Protesters Prepare For Vancouver Games

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Protesters are demonstrating against a range of issues, including the security at the Olympic Games and its cost, ahead of the event that begins Friday in Vancouver. They had little impact on Friday.


And to NPR's Martin Kaste now. He is in downtown Vancouver where protesters are promised to disrupt the last stage of the torch relay and march to the site of the opening ceremony.

Martin, have the protesters been successful so far in disrupting things today?

MARTIN KASTE: Not really, Melissa. I mean they're definitely - they've been out today as the torch has sort of wended its way around the city here. But only in one spot did they really get in the way and the organizers delayed things slightly and then moved around them, sort of re-routed their plan. The real test that is going to come later here because the protesters are still sort of getting together for this march later in the day. But so far, no, the Olympic organizers, I think, are pretty satisfied that they managed to get the torch through the city without greater incident.

BLOCK: And these same protest groups have hinted that they might also try to disrupt the Games themselves. What are they protesting exactly?

KASTE: It's a series of things. Their big themes right now, here in Vancouver especially, are homelessness and poverty. Vancouver has a, for Canada, very bad homelessness problem. The number of homeless has been growing rapidly in the last few years. And so there's a lot of upset among some groups here that the province of British Columbia has spent far too much money preparing for the Olympics and not enough on what Canadians call social housing, which is basically subsidized housing, that sort of thing. Other themes here too there are environmental groups who are very angry about the tar sands development, basically the process of turning tar sands into petroleum in the Canadian West. They say that's environmentally disastrous and very bad for global warming. There's sort of a general opposition here to what's perceived, by them at least, as a very corporate event, this Olympic Games, and they don't like it.

BLOCK: Do you think this protest movement is big enough to actually disrupt the Games?

KASTE: Well, for the last couple of years here in Vancouver, every time I come up here, I've definitely noticed their presence, a lot of fliers, a lot of posters, a lot of sympathy when you talk to people, even those who aren't necessarily participating in the protest. Whether or not they have the numbers to stop things here in anyway, you know, a la Seattle 10 years ago at the WTO, it remains to be seen. They've told that they've had some buses of people coming in from other parts of the country, maybe even from the U.S. But really I think the proof will be later today to see if their main protest march here gathers the kind of numbers that would be required really to cause problems for the organizers here.

BLOCK: Okay, Martin, thanks very much.

KASTE: You're welcome.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Martin Kaste in Vancouver.

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