Uh oh! Our dirty little secret is out. The BBC, along with the rest of the world, is in town to report on the 2010 Winter Olympics but one of their reporters must have wandered into the east end. The report on the BBC News web site, which refers to Vancouver as Drug Central of North America, outlines the problems in Canada’s poorest, drug soaked neighbourhood.
The BBC reporter, Rajesh Mirchandani, mentions the drugs, the addicts, the prostitutes and, of course, the violent crime. The first four paragraphs of his report sum it all up:
As Vancouver prepares to host the Winter Olympics, the city continues to struggle with a vicious drugs war. Dozens have been killed in escalating turf battles that have spread far beyond the city limits. But it is a war that has its roots even further away, in Mexico.
It rains a lot in Vancouver, but this city’s ambition will not be dampened. Olympic organisers have spent nearly $2bn (US$1.87bn; £1.2bn) to showcase a confident, modern metropolis to the world.
But barely a mile from the gleaming stadium that will host the opening ceremony, there is another Vancouver no-one is proud of.
The Downtown Eastside is a clump of rundown hotels and liquor stores. It is teeming with pushers, pimps and prostitutes, and home to one of the worst drug problems in North America.
Not a terribly flattering view of Vancouver’s seedy underbelly, huh? But we all knew that the chances of a bored reporter looking for a good story before the games might wander into the shameful section of downtown Vancouver. How will this affect our reputation in spite of the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on promoting our city as the most livable in the world? And what are the chances that other reporters will submit similar stories to their respective countries TV stations, newspapers and magazines? Who knows but would you visit a city with the problems reported on the BBC web site? Not this tourist.