Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Mary J. Blige is in financial trouble once again…
- Posted on Feb 17th 2010 5:30PM by Jenny Charlesworth
"I feel like the IOC just swoops in and takes over the entire city for the period of time that it's there and then just leaves devastation in its wake," the Toronto musician tells Spinner, likening the International Olympic Committee to Marvel Comics' most powerful supervillain, Galactus, who "just moves in and consumes a planet and then leaves and goes to the next one."
Green's remarks come despite what the media has dubbed a "muzzle clause" in Cultural Olympiad performers' contracts, which forbids artists -- including the brightest lights of Canada's music scene, ranging from Feist and K'naan to both of Green's bands -- from making any negative comments about the Games.
Green admitted he had been previously unaware of that provision in the artist contracts, but knowing didn't prevent another Olympics rant during Monday night's City and Colour Cultural Olympiad performance, where he slammed "paying $1,500 to watch a bunch of people lip-sync" at the Opening Ceremonies -- not counting k.d. lang's 'Hallelujah,' of course. (Alexisonfire's gig Tuesday night was cancelled after the crowd rushed the stage, injuring 20 fans.)
The so-called muzzle clause has recently been the subject of heavy criticism. On the eve of the Games, Raymond T. Grant, artistic director of Salt Lake City's 2002 Olympic Winter Games Arts Festival, sent an open letter to the Vancouver Olympic Committee urging it to drop the controversial clause from the contracts, which he deemed "both dangerous and unnecessary."
The clause states, "The artist shall at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC (the organizing committee), the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally, Bell and/or other sponsors associated with VANOC."
Frog Eyes frontman and Swan Lake member Carey Mercer was one of the first musicians to publicly challenge the "muzzle clause" last fall. "It's not the responsibility of artists to enforce our collective right to expression and to safeguard artistic freedom," he says. "That is the responsibility of our elected officials."
Mercer has openly criticized the Olympic committee for their frivolous use of tax dollars and general disregard for pressing social issues such as homelessness and soaring child poverty rates plaguing his hometown. He further slammed VANOC for refusing "to acknowledge that their actions are going to increase the hardship of a great many citizens of Vancouver, who already feel the proverbial boot on the back of their neck."
Even Keithley, a guy who's built his career on being controversial, admits to being derailed by VANOC's might. "I wrote this song called 'The OWE-lympics Can Go to Hell,' but given the amount of legal control that the Olympic people exercise, a bunch of people told me I was f---ing crazy [to put it out]," he says. "Usually I like being crazy, but maybe in this case it wasn't a good idea."
In reaction to what VANOC has dubbed "misinformation," Burke Taylor, vice president of Culture and Celebration Programs, sent out a letter to performers explaining the clause was "common for big events. Its intent is to reasonably ensure that the integrity of our partners is respected."
Taylor goes on to say that "since 2007, literally hundreds of artists and organizations have thought it reasonable, signed the agreement, and gone on to be presented in Cultural Olympiad programs in '08 and '09. It is important to note that they have done so without the slightest meddling or interference from VANOC ... I wanted to reaffirm for you that VANOC has no intention whatsoever of restricting any artistic content essential to your production."
Though VANOC doesn't appear willing to strike the clause, it has told artists it will make the contract terms clearer in the future. And with Olympic festivities going full-tilt, it's extremely unlikely we will witness a scene like the one Mercer jokingly imagined, in which Feist unfurls "a massive canvas portrait of the anarchist prince Kropotkin, inciting a cop-car-smashing riot, the likes of which Vancouver has not seen since Axl Rose cancelled his 2002 concert."
Even Keithley expects it to be business as usual. "We all knew for the most part they were going to hire really non-controversial acts," he says. "So VANOC had a pretty safe bet to begin with..."
Maybe so, but legally they're not taking any chances.