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U of T part-time students union pickets Olympic Reform Conference

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The Olympic Reform conference is nothing but a whitewash designed more to gloss over the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) failings than to provide insight into how the organization actually operates, according to The Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) at the University of Toronto.

Joeita Gupta, Vice President External of APUS called the forum “a slick piece of pro-IOC propaganda dressed up as an academic exercise. Five of the forum’s nine keynote speakers have direct ties to the IOC and most are white males.”

On December 11-12, 1999, the International Olympic Committee, meeting in ‘Extraordinary Session’, voted to approve 49 reforms recommended by the IOC 2000 Commission. The Commission was appointed to address an Olympic legitimation crisis that had been growing throughout the 1990s and which exploded with the Salt Lake City bribery revelations and the IOC’s seeming indifference to the Tour de France doping scandal.

The wide-ranging reforms promised major changes in the composition, structure and operations of the IOC, the manner in which Olympic host cities were chosen, and the organization of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“This conference has been organized to evaluate the implementation of those Olympic reforms and related developments within the Olympic Movement within the last decade,” said the organizers of Olympic Reform – A Ten Year Review, a two day research conference held May 19 and May 20 at the University of Toronto.

“It is intended to advance scholarship into the Olympic Movement, and to bring Olympic scholars, members of the Olympic Movement, and interested members of the public together, in a spirit of engaged critical inquiry, academic freedom, and respectful debate, to discuss how the 1999 spirit of Olympic reform can be maintained, strengthened, and implemented while addressing the challenges the Olympic Movement faces today.”

On Tuesday morning, a small group set up a picket outside the U of T’s Athletic Centre where the Olympic Reform Conference was held. Holding a banner reading “Don’t Play Games with Our Priorities. No Olympics on Campus. No Pan-Am Games Either!” protestors handed out leaflets to passersby for a few hours.

“This is not so much about Olympic reform,” said Oriel Varga, Executive Director APUS. “It’s more about bringing their IOC buddies into town for the Pan Am games.”

In preparation for the Pan American games, the University of Toronto hopes to build a $170 million Olympic-sized Aquatics facility at the Scarborough campus and a $50 million Centre for High Performance Sport at the St. George campus, displacing the APUS office location.

“Mega-sporting events around the world come at great expense to the community, limiting human rights and gentrifying neighbourhoods in which marginalized peoples reside,” said Gupta. “Our members are largely parents, workers, mature, racialized students and students with disabilities, who have more pressing needs.”

Even though APUS has had some discussions with the university around relocating, Varga said the Association doesn’t want to leave. A year ago, APUS had to relocate and doesn’t want to have to do it all over again.

“We need to prioritize the students,” said Varga. “The university is willing to spend millions for the Pan American Games Bid, while at the same time are proposing a 66% hike for our members.” Starting in September 2011, part-time students will be charged for five courses, even if they only take three.

Varga added, “The university is also expecting our members to finance the operating costs of  the two proposed athletic facilities. They’re already talking about a $50 to $60 levy for membership, which our members can’t afford.”

During a recession, said Varga, governments need to ensure our city pools remain open rather than spending millions on one Olympic-sized pool.

David Peterson, the Chancellor of the University of Toronto, is also heading the Pan American bid that, if successful, would see Games events staged in Toronto and across the Greater Golden Horseshoe region over 25 days in July and August, 2015.

“The venue plan is a critical component of our bid to host the 2015 Pan and Parapan Am Games,” said Peterson in a February article on the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games Committee website. “We have come up with an exciting and achievable plan that is good for Toronto, good for the Greater Golden Horseshoe region and good for an excellent Games.”

In the same article, Toronto 2015 said the Games would bring a total $1.4 billion injection of federal, provincial, municipal and private funding into sports infrastructure for broad community benefits and long-term athlete development in Ontario for years to come, adding it would also trigger more than 15,000 jobs in construction, tourism and event support.

According to Toronto 2015, the Canadian Sports Institute Ontario (CSIO) and the Pan Am Games Aquatics Centre are major legacy developments, with the City of Toronto and the University of Toronto in partnership. The CSIO will provide sport science, support and performance resources for long-term community benefits and athlete development. The Aquatics Centre will be a national high-performance centre, accessible to Ontario athletes currently underserved in elite training.

Varga made it clear that APUS has nothing against sport or the athletes, but believes other projects should be given primary consideration.

Click here to see photos from the picket

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