Give a home to us not the Olympics, say protesters

Sun Feb 7, 2010 7:45pm EST
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Robert Bonner is not impressed that Vancouver is hosting the Winter Olympics and thinks the millions of dollars spent on the event would have better gone on alleviating problems like poverty and homelessness.

"Spending C$178 million ($166 million) for a skating oval isn't really impressive when you're sleeping in a doorway," Bonner told the "Poverty Olympics," a colorful protest on Sunday to highlight Vancouver's social problems.

Vancouver, on Canada's Pacific coast, has been ranked in surveys as one of the world's most "livable" cities but it is also home to one of Canada's poorest and most drug-infested neighborhoods -- the Downtown Eastside.

Sign-holding marchers chanted "Homes not Games" and other slogans as they made their way through the neighborhood to the rhythm of a small ragtag marching band and costumed mascots such as "Itchy the Bedbug" and "Chewy the Rat."

More than 200 attended the protest.

"Canada is a rich nation ... but you wouldn't know it in the Downtown Eastside," said Bonner, a well known activist in the community.

The Games (February 12-28) have a mostly privately funded budget of C$1.7 billion but the government has spent C$580 million on venue construction costs and budgeted C$900 million for security.

A provincial auditor's report in 2006 put the real cost to tax payers at C$2.5 billion but Olympic critics claim it is actually closer to C$6 billion -- figures that Games organizers and government officials dismiss as too high.   Continued...

<p>Anti-poverty protestors march their version of the Olympic Torch through the streets of Vancouver, British Columbia February 7, 2010. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>