Down to the Wire

As I write this, there are only nine days left before I fly out to Vancouver to begin my Journalism Dream. The whole thing is still feeling oddly dreamlike but, as pieces fall into place, it is getting more and more real and more and more exciting.

Yesterday I received my official media accreditation approval. ACK!! This is so big for me. With this accreditation I am able to access a huge amount of resources being provided to the global print and broadcast journalists. There is a massive media centre located at the Robson Square Plaza, right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The International Media Centre will become a second home for me, I think.

Today I received my airline e-tickets; they are finally in my hot little hand so there is no stopping me now! All that is left, as far as “the winnings” goodies go, are the event tickets, the laptop and the cha-ching. All are to arrive in the next couple of days, well ahead of the departure.

I am plotting out some story ideas ahead of time. One advantage to having media accreditation is access to University of British Columbia professors, who are available to 2010 media for expert commentary on a wide range of Winter Games-related topics including:

* Sports Science, Technology and Doping
* Security & Law
* Business, Economics and Marketing
* Transportation
* Sustainable Cities
* Olympic and Paralympic History
* Social Issues
* Vancouver, B.C.
* Canada’s First Nations

I have a huge interest in Social Issues, particularly in relation to the population of Vancouver’s downtown lower east side. This area and it’s people have been demonized, marginalized and, for the longest time, ignored. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend an author’s event featuring Dr. Gabor Maté. Currently he is the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and resource centre for the people of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Many of his patients suffer from mental illness, drug addiction, HIV or all three. Dr. Gabor Maté is the author of four books — When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, and Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. The third book, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, he co-authored with developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld. Most recently published is In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. It was this last book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Maté spoke about and read from during the event I attended.

He is an extraordinary man with an almost unimaginable degree of empathy, outside-of-the-box thinking and compassion. Dr. Maté was crucial to the creation and ongoing work of Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection site. Since opening its doors in 2003, Insite has been a safe, health-focused place where people can go to inject drugs and connect to health care services – from primary care to treat disease and infection, to addiction counselling and treatment. Insite is an integral part of Vancouver Coastal Health’s continuum of care for people with addiction, mental illness and HIV/AIDS in the community. Insite currently operates under a constitutional exception to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The BC Ministry of Health provides operational funding for Insite through Vancouver Coastal Health. This project, while very controversial, has seen positive outcomes within the population it serves. Many critics focus on only the injection component of the clinic, overlooking the many other important service Insite provides to its clients.

While not particularly relative to the Olympics, as a community within the municipal boundaries of metropolitan Vancouver I have a specific interest in what organizers and government officials are doing concerning the downtown lower east side during the run of the Olympics. While I may not get a chance to have a story about this subject printed in February, there may be an opportunity to bring more awareness about the area down the road.