Poverty Olympics to be held in Vancouver days before 2010 Winter Games

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      Five days before the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, community groups will stage a protest event designed to internationally embarrass the Canadian, B.C., and city governments into addressing poverty.

      The 2010 Poverty Olympics, the third edition of the annual street-theatre event, will take place on February 7 at the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall (487 Alexander Street) in the Downtown Eastside.

      On Sunday (January 17) at 1 p.m., the first-ever provincewide Poverty Olympics torch relay will kick off with an event at the Olympic countdown clock by the Vancouver Art Gallery.

      February’s opening ceremonies and games will feature a singing of the Poverty Anthem, sporting events (Welfare Hurdles and Skating Around Poverty), mascots (Itchy the Bedbug, Creepy the Cockroach, and Chewy the Rat), and the "Bad Guys" (Mr. Bid and Mr. Con Dough).

      In a letter on the event’s Web site, the Poverty Olympics organizing committee warns Olympic visitors that they won’t be able to avoid seeing thousands of homeless people on Vancouver’s streets.

      "Unless we do something about this shameful situation, visitors in 2010 will be treated to a city with more homeless people than athletes competing in the Games!" the letter states.

      "Grinding poverty and growing homelessness are happening despite some bold promises to create a positive Olympic legacy — promises such as building more social housing, reducing homelessness, and not displacing poor people to make way for Olympics-driven development."

      The letter adds that organizers have asked the International Olympic Committee to make the Poverty Olympics an official part of the Games.

      "We hope that shining the international spotlight on the dark side of our prosperous city and province might finally convince our governments to take action," the letter says.

      According to the Poverty Olympics site, there are 10,000 homeless people across British Columbia, including more than 2,000 in Metro Vancouver.

      A report—prepared by a University of British Columbia research team for the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee and released in December 2009—found that homelessness more than doubled in Vancouver between 2002 and 2008.

      The Poverty Olympics site calls the province "a gold medalist when it comes to poverty". B.C. has posted the worst child-poverty rate for six straight years.

      Organizers are demanding the provincial government increase welfare rates by 50 percent and index them to inflation, the federal government create and fund a national housing strategy, and the City of Vancouver establish a moratorium on the conversion and closure of residential hotels which house low-income tenants.

      The groups involved in organizing the event are Raise the Rates, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House, Carnegie Community Action Project, B.C. Persons With AIDS Society, Streams of Justice, and Vancouver Area Network of Drugs Users.

      You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.

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      23 Comments

      Maurice Cardinal

      Jan 16, 2010 at 12:57pm

      I hope the Poverty Olympics also prominently includes Olympic sponsors and clearly identifies them as the primary financial source for the IOC.

      Most of the money to support the IOC comes from companies like Coca Cola, McDonalds, GM, RBC, HBC, Rona, NIKE, and a long list of others that conveniently look the other way and remove themselves from the spectre of accountability.

      Follow the money and place the blame where it belongs and where it will do Vancouver and Whistler taxpayers the most good.

      Force Olympic sponsors to accept responsibility and do not allow them to look the other way.

      Lobby Olympic sponsors to all contribute 25% more to the Olympic fund IN CASH and take the pressure off taxpayers. The extra money can be directed back to improve the homeless situation in our community.

      Here's a list of current sponsors, partners and suppliers;

      Coca-Cola, Acer, Atos Origin, General Electric, NIKE, McDonald's, Omega, Panasonic, Samsung, VISA, Bell, HBC, RBC, GM, Petro-Canada, RONA, Air Canada, BCLC, BC Hydro, Bombardier, Canadian Pacific, ICBC, Jet Set Sports, Ricoh, Royal Canadian Mint, Teck, 3M, Acklands Grainger, Aggreko, Aquilini Investment Group, Birks, Britco, Canada Post, COLD-FX, Deloitte Dow Canada, Epcor, Garrett Metal Detectors, General Mills, Hain, Celestial Canada, Haworth, Karl's Global Events, Millennium Development, Molson, Nortel, Port Metro Vancouver, Purolator, Saputo, Sleep Country Canada, Sun Microsystems, Tickets.com, TransCanada, Vincor Canada, YVR, Vancouver Airport Authority, Weston, Workopolis, Wrigley Canada, Vancouver Sun newspaper, Global TV, The Province newspaper, The Courier newspaper, The Globe and Mail newspaper

      They all have websites. Ask these companies if they have "ethical mandates" and how they feel knowing their involvement with Vancouver's Olympic Games has a detrimental impact on our community. Don't let them off the hook.

      VANOC and the IOC simply ignore you, but the shareholders of these companies won't.

      miguel

      Jan 16, 2010 at 1:52pm

      Chinese New Year is Feb. 14; anyone know how VANOC plans to screw with that?
      Miguel

      IOC

      Jan 16, 2010 at 3:53pm

      The blame is entirely on the 3 governments, the IOC and VANOC.

      The sponsors are doing what they always have, and if anyone thinks they have a social responsibility to end homelessness, I suggest they drop the crack pipe and re-focus your binoculars.

      Just note the dates around the increased homelessness and child poverty and you have your answer.

      Coke/McD could care less. As much as some of you communists want socialism, it isn't here, but spineless politicians can be found by the dozen.

      Thanks

      Jan 16, 2010 at 4:46pm

      For the list. Companies I will never buy from again.

      Maurice Cardinal

      Jan 16, 2010 at 5:40pm

      It's not about blame.

      It's about results.

      chris and annoyed

      Jan 16, 2010 at 6:22pm

      The reason we have more issues here in Vancouver is because we have the warmest temperatures in Canada and people flock here from all the rest. Why should we shoulder the entire problem here in Vancouver? the other provinces are happy to see people ship out here while we pay more to house everyone, and give them assistance. Why is the constant never ending drug problem downtown only our fault? How can you stop people from putting a needle in their arms when we cant even legalize drugs?

      i honestly dont think that the organizers have come up with a real way to stop poverty that can really be implemented.

      i dont agree with the Olympics, but if they ruin it for our city, i think there will be a back lash

      AVW

      Jan 16, 2010 at 6:45pm

      No one said that VANOC or the IOC were trying cover up poverty or take away from its obvious presence in the world. I think that the people you should be irate with are not VANOC and the IOC, but rather your municipal/provincial/federal government for their lack of attention to the issue. I would also like to note that before the bid was confirmed what was proposed to be done about the issues surrounding poverty, homelessness, and child poverty? I think you are simply looking for someone to blame or maybe even shift the blame to because it would be easier that way. My question for those involved in this display would be why didn't you use your time, effort and maybe even money to help an organization fighting poverty and homelessness rather than pointing out what we already know is an issue. I don't think that there is a single person who doesn't know that homelessness in British Columbia is a problem. I don't think that there are many people who would not like to see it go away. What I do think is that instead of being erratic and seemingly unreasonable I think we need to come along side those in positions of government or large corporations and represent ourselves well to help them understand the pressing needs in our communities.

      I would also like to note that seeing that Maurice is so disgusted by those who have sponsored the Olympics, and I'm assuming that there are others out there that share his opinions; I am assuming that you will not be supporting those industries/businesses? I hope that you don't plan on taking transit, sending or receiving mail, reading the newspaper or even watching the new at that, flying, or chewing gum.

      katharina heitzmann

      Jan 16, 2010 at 8:04pm

      perhaps we could also have a poverty 'special olympics'. b.c. citizens who are unable to work (disabled) get a 'disability pension' of approx $800-$900 per month. try paying rent and food, etc. on those few dollars in b.c. if you are fortunate enough to have your own home, you will be bombarded with life sustaining bills such as hydro, heat, electric, gas bills & , taxes that you are unable to pay, until the bank or taxman takes your home from you. also, since you are unable to do your yardwork, the city will send you nasty bills and fines for having an untidy yard.

      "b.c. the best place on earth -Only For The Wealthy".

      fan22

      Jan 16, 2010 at 9:03pm

      Awesome, an event put on by VANDU - Vancouver Area Network of Drugs Users. There is an organization to be proud of.

      Again..maybe I lack compassion but I worked my ass off my entire life. I chose to live where I do, I know the consequences of choosing a city with a high cost of living. My employment situation supports where I live. Do i wish housing was more affordable, of course. Do I need groups like the one mentioned above embarrassing our city? No!!!

      Last time I checked, drug use, possession was illegal. So with a criminal support group endorsing these 'games,' we are all supposed to throw our support behind it?

      I ask one last question..what have these people done for themselves to improve their situations? do they even want too? do they need to? I mean i see huge lineups at the banks, money mart, the liquor store on welfare Wednesday..are these the same people we are supposed to feel sorry for?

      I for one will take in and enjoy the Olympics. I pray that one of you idiots does something to ruin my enjoyment or my children's of these games and their festivities.

      I am tired of the government, VANOC, Olympic supporters being blamed for the current level of homelessness. They didn't put these people on the street and neither did the Olympic organizers, the IOC, the athletes..get the point here?

      I

      Sean

      Jan 16, 2010 at 10:15pm

      Maybe we can trade some of those privileged but unappreciative of what they have in this city with some of those dealing with real disasters abroad.