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The Real Cost of the Pan Am Games

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
The Real Cost of the Pan Am Games

I want to start off by stating how much I dislike breaking issues down into monetary arguments.

Money is a language and means in which I wish I didn’t have to participate in – for several reasons - but nonetheless is a language of commonality in our society [or the sprawl that occupies Turtle Island]. Capitalism drives a great number of people to engage with, understand and frame issues monetarily; while this is a practice deeply sick in itself I’ve written this article with that inherent truth in mind.

But there are bigger costs to hosting the games here in Southern Ontario, and there are broader implications.

The desire to sink billions of dollars in to a sporting event while allowing residents of the hosting region to flounder and exist in a state of poverty is despicable. Sacrificing the lives of people in an attempt to look diverse and progressive is nothing short of sociopathic.

Food bank shelves are empty. Shelters are over capacity. Social, environmental, educational, transportation, medical and “justice” programs have all received massive and debilitating cutbacks.

People are suffering because of them. Dying.

But somehow there are billions available to throw at a couple weeks of fun ‘n’ games.

The implications of this are both simple and complex. Simple because, plainly, it shows that our government – at all levels - do not represent or care for us as a people. Complex because it alludes to overarching issues of austerity, appropriation, indigenous sovereignty,  colonialism, capitalism, corporatocracy, political agendas and corruption, police interference and surveillance, civil rights, environmental  protections and political oppression.

Those are the real costs of hosting the 2015 games.

Those are the real reasons I’ll be in the streets.

But if you're caught up on the cost, or there's a niggling curiosity, I've got that noted below too.




As we steadily approach the Pan Am games it’s hard not to notice certain patterns emerging.

Or shall we say re-emerging.

Patterns that remind us just how oppressive, deceitful and abusive our government can be – and often is.

In September the liberal government quietly amended legislation to expand the powers of private security for the Pan Am games, allowing them to work alongside the OPP.

No consultation. No debate.

While it might not seem that important, those in the know understand that the OPP happens to be the agency responsible for heading up the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) for the 2015 games. The ISU is comprised of at least nine agencies so far including the RCMP and municipal police forces – and it’s already well underway.

For many, it is a symbol of political oppression and the surveillance state.

The ISU for both the G20 and Vancouver Olympics included massive surveillance programs and numerous undercover operations in the years leading up to them.

Back in March, before the most recent changes, the federal government also expanded the powers of individuals acting under “citizen’s-arrest” laws. This is the same legislation which gives private security the power to detain or arrest individuals. Under the new guidelines, someone can be detained within a “reasonable” period of time if a ‘crime’ was committed and an individual is suspected.

In other words; security guards no longer have to witness the crime they are arresting you for, nor do they have to arrest you immediately proceeding it.

Not only are these new powers open to abuse by those who hold them directly, but in a scenario like the Pan Am Games police can indirectly abuse them.

There’s nothing stopping police, for example, from providing security firms with photos of known activists and having security detain and arrest them on sight for alleged criminal acts like “disruption” – a charge so ambiguous it can include yelling in public.

Seems pretty tenuous to me, and it’s not hard to see a bigger, more ominous picture emerging. One many of us have seen before – though perhaps not as clearly.

A government quietly granting increased powers.

Adding supportive legislation which can be easily and widely abused.

In the lead-up to the G20 an ancient piece of legislation - the Public Works Protection Act (PWPA) – was quietly amended for the purpose of policing the G20.

Quietly and without public debate.

Its blatant and purposeful misapplication led to the abuse of hundreds of peoples’ civil liberties.

After the shit-show that was the G20 the government agreed to repeal it. That application, however, died in the legislature in the fall of 2012 and today the PWPA is still in place.

Some have even seen an increase of its use.

In Thunder Bay, police attempted to use it to detain and identify individuals participating in an action for missing and murdered indigenous women while on public property.

In Hamilton, the PWPA was recently used to collect the identities of individuals who attended a political action elsewhere, earlier in the day. Later that same day it was used to detain and arrest individuals who were eventually slapped with a variety of other charges.

When one of these individuals returned at a later date on a legal matter with a friend, the friend was made to provide their personal information or be arrested under the PWPA.

In Cayuga it was used to remove an individual from a courtroom for audio recording a hearing – despite acting in the interest of the defendant and with a judge’s prior consent.

It’s clear that policing “authorities” are flexing their PWPA muscles more – and clearly abusing their inherent authority in the process.

As it stands now, security guards with little training will be working alongside the OPP leading up to, and for, the summer games.

They will have enhanced powers of arrest and little, if any, oversight.

And the PWPA is still in place.

The situation invites a slew of potential issues and violations.


Which brings us to the question: How much will it cost to have our rights violated?


The 2015TO committee is being pretty tight-lipped about security expenses, but history has shown that whatever does out of their mouths is likely to be a vast understatement. 

To get an idea, however, security for the G20 in Toronto hit $1.1 Billion while security for the Vancouver Olympics had a price tag of about $925 Million (initially quoted at $175 Million).

By comparison, the Pan Am games are twice the size of the winter Olympics and extend across several regions.  While there won’t be as many “important” officials to “protect” it’s likely that the price tag to be lied to, spied upon and beaten will be comparable because of these factors alone.

Of course, security isn’t the only monetary expense for the games.

Some intensive research has turned up the following planned expenses:

$1.44 Billion is the main budget put forth by TO2015. Half will be used to upgrade and build new venues while the remaining will be used for “operational” costs.

An estimate only, that main budget is subject to grow based on gluttonous expenditures like the 63 Pan Am executives earning between $190,000 and $250,000 per year. A handful of key organizers will even earn around $500,000 per year. Throwing in an incentive for those 63 executives – just for completing their jobs - adds another cool $7M.

The main budget also DOESN’T include;

+ $10 M for Pan Am secretariat budget

+ $709 M for athletes housing (subject to increase)

+ $23 M for unanticipated soil remediation at the aquatic center

+ $15.43 M for a “Host City Showcase Program” in Toronto

+/- $1 Billion for security

+ the costs of firing & replacing CEO Ian Troop [severance plus a new signing bonus]

+ the cost of housing athletes in regions closer to their events [recently announced to cut athlete transportation times]

+ other “soft” expenses such as increased border/airport security, public transit and medical services [in multiple host cities/regions]

and finally, other infrastructure improvements or costs [particularly related to transit]

For example, the city of Hamilton will also be building a second GO station in time for the 2015 games – both the new and current station will remain operational. While the budget has yet to be finalized, it will be funded in part by $16 Billion given to the GTHA for transit funding.

In Hamilton, the Royal Botanical Gardens recently asked the city of Hamilton for $1.75M in funding to help with their $20M modernization of their rock garden to have it completed for the games.

In all – we’re talking about a lot of moohla.

A shit- tonne of moohla.

At a time when essential services face massive cuts on every level of care, our government has chosen to sink billions into hosting and policing an event that doesn’t net a profit unless there’s fiscal restraint and the exploitation of thousands of volunteers.

In Winnipeg it took 20,000 volunteers over the course of 16 days to make just $8.9M in revenue.

Had they paid those volunteers just $4 an hour they’d have not made any profit.

Here in Ontario, the government just announced that they will be “helping” students qualify for OSAP loans by forcing them to volunteer for the impending games. The program is intended for those who work the summer before attending school but can’t save money to contribute toward a principle loan.

You know - the ones who are typically working poor and busy paying bills.

And what will the games leave in their wake?

History tells us waste; unnecessary infrastructure, displacement and increased homelessness.


And though officials keep touting that the athletes’ village will become affordable housing [a shiny progressive image is everything these days], the reality is that only a small fraction of those 2100 units will be made available to low-income individuals or families.

Even when the opportunity to address a widespread housing crisis arises, the powers that be fuck it up to turn a quick buck!

The games, undoubtedly, will also provide an excuse for the government to infiltrate and violate political communities and put the security apparatus into full swing.

That said - these events also give us an opportunity to bring our struggles to the forefront of the public consciousness, shed light on certain truths and sometimes even light the spark needed for long term resistance.

They give us an uncommon opportunity to have a collective voice.

There will be challenges, though.

The police and media will try to dictate your narrative. Don’t let them.

They will try to divide us. Don’t let them.

Don’t buy in to the “violent” versus “non-violent” narrative.

Those are their words now; police terms. Used to justify their force and oppression.

Used to undermine us and our efforts.

Participating in that narrative only feeds their strength.

In fact, don’t allow anyone to stipulate “acceptable” forms of struggle or terms of resistance!

All struggle is valid. All forms of resistance have a message.

So refrain from vilifying each other over views and tactics.

Refrain from policing each other.

We are co-allies. We have a bigger fight.

Stand together, fight together.

See you in the streets.

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addieraine (Aderyn Raine)
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