While celebrations are underway to mark the first anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, an Ottawa researcher says the event had a negative effect on the city’s homeless youth.Jacqueline Kennelly, with the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University, is heading back to Vancouver to speak with low-income and homeless youth to gauge the long-term impact of the Games. It is the third round of interviews with more than 100 marginalized youth in Vancouver aimed at tracking their experiences before, during and after the Games. Kennelly said many had a common experience before and during the Games. “If they were panhandling or even if they were just sitting, they felt as if they were being asked to move on much more by the police,” she said. “They felt that this was because the Games were coming.” Kennelly’s subjects say an effort was made to push them out despite assurances from organizers it wouldn’t happen. “Once the city commits to a mega-event like this, everything else has to be pushed aside in order to make sure those Games happen,” Kennelly said.
‘Is it worth it?’
Often, she said, they were pushed into areas of downtown Vancouver where drugs and prostitution are rampant. “The Downtown Eastside is a very difficult place to be and it’s a place that a lot of youth were actually trying to get away from,” Kennelly said. Now, Kennelly said, many youth report there are fewer social services available as governments struggle to pay off Games-related debts. “If the cost is increasing the marginalization of people who are already marginalized within cities, leaving cities and governments at all levels hugely in debt, affecting the long-term success of the population because of the lack of social services because they’re trying to pay off the debt of these Games — is it worth it?” she said. Kennelly hopes her findings will help hosts of mega-events respect marginalized people. She has already begun a similar study in London, England in advance of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Kennelly said homeless and low-income youth there are already reporting the same issues as homeless youth in Vancouver.