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Using Vancouver's Olympic bid for social change

It might be the most ruthless of all Olympic competitions: the race for the right to host the Games. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in potential profit, and an indelible mark on the global map. To opponents it's a colossal waste of tax dollars, a carnival of hype, spin and speculation. CBC Archives looks back at Canada's winning and losing Olympic bids.

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Jim Green could have been a huge thorn in the side of the Vancouver 2010 bid committee. City councillor, agitator for affordable housing and social justice, Green was poised to fight the bid to the death. Then he decided "to walk hand in hand with the devil." His new strategy is to work for change from within, using Vancouver's hunger for the Games as leverage to help the city's most needy. In this clip, Canada Now profiles the Vancouver bid's most unlikely booster.
. Anti-Olympics activists in Vancouver wanted to avoid a repeat of problems that had occurred during the Expo 86 world's fair. The event drew 22 million visitors from May 2 to Oct. 13, 1986, and prompted the construction of the SkyTrain transit system and some landmark buildings. But it also saw the eviction of as many as 1,000 low-income residents from rooming houses and residential hotels being upgraded to attract Expo tourists. Several deaths were associated with those evictions.

. At any one time, downtown Vancouver is home to at least four "tent cities" of hundreds of homeless people.
. On Sept. 14, 2002, homeless people and activists occupied the abandoned Woodward's department store building on West Hastings St. in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The giant store had been vacant since the chain's 1993 bankruptcy. A week after the "Woodsquat" began, police arrested and ejected the squatters. They soon returned to create an outdoor squat under the building's awnings.

. The province's previous NDP government had promised the Woodward's building would be turned into affordable housing.
. At its height, the squat involved 280 people and became a municipal election issue.
. In January 2003 Mayor Larry Campbell announced the city would buy the building from the province and fund 100 units of social housing when it is redeveloped. He linked the deal to the city's Olympic bid, saying it will help to ensure the 2010 Winter Games are "socially sustainable."

. In an effort to avoid the lack of local support that plagued Vancouver bids in 1976 and 1980, city councillors promised to hold a plebiscite to determine if the bid should proceed. The vote was held on Feb. 22, 2003; 64 per cent of city voters said yes. There were 134,791 ballots cast, approximately 46 per cent of eligible voters. It was a risky venture: IOC president Jacques Rogge had warned that a simple majority would not be enough for Vancouver to get the Games.

. An independent group called the Impact of the Olympics on Community Coalition (IOCC) has taken up the role of community watchdog for decisions surrounding the Vancouver 2010 games. A coalition of citizens, labour groups, academics and activists, IOCC monitors environmental, social, transportation, housing, economic and civil rights issues.
Medium: Television
Program: Canada Now
Broadcast Date: June 30, 2003
Guest(s): Daphne Bramham, Larry Campbell, Jim Green, Gerhard Heiberg, Jack Poole, Chris Shaw, Ellen Woodsworth
Reporter: Marcella Munro
Duration: 8:44

Last updated: May 25, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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