Pan Am Games: Building a legacy or ‘enriching the rich?’

The 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver are attracting a fair amount of controversy.

There have been reports of censorship all around British Columbia, as government and private sectors gear up for the February games.

Millions of dollars have been set aside for security and the construction of Olympic venues, but some feel as though the money would be better spent elsewhere – an issue that could be raised again in Toronto as the 2015 Pan Am Games approach.

John Clarke, of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has been vocal in his criticism of lavish government spending on events such as the Olympics or Pan Am Games.

“Huge amounts of public money get paid out, and lavish promises are made about lasting benefits,” he said. “But overwhelmingly (they) don’t materialize, and poor neighbourhoods and people are invariably targeted for removal.”

However, David Peterson, former Premier of Ontario and Chair of Toronto’s Pan Am Games bid, disagrees.

“John Clarke is a broken record,” he said.

According to Peterson, there have been no valid or consequential complaints against Toronto’s bid. He adds that complaints there will be little or no benefit to the community are completely unfounded.

“(The games) are going to create all sorts of jobs, all sorts of economic activity and all sorts social housing,” he said.

But Clarke argues the games aren’t being held to benefit the less advantaged people in the community.

“Unfortunately, we don’t live in a society that is run in the interest of the poor,” he said. “It’s run in the interest of enriching those who are already enriched.”

It has been the case in the past that cities hosting these major sporting events tend to run into the red because of all the spending, but Peterson says that won’t be a problem in Toronto.

“This is a very small amount (of money) compared to the overall funding from the three levels of government,” he said.