Edmonton may be a few hundred kilometres away from Vancouver, but queers in Alberta’s capital city are getting involved in the lead-up to the Winter Olympics.
Last week, as the Olympic torch came through Edmonton, a local prominent queer was an official torchbearer, a group of activists staged an anti-Olympic protest, and a queer artist was putting the final touches on his bronze statue that will be seen by thousands at Whistler’s Pride House.
Danielle Peers won bronze at the 2004 Athens Paralympics for wheelchair basketball. Last week she represented the University of Alberta as an official torchbearer.
“There are many different readings one can have of the Olympics — from an idealized version of peace to a symbol of corporate greed,” says Peers. “The Olympics become a stage where we can engage through sports on topics of community.”
Peers is a well-known Edmonton artist, academic and activist on many fronts including ableism and queer issues. She and members of her family have competed in the Games.
“Wheeling with the torch I could sense the projected feelings people have for Olympians and the Olympics,” recalls Peers of the opportunity. “I feel honoured that the University of Alberta — my community of scholars, students and professors — chose me to represent them. It is in addition to the support the U of A has given to disabled activism.”
Across the North Saskatchewan River from the University of Alberta, at the Alberta Legislature grounds, crowds gathered in support of the Olympics but also in protest. Holding signs that read “homes not games,” “people before profit” and “environmental destruction is not a game,” the rally was a chance for Edmontonians opposed to the Olympics to gather. Among those in attendance was Sahana Parameswara who felt that it was important to be a “part of the vocal dissent.”
Organized as part of the larger “No 2010” movement, the rally was just one Olympic resistance event leading up to the Games, including an upcoming screening of the film Five Ring Circus: The True Cost of the Olympics.
Edmonton artist Edmund Haakonson’s bronze statue of a naked hockey player entitled Slapshotolus will be on display at Whistler’s Pride House, “an open and welcoming venue for the LGBT community and their allies to celebrate together diversity and inclusiveness through sport.”
Thanks to a grant from the Alberta Foundation’s Arts Cultural Relations Fund Haakonson will be able to go to Whistler to help install the piece. He is happy with the venue for Slapshotolus, he likes the synergy of being linked with Pride House, the first of its kind.
— Additional reporting by Jessica Warren