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Poverty Olympics Begins as Torch Reaches Vancouver

Olympic promises unkept

by BAMundson

Creepy the cockroach, Chewy the rat and Itchy the bedbug laid claim to the mascot hosts of the 2010 Poverty Olympics. “All those promises that they made to get the Games here they’re not here,” announced Robert Bonner Sunday February 7. VANOC, federal, provincial and city officials promised four things as part the Olympic bid.

Appointed by the provincial government, the Inner City Inclusive Housing Table (ICI) prescribed how to meet Olympic promises and consisted of business, government and community organizations. One out of five promises made concerning poverty and housing was carried fully as described by their unanimous recommendations. The Poverty Olympics, held at the Japanese Hall, aimed to showcase the fact that none of these promises stuck and the recommendations ignored.

The Olympic satire included a province-wide torch relay, capped off by the Opening Ceremonies. The poverty torch finished its walk from Golden, BC in one years time.

A participant, Clyde Wright, explained why over 20 different groups collaborated on the event by saying, “(We’re here) to let the government know that more social housing is needed, minimum wage needs to be increased, support for welfare needs to be increased.”

Inside, the event consisted of opening and closing ceremonies plus the poverty games. The game, Housing Hurdles, was deemed a crowd favorite by loud hoots and hollers as women attempted to nail down affordable housing in Vancouver after jumping several hurdles.

Their point hit home when Bonner later announced that, “The provincial government has got a housing endowment fund of $250 million dollars that is just sitting in a bank. All their doing is just sitting on the interest from that money. They can spend 178 million on skating oval that’s already sinking but they can’t build us houses.”

The same morning Vancouver City Councilor Ellen Woodsworth began a 7 day hunger fast as part of the 2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay. The hunger strike will continue with a new participant each week until June 2010.

In response to poverty in BC, Premier Campbell explains to CBC that "We have invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars, which, to be candid, has nothing to do with the Olympics."

Woodsworth gave a global perspective on the issue, “We’re the only G8 country without a national housing strategy.”

Bonner closed his speech by explaining the current context at the 2010 Poverty Olympics “What could the government do if it weren’t spending billions on the Olympics? It could virtually end poverty and homelessness. End poverty. It’s not a game.” By the end of games on Sunday, the audience had eaten Creepy the Coachroach cake.

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