of all the tall tales spun by to- ronto's corporate Olympic bid, one of the whoppers is that the pursuit inspired civic pride and new leadership that will carry Toronto forward.These are the sentimental tokens that former mayor David Crombie leaves with us at the Toronto Bid Committee's second-string press conference Friday morning at the Royal York Hotel, shortly after the Canuck flame-out in Moscow.
I guess the masses have to be given some rationalization for what is essentially years of government-backed corporate folly.
Yeah, I know. The bid signed up 80,000 volunteers, there were community consultations, all kinds of spinoff legacies are planned, blah, blah, blah. But walking up Bay Street later it hits me: it's the narrow corporate "community" that more than any other hitched its ambitions to the rings.
Of course, it's no secret that GTA corporations bankrolled the bid (in the end coming up short and relying on a $6-million public handout to keep them in the race). These corporations proudly paraded themselves on the biz-branded Expect The World banners draped on expressway overpasses.
Sure, chasing the rings was good for them. At the very least, for a short time corporations got to bask in the light of the humanistic torch the international Olympic movement has deluded itself into thinking it upholds, all the while pandering to grand fascists, totalitarians and run-of-the-mill egomaniacs. (While I'm at it, only egomaniacs could have ignored the fact that Beijing has had a virtual lock on the 2008 Summer Games since China lost to Sydney by two votes last time, and committed this city's resources and energy to chasing them anyway.)
The key bid managers were drawn from the city's business and political nexus: John Bitove, the ambitious son of a Tory-connected catering magnate; James Villeneuve, Labatt executive and mayor Mel's 2000 campaign manager; Steven Hudson, Bay Street financier and Mike Harris pal; and Paul Godfrey, political fixer and Blue Jays president.
Premier Mike Harris and Mayor Mel simply cracked the whip to ensure the public sector fell into line. As far as they were concerned, the corporate interest was the public interest. Has Harris ever been known to offer up financial guarantees for any other interest?
As for high-profile bid supporters like Crombie, respected University of Toronto athletics professor Bruce Kidd and the athletes themselves, they were all just window dressing for the corporate parade. A bid for athletes by athletes? Give your heads a shake, folks.
Crombie is wrong. The bid did absolutely nothing to promote city pride or improve life in real communities like Rexdale, Parkdale or Regent Park.
And despite Robert Fung's Olympic-centric plans for the waterfront, I'm pretty sure Jane Jacobs's vision of a livable city doesn't include the 100-metre dash. And Anne Golden didn't recommend hosting world-class synchronized swimming as the remedy to our homeless crisis.
As for Mel, I believe the average citizen's expectations of him dropped significantly a while back. In the weeks prior to Moscow, though, Curly finally let his corporate patrons down.
But whether or not the mayor's racist quip had any effect on the IOC's thinking doesn't matter. The greater damage is that he's defamed our reputation as a multicultural city. If the world didn't know much about Toronto before, now they think we're an igloo colony run by white trash.
Mel must resign. I raised it first in these pages months ago, and it's even more imperative now if we're ever going to get on with real city-building.
In the the next several days, local politicians will try to salvage some of the social benefits that were dangled in front of them in exchange for their bid support.
City councillor Olivia Chow has already put together a notice of motion for this month's council meeting to get moving on the bid's equity, environmental and culture proposals.
Indeed, talk is cheap. It's time to pony up.
But while all three levels of government say their multi-million-dollar cheques for waterfront redevelopment are still in the mail -- and Fung, Crombie and the Toronto Star try to keep the city from spiralling into a funk -- don't hold your breath waiting for a radical transformation any time soon.
Keep your eye on the corporate masters, not their political dogs. Despite the loss in Moscow, Bitove is already talking about building the Olympic venues anyway (for the kids, you know) and tarting the city up again to lure the 2012 Games.
As the anti-globalization forces already know too well, corporations never quit.
GO FOR THE GOLD
Bid commitments we still want:
- create more affordable housing in mixed-use neighbourhoods
- 800 to 1,000 housing units for qualifying households on the city's housing waiting list
- protect tenants and reduce the risk of displacement for residents of hostels, low-cost hotel/ motels and rooming houses
- restore community recreation facilities
- build World Olympic Youth Centre on the waterfront
- clean up contaminated soil and groundwater in West Don lands and port lands.
- address flooding in lower Don River