Monday, February 22, 2010

Nikki Reimer: Olympics, Still

Was going to write about poetry for a change this week but I’ve prorogued that post in favour of a continued rumination on the 2010 Winter Festival Thing, and more talk about Olympicism and Art.

Yesterday we attended the live taping of CBC’s Cross Country Checkup, where the topic was Olympic fever. “For years Canada's best athletes have been focused on these 17 days in February. The city of Vancouver has been working flat out too. British and American media are now criticizing the result. What do you think? Have the Games been a Canadian success so far?”

Listen to the podcast here.

The show was hosted Rex Murphy and featured guests Jane Roos(CEO, CanFund), CBC Sports broadcaster Steve Armitage, and a few Olympic athletes past and present.

Beyond the expected patriotism and self-congratulatory rhetoric, some of the Games discussion centred around the financial conditions faced by Canadian elite athletes throughout the years of training it takes to become a contender in an Olympic games. In contrast to the millions of dollars per year that elite athletes from other countries can earn (hint: look for those nations with the highest medal counts) most Canadian athletes are self-financed and can receive, at most, about $15K per year from the Canadian government. (It’s worse than that for retired Olympians; listen to the show to hear how they have been entirely passed over by VANOC. No invitations to participate in ceremonies. No free tickets to games. Nothing.)

Since I am entirely obsessed with the abysmal cuts facing BC’s arts sector, I couldn’t help but compare the dedication and financial poverty of Canadian Olympic athletes to the dedication and financial poverty of Canadian artists. Sandra Garossino has already posted on the similar struggles faced by artists and athletes:

“The vast majority of athletes, even Olympians, toil in obscurity throughout their sports careers. No televised draft ceremony, sponsorship deal, or six-figure signing bonus awaits them. Most struggle financially, if they aren’t utterly and completely broke.

In spirit and temperament, they share so much with artists...If they do manage to enter, sans the imprimatur of celebrity--the only real currency of our age--no one will know who they are. Self-important young media executives will push past them in a rush to meet the conquering gods.”

And there’s the rub. In a highly corporatized, celebrity obsessed (here’s that buzzword) neoliberal age, money, celebrity and power supersede real dedication, hard work and talent.

But I wonder why we haven’t organized to create a “not-for-profit organization devoted solely to raising funds and awareness for Canada's” artists/writers/poets? Do we “pay it forward” and help each other out like the athletes, or are we too busy fighting each other for an ever-shrinking piece of pie?

In other, related news:

- Claire Lacey has written a full account of the In(ter)ventions conference on her blog Poetactics
-The Olympic Tent Village Voice Issue 1 is out
-W2 Community Media Arts recently hosted a panel discussion on disability arts with Ruth Gould (UK: DaDa) and Geoff McMurchy (Canada: Kickstart). View the webcast here
-The W2 Real Vancouver Writers’ & Culture series wraps up this Wednesday, Feb 24
-VIVO continues to host the politically-minded Short Range Poetic Device webcast
-Everyone is too drunk


Nikki Reimer blogs and plans arts events in Vancouver, where she is a member of the Kootenay School of Writing and a board member at W2 Community Media Arts. Her poetry has been published in such magazines as Matrix, Front, Prism, BafterC and filling Station. A chapbook, fist things first, was recently published by Wrinkle Press and a book, [sic], is forthcoming from Frontenac House. She has never been to grad school. (Photo: Rory Zerbe)


Chris said...

And there’s the rub. In a highly corporatized, celebrity obsessed (here’s that buzzword) neoliberal age, money, celebrity and power supersede real dedication, hard work and talent.

But it seems like your complaint is that athletes (and artists) don't have money, celebrity, and (perhaps) power. Perhaps I am confused.

Amanda said...

Really excellent post. I have been wondering, thinking and feeling the same things myself and drawing similar conclusions between the Olympic athlete and the Canadian artist. Both lack serious funding.

nikki reimer said...

Hi Chris.

No, I meant that artists and athletes both deserve a) funding and b) recognition for their effort.

Instead, recognition and financing seems to be direct first towards spectacle, corporations, and celebrity, leaving artists and athletes both unrecognized and unrewarded. This to me is backwards from the way things would be in MY ideal world.

Chris said...

Hm. OK. So why should we reward artists (and, I suppose, athletes) with money and celebrity, the rewards of neoliberal capitalism? Are there other rewards we can find in them?

-kaplan said...

Thanks for the link to Claire Lacey's blog. I enjoyed reading the conference posts from the weekend.

Olivia Bevan said...

Hi Nikki,

thank you so much for taking the time to put together should a thought provoking article. I'm in agreement with you with regards to arts funding. I work with Clélie Rich as a volunteer for a women's literary magazine (Room) based in Vancouver and we too have felt the cut-backs. Like you suggest, if only we could get together and help one another out rather than fight over an ever diminishing pot.

I'd like to ask if you would consider listing Room Magazine ( in your list of literary publications towards the bottom of your site. I'd be very grateful if you could.

I look forward to reading more posts at the Lemon Hound, and if there's anything I can do please don't hesitate to ask.

Kindest wishes,

Olivia Bevan

Marketing Lead, Room Magazine

Connect with us: @roommagazine |

nikki reimer said...


Why shouldn't we reward artists with money?

nikki reimer said...

Hi Olivia,

Thanks for your comments.

I am currently one of the guest bloggers on this site. Lemon Hound is created and curated by Sina Queyras, and all editorial decisions regarding what appears on the site are hers.

regards, Nikki

Chris said...

I suppose I just enjoy that there are some systems of pleasure and interaction out there that aren't defined by money! Poetry, at least, seems to do pretty well on very little money (though admittedly it is one of the more blatantly affordable art forms to work in). Monetizing poetry seems as strange to me as monetizing inviting a friend over for tea.

nikki reimer said...

Chris, I think you're misreading me, but as a final comment I'd like to say that I'm not talking about monetizing poetry, nor am I arguing for determining systems of value through money.

I'm talking about the funding that is needed by poets/writers/artists in order to allow them to do the research and reading and writing that is necessary to develop as poets/writers/artists, and I am attempting to compare that with funding that athletes need in order to train and practice and compete so that they may develop as athletes, and I believe there is a subtle but important distinction between funding and monetization. Monetization is what occurs in the marketplace afterwards; funding happens throughout the process. In a perfect world we might not be having this conversation, however the reality remains that, like it or not, we are all part of the capitalist system, we all need money to live, and not all poets can be teachers, which is where it gets personal for me.

But thanks for reading, and thanks for your comments.