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Vancouver Olympic budget woes only the beginning: critics

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Section: Canadian News Geography: West Vancouver

March 1, 2006

Vancouver Olympic budget woes only the beginning: critics

by Francesca Manning

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the Olympic Games in 2010 has recently announced that construction costs for Olympic venues have risen 23% to 508 million. On the same day, the city of Montreal announced that it has finally paid back its debt for the Olympic games that were held there 30 years ago.

Critics say that in addition to plunging cities into debt, the Olympic Games have a history of purging downtown areas of poor and homeless people, while pushing up housing costs. Rabble.ca reported that Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seoul and Beijing have all evicted and removed people from low-income neighborhoods near the locations of their Olympic games. During Expo 86, Vancouver evicted hundreds, and reports suggest there will now be similar development pressures in the Downtown Eastside. A community based watchdog group, the Impact of the Olympics on Community Coalition (IOCC) has formed to monitor the developments.

Attempts at institutionalized monitoring of Olympic spending and development have been cut short. In 2003, the Vancouver Sun reported that five Liberals MLA's voted against a motion that an "auditor of record" be appointed to keep track of costs for the 2010 winter games. One of the five MLA's that voted against the bill, Ida Chong, argued that to pass such a motion would "set a precedent."

Originally, Vancouver's Olympic bid stated that a large part of the "athlete's village" that is to be constructed for the games would be redirected afterward towards low-income housing. This plan has been reevaluated by the newly elected city council, which recently announced that most of the dwellings created for the village will be sold at market prices.

Vancouver's Olympic plans also include the construction of a new rapid transit line to connect downtown Vancouver with the suburb of Richmond and the city's airport. This project has been credited as key to Vancouver's successful Olympic bid. InTransitBC, a limited partnership between Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the multinational engineering firm SNC Lavalin, is in charge of construction and operation of the line for the next 35 years.

Social justice activists have attacked SNC Lavalin for supplying bullets to US forces in Iraq; undertaking oil, hydroelectric, and mining projects on Cree and Innu territories in Quebec; and the construction of nuclear reactors in China and South Korea.

Vancouver pledged $600 million for their Olympic Games and is, so far, $110 million over budget.

» Creative Resistance: Olympic Watch

» Monday Magazine: Liberals reject watchdog for Olympic Games

» Ida Chong, MLA: Auditor role not rejected

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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