Olympic campaign for the battlers
A campaign to "get the Olympics on track" has been launched by the Olympic Impact Coalition, formed just two weeks ago. One of its first activities was a successful rally held outside SOCOG headquarters in Sydney where a three-day meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was taking place. Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon told The Guardian, "The Coalition brings together a range of organisations that have concerns about the Olympics... the Greens, NSW Council of Social Services, Copwatch NSW, Justice Action, Bankstown Bushland Society, Bondi Olympic Watch, Rentwatchers, National Union of Students, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Community Law and Legal Research Centre, Greens Games Watch... [more organisations are joining as the campaign progresses] so there are locally-based groups as well as groups with a view on wider issues. "We're taking up issues to do with police powers, homelessness, the pressure the Olympics will put on the state budget. "Those organisations came together and drew up a statement which included both a `score card' of how the Olympics are going so the IOC will have more realistic material about what the Olympics are doing to Sydney, and also a list of demands." At the top of the list of concerns is the plight of Sydney's homeless who are facing the prospect of being forcibly removed from city streets, and low-income renters and people in boarding houses who will face evictions by landlords wishing to charge exorbitant rents during the Games. Another issue of prominent concern is that working class Australians will foot the bill for the Games and there will be less money to spend where the working class needs it: on public hospitals, schools, transport and welfare and community services. Ms Rhiannon said that the reason the Coalition was formed was because there is a genuine need for action in the interests of disadvantaged people. "Just look at the range of groups that signed on to the statement; the fact that you've got the Salvation Army to Copwatch to everybody in between shows how serious the present situation is for disadvantaged people in NSW and how their life had been made worse because of the Olympics". Ms Rhiannon said the Coalition's aim is more than just building awareness among the wider Australian community of the negative impacts of the Olympics for disadvantaged Australians; the aim was to get SOCOG to adhere to the IOC charter which stipulates that the host nation creates no negative impacts for its society by hosting the Olympics. Director of the NSW Council of Social Services, Gary Moore, said, "The IOC will be urged to seek a NSW Government agreement to legislate the tenancy protection of boarders and lodgers when State Parliament resumes in April and to upgrade protection for tenants. Speaking at the rally last week, Mr Moore expressed concerns about transport for ordinary Australians in need: "Western Sydney and regional NSW must not lose their public, passenger transport because 3,500 buses are being commandeered for the Olympics. "Equally, aged pensioners and people with disabilities must still get their meals, home help and medications, irrespective of transport gridlock during the Games." Greens MLC Ian Cohen spoke about the lack of action from the NSW Government over the issue of homelessness: "The Greens moved a Private Members Bill that would have resolved a great deal for low income earners. It was ignored by the Government and Opposition alike. "This Bill would have protected tenants from unscrupulous landlords at a time of shortage of rented properties. This is the last chance for the Government to fast track legislation to solve this problem." The rally held its own Olympic events such as the Pre-Olympic VIP (Volleyball in Inappropriate Places) and a medal ceremony for landlords in the Race for Housing.