Initially, it wasn’t our intention to marry the subject of the Winter Olympic Games to the idea of regret, but things being what they are in these irony deficient times, the two came together in a timely fashion and it now seems that they make ideal bedmates.
Last fall, as announcements were hitting the news that the BC arts community would likely suffer severe cuts to their provincial arts funding (as high as 80-90%), many thought that this hobbling of the arts had as much to do with the Olympics as it did with the sputtering world economy. Provincial funding cuts, and an almost total disappearing of Direct Access Gaming funds (revenues derived from gambling) for most arts organizations as well as many non-profits, appeared to be a fairly transparent cash-grab to bolster the government coffers. Hoover the chips and cash from the public felt and hope for the best. From my view across the water, it looked like the bean-counters in Victoria didn’t like how their budget forecasts were shaping up and panicked in an attempt to cover the anticipated shortfall in the provincial contribution to the Olympic balance sheet. A shortfall that threatened to be huge. For many of us that work in the arts sector, it was hard not to see the provincial government and the “arms-length” arts council as a Janus-faced adversary watching us recede into the past as the glitz and glam of the gleaming Games were racing towards them.
Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, Brad Cran, was invited to read a poem as part of the Winter Games, so long as the poem, he says, “corresponded to themes as provided to me by an Olympic bureaucrat.” He knew the poem he had written regarding the plight of the female ski jumpers wouldn’t fly, so he proposed a couple of suggestions as to how vanoc might incorporate poetry into the events. Both ideas were rejected; in response, he declined to participate. The community (and freedom of speech supporters everywhere) applauded his stand. The talented slam poet/spoken word artist, Shane Koyczan agreed to perform at the Opening Ceremonies and you have to wonder if, by his acceptance of the offer to read, he was just trying to avoid that horrible feeling—the hole in the stomach, the sinking feeling, the opportunity loss, the sense that one’s ship has sailed, the strange sense of wanting to rewrite the past—that we call “regret.” Or if he just couldn’t resist his chance to read his poem, “We Are More,” in the international limelight to a billion-plus listeners around the globe. Pretty cool for the world of poetry.
And as Chris Shaw says in “Sorting the Hype from Reality”: In a nutshell, the Olympic Games pose the interrelated questions: is it to be people before profit or the opposite, and will decisions be made by communities or by an elected—or worse—an unelected elite?
Those are really the only questions that need to be asked and the only questions that need to be answered.From issue #57