Saturday, December 4

The Olympics crushed activists in Tokyo. Now Los Angeles residents brace for a fight | the Angels


TO A few hours after Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron at the rather depressing Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony, a group of about 50 people packed the backyard of a Los Angeles bookstore to hold their own ” closure”.

Under a banner that read “The Olympics Kill the Poor,” local activists and academics at the Echo Park site took turns telling stories of displacement and gentrification related to the Olympics they had witnessed in host cities in the past. and the present. The stories were meant to incite local residents in the audience to heed the warning: In a city like Los Angeles, already marked by a large homeless population and a critical housing crisis, the 2028 Olympics can only exacerbate these problems.

Just as Tokyo 2020 marked the end of the Olympiad, the meeting was the end of a cycle for anti-Olympic groups in Los Angeles and the beginning of a new one. By their own timeline, they only have a couple more years to close the door to LA 2028. And while the specific strategies are yet to be determined, they haven’t changed their overall vision.

“No to the Olympics is no,” said Leonardo Vilchis, co-founder of the tenant group Unión de Vecinos. “We are not going to negotiate our defeat. Instead, we will act aggressively to prevent things from happening. “

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As Los Angeles grapples with a critical housing crisis, activists warn that the Olympics will make things worse. Photograph: Rob Latour / Rex / Shutterstock

Much of its strategy will draw on recent experience in Tokyo, where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) crushed opposition from local residents against the event. Under the contract that the IOC, the City of Tokyo and the Japanese Olympic Committee agreed upon, the people in Japan had no say in whether the event should continue, nor any power to stop it should circumstances change, such as the surge. of the Covid-19 pandemic. Up to 83% of those surveyed in a May 2021 survey by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said they did not want the Games to take place in Tokyo this year, a sentiment driven primarily by the pandemic.

Los Angeles is prepared to host the Games under the same rigid terms imposed in the host city contract, which was signed in 2017 without public involvement and delivers major calls to the IOC.

Vilchis sees similarities in the undemocratic nature of this imposition and is more concerned about the gentrification that hosting the Games could see in those terms. “They are people who look at real estate, the government sweetens the deal and promotes these things supposedly for the benefit of a community that has no say in how this will affect them,” he said. At the local level, her organization has been fighting these kinds of messages in her Boyle Heights neighborhood, where they have opposed coffee shops and art galleries that seek to “revitalize” the neighborhood.

“They basically came to increase property values ​​and promote business for our lower-middle-income neighbors,” he added. “In cities like ours, there is already a tendency to displace the poor, to sacrifice them for projects that are supposed to benefit them, and all of this is accelerated with the Olympics.”

Cities that apply to host the Olympics often see them as a boon for urban development, global exposure and increased tourism revenue, a view endorsed by the IOC. What have you tried not be the case. In fact, the costs tend to weigh more tangible benefits, Y all the Olympics since 1960 has exceeded budget. With a conservative estimate of $ 15.4 billion, Tokyo 2020 is already the most expensive Summer Olympics on record.

Jonny Coleman, a member of the NOlympics LA coalition, argues that Angelenos are in a much more vulnerable place than the citizens of Tokyo.

“The inequality here is much more extreme, and it’s a problem the city has been trying to handle: pointing rifles at people in tents in Venice Beach, changing the policy to criminalize homelessness, you can feel the pressure to do it, “he said. .

Harrison Wollman, press secretary for Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, said: “Los Angeles already has all the world-class stadiums, venues and infrastructure it needs to have a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games, so these next Games will not depend on of any new developments. “

SoFi stadium scene
The Los Angeles Chargers practice at SoFi Stadium, which is expected to host the opening and closing ceremonies in 2028. Photograph: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times / Rex / Shutterstock

The prospect of the Olympics has already open doors for development projects. SoFi Stadium, the multi-million dollar development in Inglewood that is expected to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics, has been increase rents and low-income renters. Since 2016, the predominantly black and Latino area has been the target of homeowners and real estate developers looking to capitalize on SoFi’s presence and the upcoming new LA Clippers arena.

Across from the University of Southern California, Expo Park, and the Banc of California Stadium, a rental-controlled apartment complex is being demolished to give way to “the fig”, a mixed-use development that will contain a hotel, student housing, and residential housing. Citing the “need” for more hotels for the Olympics, the Los Angeles City Council approved taxpayer grants for the project.

“People want to watch sports, but when you come into town and you cause a tornado of destruction, people are going to rethink how everything is going,” said Abdul Hood, delivery driver and regular at Los Angeles Tenants Union meetings. . “We are on the way. They don’t care about us and they let us know by the way they treat us, ”he said.

“They need to stop planning around us and include us in development plans,” he added. Otherwise, he is confident that tenant education and the articulation of like-minded organizations across the city will “make a dent” in LA ’28. “We have a few years to fight with them.”

According to Coleman’s account, they have until 2023. In partnership with other community action groups such as LA Can, Street Watch and the Union of Neighbors, NOlympics LA is leading the resistance across the city, retelling the story of 1984 and the irregular process. which led to the city in 2028. Games when he had been bidding for 2024.

“The next few years are crucial to continue expanding our base,” he said. “The foundations are being laid, the policy has to be established at a certain point, and then it becomes extremely difficult to get it out.”

Coleman admits there are “still some Olympian fans” in Los Angeles politics, but he sees an opening with looming local elections and the impending departure of the mayor, one of the main proponents of the LA 2028 nomination.

“I think they have seen what is happening in Tokyo and maybe they don’t want to die on this hill and they don’t want me to come back on them.”


www.theguardian.com

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