By Terri Theodore
"We've taken it as one of our goals and one of our responsibilities, frankly, in staging the Games to make sure that we were always considering what we could do to help those who are less advantaged here in the city," Renee Smith-Valade, chief spokeswoman for the committee, known as VANOC, has said.
"So we put together a comprehensive plan under our sustainability program that looked at not only our sustainability from the platforms that perhaps more people are used to, environmental and cultural, but also social sustainability."
Everything from homelessness to the environment is on the Olympic agenda for these Games—sometimes providing a lightning rod for critics who say Olympic organizers have failed to meet those goals or have even made things worse.
"You know the IOC will be gone, VANOC will be disbanded, but all of us will be left with a massive debt, a security legacy and increased police presence and more people still on the street."
John Rennie Short, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, has followed the legacies of several Olympic Games.
Short said it's hard to say if the Games will be good or bad for the city because cost-benefit studies are "in the realm of fiction" and have only been done by people who want to promote the Games.
And not just more money. More places at national and international negotiations. More discussion of how climate change affects you. More educational curricula and entertainment programming about you. Etc.
These things, in turn, will lead to more tangible benefits. Because businesses and government agencies are more aware of you, they'll include you in their thinking and planning. That will generate more jobs, schools, and health-care clinics.
Blacks provide an example
For a related example, consider the Civil Rights movement. Blacks didn't march to integrate particular drinking fountains and diner counters one by one. They marched to raise the public's awareness of their inferior status--of the laws and traditions making them second-class citizens.
That's why people like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Rosa Parks were so important: for their symbolic value. They proved that blacks could demand and do as much as whites. They caused whites to see them in a new light.
Once blacks raised awareness of their plight, people started challenging the laws and traditions. Eventually the drinking fountains or diner counters--and a million other things, too--became integrated. So blacks succeeded by tackling America's cultural mindset first. Once that started shifting, it rippled through society as a myriad of small changes.
For more on the subject, see Natives Are Winners at 2010 Olympics and Native Buzz at 2010 Olympics.