Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The effects of the Olympics on Vancouver's poor

With the Winter Olympics coming up in Vancouver, city activists are critical of the games taking much needed resources away from the poor. Activists will call attenetion to the problem by staging a competing "Poverty Olympics" just days before the winter games.

Vancouver promised to turn the Olympic Village into affordable housing, but construction of the housing has gone over budget. Activist now fear the city will change it's mind and turn the Village into Condominiums to help recoup some of the costs.

From the Seattle Times writer Kristi Heim writes this profile of the effects the games have on Vancouver's poor.

A few days before the official Games begin, advocates for the poor will stage a "Poverty Olympics," aiming to push the city's social problems into the global spotlight. The parody, which claims to "reflect the unique local flavor of the host city," has a cockroach, a bedbug and a rat as mascots.

"In the Downtown Eastside, the street scene isn't so pretty," said longtime community activist Jean Swanson, referring to the neighborhood that a U.N. official called one of the worst slums of a wealthy city. "We have the same HIV rate as Botswana, and we're a developed country."

An element of Vancouver's Olympic bid was a four-page statement of social goals pledging the Games would be used to benefit the inner city.

Organizers promised to employ neighborhood residents, build affordable housing, prevent existing residents from being displaced and protect civil liberties.

Those promises helped win passage in 2003 of a citywide vote for approval of Vancouver's Olympic bid. An Olympics-related housing committee later said eliminating homelessness was to be the lasting legacy of the Games.

Supporters argue that the Games have brought tangible improvements to the Downtown Eastside: building renovations, construction jobs, temporary shelters for the homeless and new low-income housing.

Yet, many critics say the neighborhood's problems have worsened and that the $6 billion Olympics-related spending spree has yielded scant social benefits for the poor.

1 comment:

addypotter said...

I have never thought about the effects the Olympics would have on major cities poor. It does take a lot of funding to host the Olympics though. I can only imagine where that money comes from. I work selling medical supplies and don't really think about things like this too often. I think it might be something we need to look into.