SHAW, Chris A.

Author Tags: Sports

Founding member and leading spokesperson for the No Games 2010 Coalition and 2010 Watch, Chris Shaw has written Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games (New Society $19.95), a scathing indictment of the process of acquiring the 2010 Winter Olympics and the motives of guys in suits who, Drapeau-like, have reassured everyone things can’t go wrong, or over-budget.

Chris Shaw has written extensively for various publications about the impact of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and the Olympics in general. From 2003 to 2006 he was a member of the provincial council of the BC Green party, serving as their media chairperson and later policy analyst. In 2008 he was serving the same functions for the Work Less Party.

Shaw is a professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia. In his field of neurological disease research, he is the author of more than 200 published research articles, reviews and abstracts, and the editor of three books.


Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games (New Society 2008) 978-0-86571-592-9

[BCBW 2008] "Sports"

Five Ring Circus
Press Release (2008)

The shiny rings of the Olympic Games have grown tarnished over the years as doping, corruption and other scandals rise to the surface. Those scandals are the tip of the iceberg, according to author Christopher Shaw, the lead spokesperson for several anti-Games groups.

In his new book, Five Ring Circus, Shaw details the history of how Vancouver won the bid for the 2010 Games, who was involved, and what the real motives were. He describes the role of corporate media in promoting the Games, the machinations of government and business, and the opposition that emerged.

Shaw maintains that the Olympic Games, once considered the pinnacle of athleticism and fair play, have become a cesspool of greed, backroom deals and the wholesale trampling of civil liberties. He shines the light on several disturbing questions, including:

* Why does the IOC pay no taxes?
* What role do real estate developers play?
* Why are mega projects paid for with tax dollars?
* What are the true costs of the Games?

This book is a cautionary tale for future Olympic bid cities, and will appeal to those concerned about the effects of globalization on many aspects of life.

“… brilliantly and grippingly uncovers the looting of Vancouver, how the IOC and its drug-fuelled Games poison our democracies, award gold licenses to land speculators, and dump the bill on taxpayers. … A must-read for any community under threat from the Olympic boosters.” – Andrew Jennings, investigative reporter and filmmaker

-- New Society Publishers

Five Ring Circus: Myths & Realities of the Olympic Games by Christopher A. Shaw (New Society Publishers $19.95)

from Rod Drown
The troubles that beset the Olympic torch relay this year are but a foretaste of things to come. The 2010 Olympics will be the largest para-military security operation in Canadian history. So how will mega-event organizers in B.C. deal with malcontents?

Many politicians and business leaders will assume the validity of hosting the Games should no longer be debated. Even left-wing, former mayoralty candidate Jim Green advised back in 2003, “Now is the time to support, now is the time to come on-side. It doesn’t do any good to run behind the parade and try to kick up dust.”

If opposition to the forthcoming Games will henceforth be deemed anti-social behaviour, Chris Shaw’s Five Ring Circus will surely be anathema to event organizers and those who stand to benefit from the Games. But free speech will always be more precious than gold medals.

Referring to Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau’s infamous claim that his 1976 Montreal Olympics had about as much chance of losing money as a man has of having a baby, in Five Ring Circus anti-Games activist Chris Shaw suggests that the 2010 Games will make B.C. taxpayers really really pregnant.
And Shaw continues to predict it’s going to get messy. Back in 2003, Shaw was telling Maclean’s magazine, “I honestly think this is going to be the most scandal-ridden Games ever.”

As the financially crippling Summer Olympics in Athens demonstrated, “a litany of promises—all later broken—are made about people and the environment to garner public support,” writes Shaw, “and once the bid is won, costs escalate wildly out of control.”

As spokesman for the anti-2010 organization NO GAMES, Shaw alleges the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Winter Olympic Games will mainly serve to enrich real estate developers like Jack Poole by building taxpayer-funded projects such as the RAV, Athletes Village and Convention Centre in Vancouver.

Shaw claims those three infrastructure projects, along with the Highway 99 upgrade to Whistler, are examples of a world-wide phenomenon in which “real estate developers organize and drive the Olympic bids.”

According to Shaw, of the 37 people who were part of the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Bid Board, 22 are involved in either business or real estate development.

The words of Poole, Chairman of Concert Properties and of VANOC (The Vancouver Games Organizing Committee), are used to support Shaw’s argument that the games are less about pristine athletic competition and more about real estate maneuvering:

“If the Olympic bid was not happening, we would have had to invent something.”

Shaw also quotes political leaders such as former Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell—“ [The games won’t] cost (the citizens of Vancouver) one penny”—and accuses Big Labour of collusion in the process. Big Labour pension funds are often used to finance projects by Big Developers.

Political opposition to the Games has been negligible, partly because former NDP premiers such as Michael Harcourt and Glen Clark tended to support job-providing infrastructure projects and real estate

development that benefit Big Labour.
Five Ring Circus also insists mindless boosterism has over-ridden critical media coverage as journalists repeatedly fail to research and critique the claims of the Olympic dream merchants.

Shaw looks askance at pro-Ol-ympics initiatives and events if they will chiefly benefit private business interests—and are mostly funded by taxpayers.

According to Shaw, the 1988 Calgary Olympics was a prime example of taxpayer gouging.
He praises investigative Toronto Star journalist Thomas Walkom who found that those supposedly profitable games actually ended up costing the tax
payers of Calgary about a billion dollars.

Citing the research of Walkom and others, Shaw points out much of the cost for Calgary’s Olympics was for infrastructure, over $451 million for luge runs and ski jumps —all later sold off to a private company for $1.

In Chapter 10, while denigrating the mainstream press for its lap dog-like adulation of the games, he doesn’t spare the Mother Corp (CBC).

“It was, for me,” he writes, “a real awakening to find that CBC could usually be counted on to toe the party line and uncritically parrot pro-Olympics hype.”

In contrast, private radio, TV and print media sometimes offered up unbiased reporting. Rare exceptions cited include Vaughn Palmer, Daphne Brahman and Rafe Mair.

When the games are over and the total costs are toted up, Shaw predicts there will be a deficit of no less than $5.7 billion.

He also forewarns that VANOC will likely go cap in hand again, asking for additonal public funds, once its $27 million contingency fund (originally containing $139 million) is exhausted.

On the local Lower Mainland level Shaw says that there has been zero accountability by VANOC and all other levels of government so far as the true costs of the games.

He shows that the environmental destruction of West Vancouver’s Eagle Ridge will be duplicated in the Callaghan Valley north of Whistler as that area is opened up as part of the Olympic venue and its support system.

He also predicts major scandals as the financial shenanigans in the Callaghan and the athlete’s village are revealed.

Forget, too, about social housing or “inclusivity,” resulting from the games. Rather there will be more homeless, urban poor and displacement— and increasing gentrification.

He predicts that security measures will become a huge expense and will serve to tarnish civil liberties during the games and for years afterward.

He concludes his book by predicting how each and every promise made in 2002 will eventually be revealed as a lie.

It’s an alarmingly one-sided attack on the credibility of the entire undertaking and a wakeup-call to anyone who is being lulled into a false sense of security that we can fully trust the powers-that-be.

For good measure, or rather bad, Shaw also provides some disturbing information about the workings of the International Olympic Committee.
This group, which flies around the world (almost always at prospective host cities’ expense) inspecting cities for their Olympics-worthiness, pays no taxes, is very secretive about its bank accounts and has diplomatic status.

Chris Shaw is a Los Angeles-born neuroscientist who became a Canadian citizen in 1990.

--review by Rod Drown

[BCBW 2008]


The Honourable Gary Lunn
Minister of State for Sports
House of Commons
Ottawa Canada
K1A 0A6

July 15, 2009

An Open Letter to The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of State for Sports (2010 Olympics).

Dear Mr. Lunn,

I am writing to express the concern of The Writers' Union of Canada regarding the actions of the Integrated Securities Unit (ISU) when interviewing Dr. Chris Shaw, the author of Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, a work which is critical of the upcoming Vancouver Olympics. A complaint was brought to our organization by one of our members. We researched the situation and found the following:

On June 3, 2009, two members of the Integrated Securities Unit engaged Dr. Shaw in a conversation as he was leaving a Vancouver coffee shop. One of the officers, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, stated that he did not like the content of Dr. Shaw’s book. This was followed by ten-minutes of questioning during which Dr. Shaw was asked what he knew about planned demonstrations against the Olympics. Shaw declined to answer and ended the conversation.

The Writers’ Union distinguishes between the legitimate crime-prevention role of police and the right to free expression that is fundamental to our democracy. It is disturbing to learn that a member of the Integrated Securities Union suggested to an author that he disapproved of the author's work. Such behaviour, coming from a person carrying out a security function, appears to have been purposively intimidating.

When the police included Dr. Shaw’s opinions in their questioning they challenged the right to freedom of speech that is the bedrock of Canadian society. The Writers’ Union requests your formal assurance that authors and journalists who are critical of the Canadian Olympics will be free from such intimidation.


Erna Paris
Chair, The Writers’ Union of Canada


Mr. Bud Mercer, Assistant Commissioner, V2010 ISU Chief Operating Officer.

Mr. John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer VANOC

The Honourable James Moore

Mr. Michael Ignatieff

Mr. Pablo Rodriguez

Hon. Keith Martin

Mr. Mark Holland

Hon. Jack Layton

Mr. Joe Comartin

Mr. Charlie Angus