Walking around the 2010 Winter Olympics, it is hard to miss the frenzy of consumption surrounding the entire event. Hour-long lines to spend hundreds of dollars on official Olympic gear, drunk people everywhere, trash and Starbucks cups piling up along the streets. People are in Vancouver from all over the world, and are spending a lot of money.
You can imagine my shock when I discovered the Olympic Tent Village on the Eastside of Vancouver, at Abbot and Hastings St. Here, the people had a different take on the Olympics. After spending 8 billion dollars on Olympics infrastructure, there was no net increase in low-income housing – as promised in the Olympics bid. Homelessness has actually TRIPLED since the Olympics bid. Condos are spreading like wildfire, and the homeless are being displaced without anywhere else to go. Rather than providing solutions, the government in British Columbia seem to be ignoring and exacerbating the problem.
And with the Olympics in town, the stark contrast between the haves and have-nots becomes even more visible. Drunk people walk by the camp yelling “get a job.” A sign hanging from a condo nearby reads “Build resumes, not tents.” People in Tent City have little; everyone around them seem to have plenty.
“Another tower went up where the homeless had their homes/Who will save our souls”
Tent City is organized by nearly 100 local organizations. It has three demands:
1. END HOMELESSNESS
2. STOP GENTRIFICATION
3. STOP THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY
This is a look into their story. It is by no means comprehensive, as the issue is far more complex than a 3-minute film can address. However, it is eye-opening. It is a different perspective, something that you do not hear covered in mainstream media. The Olympics is not always as noble as their branding/marketing suggests, and I think its important to keep the OOC honest about the impact the Games have on host cities. Walking around Vancouver, I was not convinced that this was a good thing for Canada – or its people.