, , ,

Let me be blunt: I’m no fan of organized sport at the best of times, and I truly detest the perversion by which the talents of hard-working amateur athletes are exploited for political ends by governments that wave the flag to distract from the many ways they’re selling the citizenry down the river.

I have no patience for the conceited public preening of the “Lords of the Rings” who’ve turned the concept of athletic excellence into a multi-billion-dollar business venture polluted by masses of corporate hype, and who live high off the hog from the proceeds.

I have serious doubts about the sanity of municipalities that lobby hard and expensively for the privilege of incurring debts that will cripple their budgets for decades after and saddle them with the likes of Montreal’s “Big Owe” which we paid for over more than 20 years while our streets and water mains crumbled to rubble. It genuinely pains me to think of all the low-income people put to even further hardship by displacing them to make room for tourists who can pay more for two weeks’ lodging than most people can afford for two months, let alone the many homeless exiled or arrested to get them out of sight before the rich people arrive for their hundreds-of-dollars-a-ticket fun.

I remember the machinations for Montreal’s 1976 Olympics all too well, never mind the recent ones in Vancouver which, for me at least, were further spoiled by the Harper Government’s “OWN THE PODIUM” strategy of cutting off support to most amateur sports so as to give all the cash to those athletes they thought could win medals, for which the politicians would claim vicarious credit, of course.

Anyway, you get the point: I have great respect for the poor genuine amateur athletes who sacrifice their bodies and minds to reach the pinnacle of athletic excellence and none at all for the people who exploit them and the helpless tax-paying citizenry for an expensive, self-congratulatory photo opp.

You can imagine with what enthusiasm I greeted the news that the Canadian Olympic Committee–whose director of communications “just happens to be” Dmitri Soudas, formerly Prime Minister Harper’s–suddenly decided to de-hire freelance photojournalist Chris Roussakis and give the career-boosting gig to Harper staffer Jason Ransom instead. (See http://www.calgaryherald.com/sports/Olympic+team+turfs+local+freelancer+hires+Harpers+staffer/6995889/story.html) Apparently the fact that Roussakis had a contract and had already put in quite a bit of work in preparation at the COC’s behest (see http://www.torontosun.com/2012/07/27/photographer-loses-olympic-job-to-harper-staffer) during March and April counts for little against being Stephen Harper’s favourite personal photographer.

The Canadian Press (see http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/26/jason-ransom-olympics-photographer-stephen-harper_n_1707638.html) quotes Soudas as saying only Ransom and Mike Ridewood were hired by the COC and, furthermore, that everything was “by the book” because Ransom took a leave of absence from the PMO and cleared the gig with the Ethics Commissioner.

Apparently telling Roussakis his “references didn’t check out” on June 20th, after sending him to the preparatory sessions in March and April (see http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2012/07/27/20036511.html) means he didn’t have that all-important personal seal of approval from the Prime Minister, and therefore his hiring earlier in the year was rendered null and void retroactively as far as Soudas is concerned. I can find no reference to THAT being cleared by the Ethics Commissioner.

So the Olympics are now underway and Roussakis will be watching from the sidelines instead of working. Once the Games are over, he can join the queue of people with expensive legal fees to pay in an effort to be compensated for his time and expenses up to the moment of his summary dismissal. Let us hope his contract was well-written and contained a good “kill fee” clause the courts can enforce.

While it’s clear Ransom did nothing technically wrong by taking the job, one might have hoped one photojournalist wouldn’t just stand by while a colleague was treated like that. As for the ethics of present and former staff of the PMO, my comments would be unprintable.

You can read Roussakis’ own statement at http://chrisroussakis.wordpress.com/ and judge for yourself the quality of his work.