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The Other Olympics: Vancouver's Troubled Path to 2010

by Jake Mohan 


Tags: politics, Olympics, China, poverty, homelessness, urban planning, gentrification, Vancouver, Canada, Briarpatch,

vancouverWhile the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing have the Western media focusing on China’s human rights violations, we should not lose sight of the discord surrounding the 2010 Winter Games slated for Vancouver.

An in-depth article in Briarpatch magazine describes the numerous ways in which the poor and homeless populations of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside have been shoved aside during the seven-year ramp-up to the Games, focusing on a series of missed opportunities by the city to prepare for 2010 while honoring its low-income inhabitants. Instead, Briarpatch reports, Mayor Sam Sullivan, the city’s Non-Partisan Association, various real estate developers, and the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation made a number of empty promises, pledging to build low-income housing (only to delay construction) and to eliminate homelessness (without specifying quite how that would be achieved).

Sullivan also enacted the euphemistically named Project Civil City, which is cracking down on Vancouver’s homeless population by removing Dumpsters from alleys, conducting anti-panhandling public awareness campaigns, increasing tickets and fines targeting the homeless, and installing more public security cameras. Already, low-income hotels have been shut down to make way for the construction of upsclae hotels, convention centers, and condominiums, casting thousands of evictees out onto the streets.

By the time the Vancouver Games commence, Briarpatch suggests they will represent a raft of broken promises disguised as progress and burnished with forced goodwill. While the Games’ planners hope to emulate Vancouver’s legendary Expo ’86, the Games will more closely resemble the 2000 Sydney Olympics, another contentious undertaking that drowned out an embittered citizenry with overhyped Olympic spirit.

(It's a long shot, but there may still be an opportunity for Vancouver to redeem itself. After the 2004 Summer Games, Athens took an unusual step by converting the apartments in its Olympic Village into low-income housing.)

Image courtesy of sillygwailo, licensed by Creative Commons.