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Meaghan Ross
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I think the interesting part about the "benefit" rhetoric surrounding events like the Pan Am Games is that this discourse presumes there is a benefit to be gained by the hosting communities. Planners of such games tell us that "our future starts now" and that this will lead to "trickle down money flows", and then activists pick this up, advocating for a "redistribution of the projected benefits" or better "social inclusion policies". And we use the same words, but mean very different things when we speak about inclusion, benefits, decision making power, etc. But why do we, as activists, fall into this trap of arguing for a better implementation of the games rather than fully recognizing there will be no benefits for our communities? Previous games prove the point well. The residents of Montreal only just finished paying the costs of the Olympic stadium built in the '70s, Vancouver's east side residents were physically and brutally removed from lodging homes, hotels and rooming houses by police, construction workers faced numerous precarious working conditions to meet deadlines and budgets, and Native land was taken with no regard for the people's territory rights or the environment. In Hamilton, we're already in the negative in terms of community benefits. Many of our councillors are pressuring for the Future Fund portion of Pan Am funding to be made a grant, reducing the capital available to loan to community development initiatives. Apartments are quickly being converted to condos and tenants have been illegally evicted from lower cost housing in downtown hotels in preparation for incoming visitors, resulting in the reduction of our already abysmal housing stock. And we have witnessed an increased focus from a variety of sources including council, police and businesses to "clean up the core" which really means displacing those who appear to be homeless, appear to be using drugs, appear to be involved in sex work and moving them out of public sight. Not only will the poor not be able to attend events at the new stadium because the tickets cost so much, they won’t even be in the area of the stadium. They will probably be boarded on a bus and dropped off miles away from the city centre as has also happened with previous games. How do you argue that people be socially included when they won't even be present? How do you argue that revenue generated by the games stay in the local community when the local community has been moved out? How do you argue that money should be allocated towards improving housing in the community as part of the Pan Am planning process when the people desperately needing adequate and affordable housing have been evicted months prior? If the Pan Am games are carried out in the same manner as previous Olympic Games and World Cups, I think we can assume there will no positive benefits for the majority of our community. Meaghan Ross Community Development Worker Housing Help Centre
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Aug 4, 2010