Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

The “Hidden” Cost of the Vancouver Olympics: My Interview with Vancouver resident John Santic

As the Olympic games start tonight, my friend John Santic who lives in Vancouver made me aware of some “hidden” cost as it relates to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, so I decided to interview him about this, so that others might be aware of these costs.  While these issues may or may not make the news, what John talks about deserves our reflection and action.

JR: First, John, could you tell us a little about yourself?

John: I’m a father and husband who has a passion for theology and photography. I’m also a very part time student at Carey Theological college, slowly chipping away at a degree. Being from the Vancouver area, the Olympics have been a topic of much conversation because of the global coverage they get, but also because of the issues surrounding them. Our city has changed at a rapid pace in preparation for the games and they are sure to leave a lasting mark.

JR: Tell me a little bit about this project you are involved in which involves the Vancouver Olympics, poetry, photography and echoes of the stations of the cross.

John: This is a photo/poetry project that echos the christian liturgy “Stations of the Cross”, which has traditionally drawn believers into reflection and identification with the sufferings and last hours of Jesus.  The “Stations of the Cost” are fourteen images with poetic reflections that is designed to draw people into reflection on the issues related to the games and help them identify with the extreme cost to the “least of these” among us.  I know that Jesus was always concerned for the poor and he was critical of the establishment that perpetuated their suffering.  The poetry in this project was informed by the prophetic voice of Jesus, the voices of the marginalized, and a tone of lament, while the images were designed to create a vivid picture and context.  I thought that with Lent and the Olympics overlapping, this would be a good way to inform our worship as we prepare for Easter.

JR: What motivated you to start this creative project?

John: This project started as a way to help me and some friends answer some important questions about how to engage around the games as followers of Jesus. There are serious social, economic and ecological issues that were already plaguing our city and they have become more visible as a result of the Olympics. In some ways such a global event perpetuates these already serious issues in a way that should cause concern for those who are aligned with Jesus’ purposes in the world. I know that Jesus was about the task of proclaiming the truth about our world and subverting the oppressive social structures that caused suffering. This project is intended to shed light on the issues surrounding the games and give voice to the marginalized while critiquing the powers that oppress. How we engage is important and the last thing I want is to find myself in bed with the empire. I want to subvert it creatively.

JR: What are you hoping would happen as a result of people going through the Stations of the Cost?

John: I would be thrilled if people walked away from the stations of the cost with a little more understanding. In our culture, we are bombarded with a narrative that we think is normal and often don’t see the issues that would contradict the purposes of God in this world. This is my attempt at shocking and provoking that which many see as normal and acceptable…to inform new perspective. In many ways the Olympics is one of those things. I don’t necessarily disagree with sport or hosting the Olympics, I just need to question the process if people are suffering as a result. What might a ‘just’ games look like?  Hopefully people will come to see that there is a cost and it is the majority and the poorest among us that pay that price.

JR: Is there anything else that is important for us to keep in mind as it relates to the Olympics in Vancouver this year?

John: Yes, please pray. there are many wonderful organizations that have subversive and loving actions planned as a way to implement an alternative vision. The downtown east side of Vancouver is the hardest area hit by the issues, so ministry there will be a focal point. Pray for the efforts of believers in Vancouver as we seek to live the Kingdom here.

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