2010 Olympics Business News for the Vancouver and Whistler
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Renée Zellweger & Tamara Taggart on Regis
Published August 22, 2009 The following is an open letter to Renée Zellweger who recently appeared on the Regis Philben Show with CTV's Tamara Taggart.
During the show Ms. Zellweger sarcastically referred to Hastings Street in Vancouver as her favorite place. A quick thinking Taggart turned the conversation around and it sounded like Hastings Street was maybe a shopping mecca, when anyone who lives in Vancouver or who has visited knows it is instead a dangerous slum.
Upon Taggart's incredulous questioning, Ms. Zellweger, eventually referred to the inhabitants of the street as "eclectic," when she initially and really meant something entirely different.
Dear Ms. Zellweger,
Vancouver residents thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
You did in one sentence what many in our city
have been futilely trying to do for decades.
On your guest appearance with Regis Philben and Tamara Taggart on Friday August 21, 2009, when Tamara asked you what your favorite part of Vancouver was, you sarcastically replied Hastings Street, and when Tamara’s jaw dropped in shock, and asked if Hastings was really your favorite part of Vancouver, you quickly realized you had insulted the guest host, Vancouver, and the Olympics.
Hastings Street, or what is more accurately known by Vancouverites as the Downtown Eastside, is the poorest neighborhood in Canada.
As you are well aware Ms. Zellweger, considering you've shot movies in Vancouver and regularly drove through this neighborhood, Hastings Street, statistically, houses the most destitute, helpless, homeless, mentally ill and drug-addicted people in North America.
You might also have suspected that
The Hastings Street slum is worse by far than anything in Los Angeles or even New York City. The AIDS rate is higher on Hastings Street than the most infected parts of Africa.
Since the Olympics came to Vancouver more people now literally SLEEP on Hastings Street than ever in the past. Gentrification forced marginalized people from their modest homes in an effort clean up the neighborhood and to also make room for Olympic workers and tourists. Many very poor people have been displaced over the last few years since Vancouver won the 2010 Olympic bid.
Hastings Street is without question the most dangerous street in Vancouver, and maybe even Canada. Even a casual stroll down the sidewalk in broad daylight can be life threatening simply because the hundreds of small time drug dealers who ply their trade in the open on this street do not take kindly to strangers.
Spontaneous violence is rampant on Hastings Street, including shootings, stabbings, robberies and beatings. At any time day or night you can drive or walk down Hastings Street and witness violence, drug deals, drug use and sex - right there on the street.
Check out this Hastings Street resident ... if you have the stomach.
When you sarcastically mentioned on national television Ms. Zellweger, that Hastings Street is your favorite, millions of people in America misunderstood and now think it is like Rodeo Drive or 5th Avenue.
Vancouverites know exactly what you meant, and we genuinly thank you for being so brave to address this issue.
Unfortunately, thanks to the quick thinking of Tamara Taggart, a cute bubbly weather girl as Regis calls her, in 2010, when hundreds of thousands of athletes and spectators show up for the Olympics, many will now seek out Hastings Street expecting to find treasures, but instead will have their sensibilities accosted by the grime, crime and horror of our dirty little secret.
They will not be ready for what they see,
and will wonder what in Hell YOU were thinking.
Ironically, in one sentence on TV you did what activists have been trying to do for decades – shine a light on this neighborhood so the world would see what local mainstream news media and their Olympic partners have ignored and tried to sweep under the rug.
On the day of the Regis show anyone could go online and see the exchange between you and Taggart, but now your interview has mysteriously disappeared. I'm sure however it will surface on indie sites because your interview is more important than you might think.
Politicians and news media ignored Hastings Street for decades.
Since the Olympics came to Vancouver - civic leaders have strained even harder to look the other way.
Here's a little background;
In the 70’s & 80’s Canadian civic leaders closed all our mental institutions. In some Canadian cities local politicians acted responsibly and moved mental patients into group homes throughout their respective regions and gave people support, but in Vancouver, politicians simply thrust everyone out on to the street and let them fend for themselves.
Consequently, the incidence today of mental illness on Hastings Street is 60%. Yes. . . 60% of the people you see wandering aimlessly begging on Hastings Street are clinically mentally ill, and to make matters worse, most have alcohol and/or drug addictions. At last count there were at least 3,000 homeless people living in Vancouver, a city that only has a population of 550,000. Some claim the homeless number is much higher.
Meth, crack, speed and heroin are the drugs of choice on Hastings Street, which makes it very dangerous for unsuspecting athletes and Olympic tourists who will now want to take a stroll down the sidewalks to see what kind of Gucci deals they can find.
Sarcasm is such a dangerous tool Ms. Zellweger. You used it to gently and respectfully share with Taggart that you thought Hastings Street was a blight, but the young blonde weather girl, at first stunned by your reply, quickly recovered by also using sarcasm to distract the audience into thinking something good is happening on Hastings.
You were disarmed by her sweet disposition and played along maybe not fully realizing Taggart’s news media company is an official Olympic partner and supplier, which means her allegiance is to the Olympics. Can you blame her for defending her paycheck?
I understand completely the dynamics and complex issues here, and why you backpedaled Ms. Zellweger. You are an actor and movie producer, and you want people to like you and to like your movies. No harm in that. Who doesn’t want to be liked, but after your very honest sarcastic remark, when you realized Taggart and the Olympic family would not be amused, and only after you realized it was not cool to dis the Olympics, you reluctantly retreated.
It surprised, and disappointed me that you allowed yourself to be pushed into a corner, especially after you came out swinging with such honest intent, but I understand. You were embarrassed.
We all also understand you were on the Regis show to promote your movie, but the unfortunate reality is that your actions have, and will cause many people to be hurt. Local politicians now see how easy it is to manipulate reality, and they will be even more fervent in their plan to bury the Hastings Street issue.
You were actually taking a respectful, diplomatic jab at Vancouver, and maybe even trying to be a good person and share with the world that Hastings Street is a dangerous place that needs compassionate attention, but unfortunately it backfired. I want you to know though, that millions of people in Metro Vancouver feel the same way you do. We are also appalled, and also feel Hastings Street is out of control and that it desperately needs to be fixed instead of sweeping it under the carpet.
In one respect, thank you for bringing to the attention of millions, albeit in a roundabout way, the tragedy of Hastings Street in Vancouver, but in another respect, please clarify yourself and explain to the world what life is really like on Hastings.
Please tell the world what you really meant so the people in Vancouver who really care for the destitute on Hastings Street can gain a little leverage against uncaring Olympic organizations and force them to treat people in the poorest neighborhood in Canada with some respect.
If you allow this charade to continue, you will also hurt thousands of innocent victims caught in the cogs between sport and capitalism, but if you act responsibly you can do a lot of good for humanity.
Sometimes the truth is hard to face, but with your help Vancouver can fix a tragedy that has been too long in the making.
Please DO NOT LOOK THE OTHER WAY, and clarify yourself so people who arrive in Vancouver for the Olympics understand the challenges we face regarding homelessness, mental illness and addictions.
The video below was taped two days
before the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It becomes even more relevant each passing day.
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Own the Podium?
The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the
founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The
most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part,
just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.
The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius,
which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage
athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their
No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country
is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.
The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively
win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute
anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money
In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs
mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.
The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original
Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they
fall incredibly short.
The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and
Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed &
If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate
sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering
that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should
you be edged out of the race?
Move to the starting line.
Own the Podium?
Own Your Home?
Real journalism consists of
what someone doesn't want published,
all the rest is public relations." George Orwell