Charging VANOC with misrepresenting Vancouver and suppressing political activism and free speech, Vancouver's poet laureate has announced that he will not participate in the Olympic celebrations.
In a lengthy note on his website, Brad Cran outlines the reasons he has declined an invitation to read poems during the Olympic Games.
Mr. Cran cites a neglect of literary events in the Cultural Olympiad; deep cuts to arts funding in B.C.; VANOC's "muzzle clause" first reported by The Globe and Mail that instructs Cultural Olympiad artists to refrain from making "negative or derogatory remarks" about VANOC, the Olympics and Olympic sponsors; the "grilling" of U.S. journalist Amy Goodman at the Canadian border; and a Vancouver Public Library memo instructing staff to favour Olympic sponsors.
Vancouver is the most politically progressive city in North America with a strong history of political activism which most Vancouverites are proud of. Rather than finding a way to celebrate these important attributes VANOC has gone the other way and tried to suppress them.
On the Cultural Olympiad clause, Mr. Cran writes: "I do find this to be an unjust attack on free speech but more importantly it shows that VANOC is misrepresenting Vancouver. Vancouver is the most politically progressive city in North America with a strong history of political activism which most Vancouverites are proud of. Rather than finding a way to celebrate these important attributes VANOC has gone the other way and tried to suppress them."
Mr. Cran says he was invited to read poetry on one of the city's celebration stages that corresponded to themes provided to him by "an Olympic bureaucrat."
One of those themes was equality - something Mr. Cran argues is absent from the Vancouver Olympics, due to the exclusion of female ski jumpers. Mr. Cran has written a poem titled In Praise of Female Athletes Who Were Told No: For the 14 female ski jumpers petitioning to be included in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but suggests the poem would not be allowed on an Olympic stage, because of the clause banning negative and derogatory remarks.
Mr. Cran wraps up his note by saying he is not anti-Olympics, and says he suggested Olympic organizers have a Canadian poet read one poem each night on one of the celebration stages, and somehow incorporate Al Purdy's poem Say the Names into the celebration. "Both of these suggestions were rejected," he writes, "and I in turn declined their offer to ... appear during the Olympic celebrations."