Deep poverty in a rich country: Vancouver Poverty Olympic sports to highlight Canada’s dismal record on poverty

Instead of speed skating, an imitation Canadian Prime Minister and Premier will demonstrate how they “skate around poverty.”  Poverty Olympic athletes who are homeless or live in tiny hotel rooms with cockroaches and bedbugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, will climb over “housing hurdles” in an attempt to find decent housing in a city where virtually none is available for low income people.

These are only two of the sports at the 2009 Poverty Olympics, to be held in Vancouver, Canada on Feb. 8th at 1 pm at the Japanese Language School, 487 Alexander St.  Other sports will be “sweeping poverty aside” (curling), and “wrestling for the community.”  The Poverty Olympics mascots are Creepy the Cockroach, Itchy the Bedbug, and Chewy the rat.

The theme of the Poverty Olympics is “End Poverty.  It’s not a Game.”

With just one year before the 2010 Olympics come to Vancouver, Canada, organizers of the Poverty Olympics want the world to know that Canada has deep poverty:  between 10,000 and 15,000 homeless people live in British Columbia, the province where the 2010 Olympics will happen; BC has the highest child poverty rate in Canada (21%); street homelessness increased by 373% in the Vancouver area between 2002 and 2008; the average income for poor parents in BC is BELOW the poverty line by more than $CDN 11,000 a year.  Homeless people die on the street in Vancouver, the Olympic host city.

“Meanwhile our government is spending about $6 billion on games,” said Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project, a Poverty Olympics sponsor.  “That money could provide over 30,000 homes for people who are homeless in Canada.  “Or it could be used to completely wipe out poverty and homelessness in BC.

Olympic promises of 3200 units of new social housing and poverty reduction have been virtually ignored.  But government money flows to Olympic venues, security, and cost overruns.

The Poverty Olympics are endorsed by several Vancouver non governmental organizations including Raise the Rates, Carnegie Action Project, Streams of Justice, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, BC Persons with AIDS Society, Power to Women, and the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House.

For more information, contact Jean Swanson at 604 729-2380 or Alan James at

Check out the Poverty Olympics website at

Press Release for Poverty Olympics 2009

Hello reporters.  Want to have some fun?  With a little message snuck in?   You’re invited to come to the Second Annual Poverty Olympics on Feb. 8th in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

At the Poverty Olympics Downtown Eastside residents and friends will use their creativity and sense of humour to show that the coming Olympic Games are not a good way to spend public money when there is so much poverty and homelessness in BC.

“End Poverty.  It’s not a Game” is the theme of the Second Annual Poverty Olympics to begin with a Torch Parade starting at 12:30 at VANDU, 380 E. Hastings.  At 1 pm Opening Ceremonies will begin at the Japanese Language School, 487 Alexander St.

Opening ceremonies will include lighting the End Poverty Torch and introducing Itchy the Bedbug, Creepy the Cockroach and Chewy the Rat, the three Poverty Olympics mascots.  A special appearance by a developer has been arranged.

The Poverty Games will include Skating around Poverty, Sweeping Poverty Aside (curling), the Housing Hurdles, and Wrestling for the Community.

The grand finale of the Poverty Olympics will include a song and dance by the Roaches and Roachettes.  Then people who attend will be invited to dine on Cockroach and Bedbug cake and get their pictures taken with the Poverty Olympic mascots.

Contact: Jean Swanson at 604 729-2380

Check out:

Cost of Olympic services and facilities compared to ending poverty

Costs of Olympic related services and facilities (January 2009)

Venues:                                 $600M
Program spending:                   $125M
Security:                                $400M-$1B
2 Olympic Villages:                    $1.261B
Sea to Sky Highway:                 $775M
Trade and Convention Centre:    $883M
RAV line:                                        $2B
TOTAL:                                           $6.044 Billion to $6.644 Billion

How billions spent on Olympics could reduce poverty and homelessness

Amount spent on Olympic related services and facilities:  $6.044 Billion (low estimate)
Number of social housing units this could build:                 30,220
Number of years welfare could be increased by 50%:        over 12

Or you could do ALL of these things:

Raise welfare by 50% for 5 years ($2.5B);
End the barriers that keep people in need from getting welfare for 5 years ($1B);
AND build 12,720 new units of good social housing ($2.5B);
PLUS increase minimum wage at 0 cost to taxpayers.

Olympic commitments versus what happened

The Inner-city Inclusive Housing Table (ICI) was appointed by the provincial government to make recommendations to all levels of government and VANOC about how to meet the Olympic sustainability commitments. It was made up of business, government and community representatives. The ICI made 23 unanimous recommendations. Five of them and what action has been taken, are listed below:

1. ICI: Build 3200 units of housing (800 in each of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
Number of new units in the inner city likely to be completed before the Olympics:  242 (the Lux and Woodwards low income)
Mark = 8%

2. ICI: secure 100 units of Olympic Village housing for deep core need; 100 for core need; and 50 for low end of market.
Number of units of Olympic Village housing likely to be available for core and deep core need: 0
Mark = 0%

3. ICI: Eliminate barriers to access social assistance
Action: Barriers still in place
Mark = 0%

4. ICI: Increase social assistance by at least 50% and allow earning exemptions
Action: Rates for some increased by a mere $50no new earning exemptions

5. ICI: Buy 800 units of existing housing.
Action: Done