June 12, 2009 / 9:36 PM / 8 years ago

No rise in sex trafficking for 2010 Games: report

<p>A statue of famed English mariner Captain George Vancouver frames the Olympic flag flying outside city hall in Vancouver, British Columbia February 18, 2009.Andy Clark</p>

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The 2010 Winter Olympics will not lead to a major rise in trafficking of sex-trade workers into Vancouver as some media reports have warned, according to a study for police and community groups.

Thousands of visitors, athletes and media representatives are expected to descend on the city on Canada's Pacific Coast during the Games next February, which will be followed almost immediately by the 2010 Winter Paralympics.

Fears that increased demand for prostitutes will lead to a surge in sex-trade workers arriving in the city -- with many being victims of human-trafficking -- are likely unfounded according to the study, made public on Thursday.

Similar predictions for the 2004 Olympics in Athens and Germany's 2006 World Cup turned out to be wrong, the researchers said.

"Neither location experienced any increase that could be attributed to their hallmark event," said the study that was done for Vancouver police and several groups that provide aid to sex-trade workers.

The researchers noted that similar predictions were also beginning to circulate about the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

The failure of the issue to materialize in Greece and Germany may have reflected increased public vigilance, and human-traffickers may not have been willing to invest resources for what are short-lived one-time events, according to the report.

Prostitution is technically legal in Canada, but soliciting or communicating for the purposes of prostitution, or running a brothel, is not. Like most cities, Vancouver has an active sex-trade industry.

Many of the poorest prostitutes work in the city's drug-infested Downtown Eastside neighborhood, which is near where many visitors and athletes will be housed and close to the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies.

A group that supplies support services for sex-trade workers said last month that it was preparing training sessions for prostitutes to help them deal with the expected international media coverage they will face.

The researchers warned that increased Games-related security could end up causing problems for street-level prostitutes by forcing them to relocated to areas where they are more likely to be victims of violence.

The study also said that, despite the overstated fears of a human-trafficking surge, there was still a need to increase public awareness about the dangers of sexual exploitation and to provide help for victims.

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson

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