The Winter Olympiad in Vancouver Olympics kicks off this evening, amid great expectations and some criticism too. The world’s greatest athletes, the hopes of nations, the ideal of athletic competition are set to be showcased in one of Canada’s (the world’s) greatest cities. But, as in all such human endeavors, there is another side to the human drama of it all. The story of human beings so far beneath the glory and pageantry of Olympic celebration as to be invisible, the downtrodden and homeless of Vancouver and the world. What bigger PR Goof can you imagine?
Since I was very small, about a half a Century ago, Olympic competition somehow stood out beyond all other endeavors men and women undertake. More hopeful and positive than war, more pure and human like than scientific advance, even more dramatic and beautiful from an individual perspective than natural wonders, the Olympic Games has been (and is) maybe our best symbolic milestone of possibility. Maybe the last bastion of fair and unmarred competition for the sake of excellence we have. These games stand still as the exemplification of what human beings are capable of – simplistic, exacting, and everlasting human endeavor painted onto the canvas of time. But, not for those outside the spectacle.
One news station released a video today that tells the story of the other side of Vancouver, the dark underbelly of that great city and so many others – poverty and neglect. Vancouver, while the most celebrated Canadian city as far as progress economically is concerned, is also the worst city in that country if you are “out of luck”, or need a good job. In the slums of Vancouver thousands live a squalid life of drugs, crime, hunger and desperation. In the shadow of these Winter Olympics, there are human beings desperate for a life, any kind of life. Their battle, their only shred of hope, makes a downhill or ski jumping event so insignificant by comparison.
So it is that a group of these unfortunate people began what is being called “The Vancouver Poverty Olympics”, to coincide with what will be the city’s crowning moment as one of the best places in the world to live. A sort of “best of times, worst of times” event. The video below is something we should all watch, before we get wrapped up in the games and events themselves.
These people will pass into history once the games are over more than likely. While great champions, gold medal winners, and the elite of sports live on in the annals of athletic lore, an equal or greater number of human beings never even got into the race. The ceremonies are only hours off. With every triumph of these superb athletes, perhaps it is appropriate to gauge their successes in the light of bitter failure too. As athletes and competitors we have exceeded all possible hurdles, while as our brother’s keepers we fall so far short. As PR goofs go, Vancouver’s obtuseness over this situation could be the biggest one this Century, so far.