TARNISHED MEDALS Pan Am athletes’ awards come from Barrick Gold mines with bad track records

This article originally appeared in Now Magazine.

Barrick Gold is an official sponsor of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games and the exclusive supplier of its first, second and third-place medals.

The company proudly noted the fact that it runs 14 mining operations in six Pan-American countries – including Argentina, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Peru and the United States – in the press release announcing its exclusive agreement with the Pan Am Games. “Like the athletes coming to the Games, our people across the Americas are committed to a culture of teamwork, perseverance and excellence,” says Barrick on the web page promoting its involvement in the Games. But just as the Games promote a false notion of unity between states, Barrick’s medals are, in fact, a product of the exploitation of communities across the Americas, including our very own backyard.  Continue reading

Toronto Pan Am Games mascot has cost taxpayers $383,045 so far

This article originally appeared in the Globe and Mail.

The development and promotion of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games mascot has cost taxpayers $383,045 – and counting.

A Freedom of Information request filed by The Globe and Mail returned a spreadsheet of expenditures that spanned more than two-and-a-half years, covering everything from $26,862 for promotional stickers to $5,000 to license a song used as Pachi the Porcupine’s theme music. The largest expenditure was $134,550 to cover the wages of the part-time performers who wear the Pachi costume (there are 17 of them) and others who make up Pachi’s entourage during public events.   Continue reading

Premier Wynne defends bonuses for Pan Am execs

This article originally appeared in the Canadian Press.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending a $7-million bonus package for 64 executives organizing the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, saying it was necessary to avoid losing key personnel ahead of the event.

“We may think it’s out of whack in terms of comparing it with other endeavours,” she said Monday.

“But the reality is we were competing for multi-sport games with other jurisdictions around the Americas, and that’s the structure we put in place in order to be able to compete and draw the Games here. Continue reading

OPSEU protests outside Hamilton Pan Am soccer venue

More than 100 OPSEU member activists and retirees protested the slow pace of OPS contract negotiations and the threat to jobs posed by privatization outside the Tim Horton Field in Hamilton this past weekend. The stadium is the site of the Pan Am Games soccer competition.

The information pickets coincided with the opening soccer match on Saturday July 11, and the Canada-Brazil match the following day.

“$500 million on Pan Am Games but cupboards bare for OPS bargaining,” tweeted Region 1 vice president, Ron Elliot, who was joined at the protests with fellow Region 1 executive board members Len Elliott and Philip Shearer, and Region 2 VP, Deb Tungatt. Continue reading

OPSEU will take contract protest to Pan Am events OPSEU members are protesting Pan Am Games sites

This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Disgruntled provincial government workers are set to protest against the Liberal government at Pan Am Games events.

Angry over austerity measured imposed in the union and the privatization of their jobs, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, will be at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton on Saturday when Mexico takes on Columbia in women’s soccer, and at the Milton velodrome later in the week.

Continue reading

Pan Am Games over-spending billions, but it’s okay ’cause it’s public money

This article originally appeared on rabble.ca

If a group constructing a massive project for you set a budget of $1.4 billion, but later came back and said they were spending $2.5 billion, what would you do? Normally you would probably throw the whole team out the door, and perhaps sue them for the $1.1-billion overrun.

But in this case, the $1.1-billion overrun belongs to former Ontario premier David Peterson’s Pan Am Games organizing committee, and even though two officers were fired, expenses continue to climb. Continue reading

Fears of a Pan Am Games flop: Toronto faces empty hotel rooms, unsold tickets and angry locals

This article originally appeared in the Financial Post.

The mascot for the 2015 Pan Am Games, which open in Toronto next week, is a porcupine named Pachi. The porcupine seems an appropriate symbol. Many across greater Toronto have discovered that the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, like a porcupine, are an uncomfortable creature to embrace.

With a week to go, there are signs that these games, triple the price of the last Pan Am Games, will be an expensive flop — at least when looking at them through an unsentimental lens. It’s true that thousands of athletes will compete in the biggest sporting event in the history of Canada. And the games will give 1,500 accredited journalists a chance to describe the wonders of greater Toronto to viewers and readers from Alaska to the Caribbean and down to Tierra del Fuego. That’s one appeal. “This is a moment when Toronto will look its hot, sizzling, diverse best, and that will be broadcast back to viewers” across Latin America, says Andrew Weir, chief marketing officer for Tourism Toronto. Continue reading

Pan Am 2015: A Story of Greed

This article originally appeared on Marxist.ca.

In a few weeks, the 2015 Pan Am Games will commence in Toronto, drawing in over 6,000 athletes from 41 countries. To date, millions have been invested in advertising, festivals and concerts, in an effort to stir up excitement for the summer games. Hoping this energy will translate into more ticket sales, Toronto Mayor John Tory made anappeal for “an even greater dose of enthusiasm” among city residents. But alongside the parties and athletic competition, there exists a side to Pan Am which directly undermines the interests of Torontonians. Big business, city council and the provincial Liberal government have conceived a budget for the games that effectively privatizes all the profits at the expense of working class people. Continue reading

7 things that can go wrong with mega-events like the Pan Am Games

‘Mega event syndrome’ can wreck city planning and create a vicious cycle of cost overruns and cash grabs.

This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star.

Mega events, such as this July’s Pan Am games, bring sportsmanship and glory to host cities, as well as increased revenue from tourism.

But not all that glitters deserves a gold medal, according to Martin Müller, a geographer who studies how “mega-event syndrome” can wreck city planning and create a vicious cycle of cost overruns and cash grabs.

“They promise a lot, but they don’t live up to the promises,” he said.

Continue reading

Barrick Gold: More Than Just A Bad Apple

by Merle Davis (originally printed in The Peak magazine)

In September 2014, when it was announced that Barrick Gold would be supplying the gold, silver and bronze for the 2015 Pan and ParaPan American Games medals it barely made the news. A few fluff pieces came out about how the 2015 mega-sporting events would be using metals from their mines across the Americas, but the story was barely a blip on the media radar. Around this time, the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, a Toronto-based group I organize with, started a discussion about activism during the games. None of us were sure what form our activism would take, and some of us were even unsure as to why we would resist. But it seemed important in this moment, deceptively constructed as Pan American unity, to make moves towards real Pan American solidarity. We wanted to ensure we did more than point a finger at Barrick who, with an atrocious human rights record, notorious for murder and sexual violence around its mines, is symptomatic of the mining industry at large and not just a bad apple. The Games would provide an opportunity for the broader public to learn about mining injustices. A story centred on Barrick supplying metal to Games that have as their focus Pan American cultures, inclusion, and community must not be a blip; it must reflect upon the broader issues of oppression and social injustice. I hope to provide some of this context. Continue reading