Before The World Comes, I wanted to highlight the truth about the Olympics for my International friends. In the event that you might have one iota of a desire to watch the Olympics, I wanted you to know a few key points about this whole hot mess while you're watching it on TV. I wanted you to know this whole thing is as big of a sham as the pretty Chinese girl they had lip syncing for the ugly girl at the Beijing Olympics. Actually that metaphor is astoundingly appropriate.
If you live anywhere else in the world and haven't heard a controversial thing about the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics then I know what you're I know what you're thinking, "A Canadian complaining about Winter Olympics? Say Wha?" It sounds so unnatural.
Hockey, curling, skiing, figure skating, toques, mittens, scarfs. ****, even the torch is shaped like a giant flaming joint ready to be blazed. It screams 'I Am Canadian'. And that's why back in '03 some of us where stoked that we won the bid to host the Olympics. In our own laid back, sweet, clean, ever ready to help way, we're proud of who we are. We're proud to be Canadian. We think we've done a few things right and we don't mind hosting a little party to show the world how much we love our country and our winter sports.
But if there's one thing that beats our blood faster than hockey it's the threat to our social values. In our hearts we are a socialist country. We want to help out our fellow citizens in need, not only because we want it to be there for when we're in need but because it's the right thing to do. Unfortunately, Canada and Vancouver have already severely let the ball drop on social values long before the Olympics came to town. If you know a thing or two about Vancouver beyond the giant lit up golf ball known as Science World, (Or it's new capitalist name: Telus World of Science) then it's possible you know about our Downtown East Side. Vancouver's biggest shame.
Its funny, as a young traveler I would ask people in other major cities where their skid row was because I could never spot it. Of course, they would look at me with confusion. Obviously they weren't understanding me. Where are your thousands of mentally ill, drug addicted homeless loitering the street, shooting up, smoking crack, trading sex? Where do most of your ambulances go through out the day to rescue all the people on the street overdosing on heroin? Like where do your teenagers go to score their Oxycontin? OK where do men go to cruise for cheap prostitution? Let me put it to you this way, If I were a serial killer and wanted to kill a large of amount of prostitutes that no one would miss or care about, where would I go? Why are you laughing? I'm serious! What do you mean you house your homeless? OK but once the beds are filled and you still have the other 2000 homeless on the street...where are they? Hmm, so AIDS wasn't an epidemic in your city? You don't have a need for a safe injection site so people aren't using dirty needles left on the ground? Weird...
And according to the 2010 Winter Olympics - neither does Vancouver! The magic wand of money. Our money. The downtown east side has been out of control for decades. I literally mean masses of people loitering the street stumbling around on the mix of drugs they were able to score, talking to the wall. When you cut health care funding, shut down psych institutions and refuse to create adequate housing or social programs you end up with the downtown east side. The residents of Greater Vancouver and the lower mainland have been screaming for years that we need to do something better. And it wasn't until we won the bid that gentrification began. Along with tearing down the old and putting up the new, we began to ticket our homeless. Loitering, spitting, drunk in public, theft, drugs, whatever they could come up with. Now of course, someone who lives on the street can't pay a ticket! What happens when you don't pay your fines? Well you go to jail. The last few weeks the government has swept our streets and tucked our sewage rats away. No no. Don't use our tax money to create a solution, soak up the funds by putting them in jail for a month, feed them 3 squares and when everyone is gone kick em right back out to start the cycle again. Clever. Very forward thinking. And while some view this as a possible catalyst for future progression, most of us feel saddened by the shameful lie we will be portraying to the world through your TV screen.
If Round One didn't knock you down, Round Two will. And it won't help you up.
Socialized Health Care is a phenomenal idea. I, along with most of the country, am a huge supporter of socialized health care. Pay my minimal monthly dues, and don't have to worry about a thing when I need a stitch, my leg sawed off or have a pesky bout of cancer. Worry free. My country takes care of me. (I actually just laughed out loud while typing that out.) Do you know how many doctors Canada has for every 100,000 citizens? Roughly 250. Do you know how many doctors Cuba has for every 100,000 citizens? Roughly 590. Again long before the Olympics came to town, we had a few funding snags in the system. If you could even find a family doctor to report your issue to, you were happier than a pig in ****. Clear your day's schedule though because in order to get your 5 minutes of ear time, you're going to need to wait at least an hour. Don't even think about needing a knee, a hip, or an MRI. Out of the question for the next 2 years. I can't offer you a bed in a room but we do have this lovely hallway. Don't get comfortable either, I'll need that bed back in 2 days. Maybe talk to your cells, like they're plants. You know, get them healing you faster. Try that. We'll be back to treat you like **** when we do our rounds. It's beyond despicable. If you've ever had a family member in hospital in Canada, you've witnessed your fair share of atrocity. Canada's lack of funding has beat us all into submission, our tired, abused nurses, care aids and doctors are exhausted by being over worked, under paid and under appreciated.
And then, in the midst of this full time medical chaotic crisis Vancouver peaked their head up from their cavernous abyss of Olympic spending just to say, "Right, so because we know that everyone would rather be watching the luge (on TV because lord knows few of us could afford tickets to the events), we've decided to cancel elective surgeries during the Olympics. You know, gives you an opportunity to see the games and just by chance we may need the bed should a disaster strike, we're just going to hold off on your surgery." Seriously. I wish I was joking.
And while elective surgeries aren't life threatening, we as a city were loud and clear that we could support the Olympic games if it doesn't further hinder our health care system or cost the tax payers. I'd like to give you a grand total of Olympic spending but since that's all a big hush hush, what we've been able to roughly approximate is a total of 6 Billion Dollars. 6 Billion Dollars NOT going to our homeless, NOT going to our health care, NOT going to education. You see my point.
But we'll get this back right? The World is Coming! Opportunity for growth is right around the corner! Right. Vancouver now tops the list of Severely Unaffordable housing. At the present moment, it will take you 9.3 years of income to afford a home in Vancouver. You know what else Vancouver tops the list of? The lowest minimum wage of the country. I know. You don't know whether to ****, laugh or cry. For the love of god just don't lose your shirt and go off the deep end. Vancouver's more in the cop protecting business than it is the citizen protecting business.
Round Three - Vancouver's unrecognizable police state. This February, Vancouver won't have seen this many military and police force since World War 2. Rallied up and housed on a ship off Coal Harbour, we are meant to feel prepared and protected should a terrorist attack arise. Or most likely, should you get a little too tipsy or Anti- Olympic in public, they're ready to strong arm you all the way to the paddy wagon. Don't bother recording or reporting misconduct, Vancouver has become well known for not giving a **** about police brutality towards immigrants and international travelers. And for the first time in history we have you on camera. Look up! CCTV will record every move you make in Vancouver. I feel safer already.
If you're not down and out yet - it gets better! Round Four - Where's the snow?
VANOC boasted loud and proud over it's "Green Olympics". I don't think they quite got what they bargained for. Instead of saving energy (or perhaps money) VANOC thinks they can dance toe to toe with the universe itself. We are having the warmest winter recorded in Vancouver history. Which means we are now trucking snow from one mountain to another. There's a part of you that smirks to yourself, but the reality is that it's not funny at all. This is valuable money that Vancouver could have used for other social priorities - such as not going into severe debt - which means we desperately need it back. Mother Nature needs to get her **** together.
Round Five - Arnie's a Canadian?
I think the punch that knocked us down, or rather broke our hearts the most was how completely un-Canadian the whole debacle feels. It doesn't look like winter, it doesn't feel like winter. It doesn't look socially focused, it doesn't feel socially focused. Jobs are being lost. City Hall laid off workers due to the recession but somehow found $150,000 to replace carpets and furniture for when international dignitaries take a brief stroll through the building. It disappointing. It's saddening. It's not the Canada that Canadian citizens would like to show. We don't want to be pushed around by capitalist real estate agents, i.e., our government. We don't want some Austrian body builder turned Hollywood politician walking the torch through one of our most prized pieces of land. It's all been a slap in the face to the people that make this country what it really is.
When and if you watch the Olympics please understand that Canada is a gorgeous country but we are turning into an unkind country. We are strongly losing our identity to consumerism and capitalism and we don't feel united over these games. I wanted to come to this day feeling proud. At least thinking hell, it's here and we paid for it we might as well enjoy it. And I'm sorry - knowing the reality - I just can't.
Though in the middle of my disappointment, I do wish all Olympians luck, and I hope they all come away with a sense of accomplishment regardless of the political entanglement this has all been wrapped up in. I sincerely mean this. Their hard work deserves a dignified reward.
I'd like to leave you with a couple videos from youtube. Things I'm sure you won't see on CNN, NBC, FOX, Global, CBC, BBC ...
YouTube - Vancouver Downtown East Side -Eastside Blues