Thursday, February 04, 2010

Winter Olympics on slippery slope after Vancouver crackdown on homeless Oversized neon Olympic rings illuminate Vancouver harbour while a giant mural of a snowboarder mid-trick welcomes visitors to the airport. In the city centre, a sleek steel-and-glass Olympic clock is counting down to next month's winter games.

But for 51-year-old Wayne, a homeless drug addict, looking up at the snowcapped mountains where the downhill competition runs will be fills him with dread.

"We're all going to be cleared out of here before the Olympics," he said, wrapped in a flimsy sleeping bag and clutching a bag of bottles plucked from street bins which he will exchange for money. "The clean-up will happen – they all want to hide the city's black eye, right?"

That black eye is the Downtown Eastside (DTES), one of the most highly visible and divisive parts of the Canadian city's involvement with the Olympics. The area is both ghetto and historic community. It boasts a high concentration of single-room accommodation and cardboard-and-shopping-trolley "homes" for Wayne and many of the region's other 2,660 homeless people.


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