Delatour says the group plans to make adjustments for the long term, continuing through 2024, pressuring elected officials.

    “Now if you want to say that opposition to an organization such as the IOC is a challenge, it is true,” Delatour said to ATR. “But it is not always Goliath who wins against David.”

    Homepage photo: NOlympics LA/Twitter

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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