Cheers or Jeers

TWU anthropology student Meredith Overmyer surveys a Downtown Eastside resident on issues concerning the Olympics.

In February and March the world will come to Metro Vancouver and Whistler to celebrate the 2010 Olympic Games. And whether you are a proponent or not of the games you inevitably will be affected by some element of the events. This fact was the basis for a survey that a group of anthropology students from Trinity Western University conducted hoping that the information they gathered from the public will provide future Olympic organizations with feedback on what VANOC and planners could have done better to prepare their citizens for the Games. The survey reflects opinions of a random selection of people and their concerns and expectations toward the Olympics

Spearheading the survey was Professor of Anthropology Claudia Launhardt who frequently encourages her class to conduct these types of surveys, giving them practical experience to compliment what they learn in the classroom. “An important part of the discipline of Cultural Anthropology is direct field research. Introducing students to methods and trends of ethnographic fieldwork whereby they acquire skills in gathering data, analyzing and interpreting - it is a critical part of the curriculum,” says Launhardt.

The class, comprised of 24 students, polled 350 people from varying  geographical locations in Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.  Over the course of the six week study, the students asked questions concerning the upcoming Games, specifically on people’s expectations and the impact the Olympics are having on their communities.

One of the goals of the survey, which will be presented to the City of Vancouver Olympic Operations on Monday November 30th, was to find out if people living in different geographical areas share the same opinions and/or concerns on the games, or if it differs from location to location. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – almost ground zero for the games – was a big part of the survey.

Launhardt says, “The Downtown Eastside is not only geographically close to Olympic venues but it is a population that is normally not included nor invited to submit decisions regarding big events like the Olympics. Residents in  other areas of Metro Vancouver were  consulted but the people in the Downtown Eastside were left out in the process.”

For first-year International Studies major Meredith Overmyer being given the opportunity to do a survey such as this in her early undergrad was exciting. As an American, the New Hampshire resident would not normally have much involvement with the Olympics nor understand the political climate of the games. She says, “I’ve now learned about how the Olympic committee works, and while there is an element of excitement and many positive things regarding the Olympics, there is at the same time a lot of negative things that affect people in the areas in which they live. I never really gave much attention to it before.”

Sarah Nielson from Duncan was a bit surprised about the difficulty of completing a survey such as this. “When I started to actually do the survey and compile the results and I realized that this is a lot of work, a lot of work I’ve never done before, like stats and such, so it’s definitely been a new experience,” says the forth-year art major. “I can definitely see myself doing cross cultural work and this experience is very applicable to what I may end up doing in the future.”

For 19-year-old Richmond resident Emma Hansen, the process of doing the survey taught her more about herself than she was expecting. She says, “When you are doing these surveys you can bring a lot of personal biases into the process. So some people will say they aren’t excited for the Olympics and you think ‘well that’s not right,’ but you don’t understand where they are coming from, so I’m learning a lot about how your own world views can come into play.”

And surveying Vancouver’s downtown eastside was pivotal in her learning experience. Hansen says, “I never really thought about the Downtown Eastside’s view of things and I was just excited about the Games. And being in Richmond, we get the Olympic Oval and a lot of benefits so it’s changed me to think about how all of this affects other people aside from us.”

Says Launhardt, “When we are talking about a unified society we have to include the Downtown Eastside population. -  they are the ones who will be impacted that much more than those that live in the suburbs. Their challenges concerning homelessness, and the costs of the games, will still be evident long after the games have come and gone.  

While the full survey and results can be read online at http://www.twu.ca/about/news/general/2009/olympic-survey-2009.pdf four major concerns consistent among geographical locations were: traffic, the overall cost of the games, hike in taxes, and increased homelessness.

Overmyer says, “I had no idea what was all involved when I first signed up for this course. But when I first heard that we would be conducting a survey I was really excited because it’s something unique and it’s something that can affect things – it’s not just a term paper.”

Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C., is a provincially chartered, independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university, enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 42 undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include nursing, counseling psychology, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.

 

Last Updated: 2010-01-04
Author: Eri