The Guardian February 23, 2000


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.

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