Tag Archives: activists

NOlympians: Inside the Fight Against Capitalist Mega-Sports in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beyond by Jules Boykoff

The same day as I’m writing this review of Jules Boykoff’s NOlympians*, the CBC reported on the possibility of the Tokyo Olympics being cancelled due to fears over the Coronavirus. A microscopic virus may do what thousands of anti-Olympians want to do: shut down the Olympic games. Not just in Tokyo and not due to their dislike of sport per se, but due to what happens in the cities that host the games; cost overruns being the most obvious, displacement of marginalized peoples to build venues, athlete villages and hotels being a lesser-known one. Jules Boykoff is a former Olympian and now a professor of political science at Pacific University in Oregon. NOlympians is the culmination of hundreds of interviews and his personal participation on the ground with demonstrators around the globe and other activist groups, primarily the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and their NOlympics LA campaign ahead of the 2028 Summer Games.

Jules Boykoff himself is a former Olympic athlete now turned activist who has covered the anti-Olympics movement for over a decade: “In some ways, my own transition from a mortifyingly credulous athlete to a fiercely critical academic and activist mirrors the wider shift in the discourse around mega-events, from complacent ignorance to informed criticality.” His approach to writing takes an “arms-length” stance as he gets involved at the ground level with various activist groups and demonstrations, but keeps the lens (aside from a few recollections of his time in the Olympics) squarely focused on the leaders and participants as they use any opportunity (even spray-painting slogans on discarded mattresses) to heighten awareness of the shameless capitalism that goes hand in hand with the modern Olympic games (a “capitalist behemoth”), particularly since the 1984 games when big business brought in advertising dollars.

There is an amazing amount of facts and figures contained within the covers of NOlympians. As someone who has little interest in sports that only appear on TV every four years, and even more so since it seems everything needs to be a spectacle today (SuperBowl halftime, anyone?), NOlympians did for me what another Fernwood publication, Game Misconduct, did for my enthusiasm for professional sports when it exposed the capitalism behind sports like hockey and football (pro and college). Thank you, Jules Boykoff and Nathan Kalman-Lamb.

Even if you are a fan of the Olympics, you may not be aware of the history of the IOC, the corruption and the damage that hosting Olympic games bring to the host city, even environmental damage, as forests have to be cleared for the Winter Games, for ski runs, venues and so on. Perhaps for the Tokyo games, COVID-19 may be a gold medal winner (not that I’m hoping for anyone to die of the virus), and looking ahead to LA and beyond, the Games must change. The “NOlympians” are actively making that happen around the world.

“The need for critical writing about the Olympics has never been more important and no one does it more effectively or incisively than Jules Boykoff. Here he shows us not only the potential harm of the LA 2028 Summer Games but the activists who are bringing this reality to light.”

Dave Zirin, The Nation

*This review is based on an Advance Reading Copy supplied by the publisher. NOlympians is due to be released in April 2020.

About the Author:
Jules Boykoff is a professor of political science at Pacific University in Oregon, and is the author of Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics; Activism and the Olympics: Dissent at the Games in Vancouver and London; Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games; and Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. His writing has appeared in New Left Review, the Guardian, the New York Times, The Nation, Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times, Jacobin, and elsewhere.

NOlympians: Inside the Fight Against Capitalist Mega-Sports in Los Angeles, Tokyo and Beyond by Jules Boykoff
Fernwood Publications

This article has been Digiproved © 2020 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Under the Bridge by Anne Bishop

Near the end of Under the Bridge (2019, Roseway Publishing)*, Lucy, the narrator and central figure of the story, stops walking near the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge and reflects:

“I can see the bridge from the corner of Devonshire and Barrington, lights arching off into the dusk, reflected in the inky black water below. The Dartmouth end is hidden by the bulk of the shipyard. I crave my hiding place in the woods by the dockyard fence, but my new cane-supported gait won’t take me any farther. The breeze off the harbour tells me my face is wet. I fish in my pocket for a tissue. Nothing, so I blow my nose on the sleeve of my sweater, scrub at my eyes with the other sleeve. Sniffing, I allow my eyes to follow the curve of the bridge. How long ago was it I thought about jumping? I’m upset, but I can’t imagine doing that now.”

Yet, at one time (at the beginning of her story) she definitely thought about it, as she was homeless and sleeping under the same bridge. What brought about such a change in Lucy? Why was she homeless in Halifax? Anne Bishop’s eloquent novel is all too real, dealing as it does with the issues of the homeless, how they survive, who fights their legal battles and so on. Then there are those who want to bring about change to the system (as Lucy once did) and be activists for justice. Lucy is the bridge between these two groups, and along the way, Lucy herself rediscovers herself and finds a purpose for her 60-ish self in a world of young Turks.

“I allow my eyes to follow the curve of the bridge. How long ago was it I thought about jumping?”

However, this rediscovery comes at a cost: she must fulfill the obligations of her parole (for assaulting a co-worker) and get her anger under control. Then perhaps, she can return to Guatemala where she once intended to serve as a missionary, but the injustices of a large corporation illegally appropriating land from the indigenous residents to set up a nickel mine (“nickel is the metal of war” she is told) takes her focus away from religion and more towards helping the poor displaced persons survive, until it is too much for her and she must return home. Sadly, she has seen and experienced so much bloodshed that her anger causes her to act out, resulting in her incarceration and being under probation.

Last time in court Judith [her lawyer] argued I’m harmless. Judge agreed, then gave me thirty days anyway. Harmless. Powerless. God knows I’ve tried. And the rich are richer and the poor are poorer than when I started. “You want to help us? Then go home,” Rosa said. “Our poverty and suffering come from el Norte.” The North. So much more than just a direction.

While on the streets and foraging through dumpsters behind restaurants for food, she encounters Bara, a teen girl who has been kicked out of her fundamentalist Christian home for being something her parents cannot tolerate. Bara comes from a middle-class neighbourhood and has no street-smarts, so she hangs around with Lucy (who is sixty-ish) and becomes her friend and constant companion. This is the beginnings of Lucy’s coming back to life, and Bara’s awakening to life as it really is for many millions of Canadians living at a subsistence level.

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Under the Bridge had my full attention every step of the way. It is full of sensitive, thought-provoking dialogues as well as Lucy’s reflections on life after Guatemala and coping with the infirmities of ageing while living on the streets and sleeping in shelters at night. I found it insightful as to the predicament of the homeless, or others like Cindy, a sex-trade worker who finds that prostitution pays much better than social assistance, which doesn’t provide nearly enough for food and shelter for her and her two kids, which are often in foster homes when Cindy is arrested and serving time. It’s a Catch-22 for her. Then there is Judith a tireless Legal Aid advocate and friend to people like Lucy and Cindy. Hers is a story unto itself. If it sounds like a lot of different plotlines, it is. It seems Lucy’s world is always in continual motion around her, which keeps her distracted from her Guatemalan past, but keeps the reader on their toes trying to recall everyone’s role and/or circumstances.

In short, Under the Bridge is a turbulent novel of fact-based fiction that highlights the need for urgent social and societal change so that more disadvantaged and marginalized people do not fall through the huge gaps (they are no longer cracks) in mental wellness and healthcare, privatization of land and poverty in general. Anne Bishop’s book may well change your attitude toward such things.

Under the Bridge by Anne Bishop
Roseway Publishing (an imprint of Fernwood Publications)

*This review is based on an Advance Reading Copy that was supplied by the publisher. Under the Bridge will be released April 1, 2019. You may pre-order it at amazon.ca using the link below or by clicking here: https://amzn.to/2X5SrKT (Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using these links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved