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W2's Winter Olympics unaccredited media centre opens its doors

At the official opening of the W2 Culture and Media House today, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson stepped on stage and promptly took a photo on his iPhone of the crowd of reporters facing him.

“We’re all media,” he said.

It concisely summed up the role the brand new independent and social media center hopes to play during the Olympic Games. With 24-7 webcasting and satellite distribution systems, digital media labs, and a TV studio, W2 will be the first ever independent social media center created to help non-accredited media journalists and bloggers to cover the Olympics.

“The role of the center is essentially to provide a vehicle for the citizen journalists and independent media to come together and use new technology tools to tell the story. In this case we’re talking about the Olympic Games,” said Irwin Oostindie, executive director of W2.

He hopes such centers will continue to be present at future Olympic Games across the world.

Media outlets such as CNN iReport, CFRO Radio, 24 Hours, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Observer, The Tyee,, will use the W2 complex, as well as bloggers from the UK, Norway, USA, Japan, and the Netherlands. W2 is also providing subsidies to Downtown Eastside community media looking to cover the games from their own perspective.

Morning press briefings from politicians and NGO’s are scheduled at the centre every day during the Olympics to highlight Vancouver's diverse issues.

During the Olympics, W2’s current temporary 13,000 square foot building will also house the legal observers, and an art gallery on the main floor. This summer, W2 will move across the street into the new Woodward’s complex. After the games it will continue to operate as a social media center that provides access to media technology for marginalized populations.

Run by over 180 volunteers, the goal is to empower those populations to become creators of media and arts, rather than just consumers.

“This opportunity of having the Olympics in our city provides W2 with a critical opportunity to demonstrate what we’re going to do as a media community center,” said Oostindie.

At the opening today, Mayor Gregor Robertson applauded W2’s efforts to look at every angle of the Olympic Games, and the evolution of the neighborhood in which it resides.

“The city’s been really proud to support W2 and the whole Woodward's development,” he said, for “representing change, transformation, and revitalization for the Downtown Eastside, but change that embraces the community, that respects and engages the community. W2 is a world class example of the turning into a reality.”

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

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