Just the other night, a man was weaving across the traffic on foot, half-lucid. A truck hurtling down Main Street missed him by about a foot. He was almost another traffic fatality.
There are so many people in poverty in this city, so many people with mental health issues, that these types of sudden deaths happen all the time. On average, a homeless person dies every 11.4 days in B.C.
As thousands prepare themselves to attend Olympic events, there are thousands of others who have been totally neglected by the advance of the Olympic project. Polls show the public at a tepid 50 per cent support, which is strange for a host city.
Were the public not sold a line that these were to be the first socially sustainable Olympic Games, the expectations would not have been set so high. Unfortunately, VANOC and its government partners chose to neglect civil society organizations virtually every step of the way.
The protest movement that has emerged could not have grown so large without the incompetence and lack of consultation of organizations like VANOC and the International Olympic Committee. In the areas of housing, civil liberties and the costs of these Games, they have been hurtful to democracy. They have set up the conditions for an advancing neo-authoritarianism, particularly around security and policing.
VANOC used a marketing and public relations approach that is totally disconnected from reality. Most of the practical solutions and innovative ideas that were put forward by civil society was ignored or distorted. The Vancouver media did a terrible job of providing a fair playing field for public discourse.
Practical suggestions for ticket surcharges for social legacies, human rights legislation drafted by the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions and investments in social legacies were basically ignored.
As the Opening Ceremonies approach for this bloated circus, there is not one table that civil society organizations are represented related to the Olympic impacts – not at the City, not at the Province, not at VANOC.
For this massive public subsidy of the tourism and development industries, whole areas of the public agenda were attacked.
It was in this environment and in this context that a protest movement was born.
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