Oh the games we play…technology, sports and Vancouver’s Orwellian Olympics

Oh the games we play…technology, sports and Vancouver’s Orwellian Olympics

Note: Article shared here in full for historical record. Original article link is broken, as such, accessed from Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, Feb. 2017.  Posted with original publication date to place in context.


By Wes | November 28th, 2009

With the Vancouver Olympics fast approaching there are plenty of surprises, scandals and rising tensions bubbling to the surface as Canada gets ready to own the podium. So today I wanted to take a look at some new technologies that we’ll be seeing at the Olympics, and take a moment to examine the impact of technology in sport. The Canadian ski team recently announced that they’ll be employing the use of a real time GPS (Global Positioning System) called STEALTH. Just announced this week, the Olympic ski team and the University of Calgary have put 3 years of research and development into the system. It tells skiers the fastest and safest route down hills through a small lightweight box attached to the skier, that transmits satellite information to their helmet and then verbalizes the best path. Athletes and representatives from other countries have complained that it is an unfair performance enhancing technology.

Technology and sport have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship from the first ball or stick related games though, and on one hand we cry foul when someone comes up with a brilliant new material or method, yet it inevitably improves the performance, safety, and entertainment value of any given game. In hockey and football major focus has been placed on improving helmets and other protective gear, mainly due to the fact that technology, training methods and genetics have progressively increased the strength, skill and speed of athletes- oh I forgot drugs too. I guess we’ll lump that in with technology.

One kind of technology in particular is a hot topic during the upcoming Olympic games, surveillance. Over 900 closed circuit cameras have been implanted throughout Vancouver and area in an effort to make sure no funny business goes on during the games. The rigid security measures, parking and traffic controls, cameras, crowd control devices and harassing of liberal journalists like Amy Goodman, has numerous civil liberties groups very concerned that these Olympic games are going to turn Vancouver into a temporary Orwellian police state. But really, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear…

Funny how with over 900 cameras installed for the olympics that VANOC would fight to prevent the British Curling team from using their own single custom camera technology during the games. In the end the team won the right to use their camera-after much squabbling between Vancouver Olympics organizers and the curling powers that be who are headquartered in the UK- maybe it’s an example of post-colonial acquiescing. Or maybe the British curling team agreed to let it double as a security camera when they weren’t using it.  Considering how angry the public in Vancouver, Seattle, and elsewhere have been about ticket prices, hotel rates and every other detail of the games, it doesn’t surprise me that VANOC feels safer with Vancouver under martial law.

Whatcha think?