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Mayor Robertson unfazed by negative media attention

Vancouver’s mayor brandished a Canadian flag and grinned like it was his birthday at a lunch-time pep rally for the 2010 Games.

“In one week, three billion people will be tuned into Vancouver watching our every move,” he told a crowd of cheering hundreds at the Robson Square skating rink. “This is our chance to make our mark.”

With many foreign media already walking Vancouver streets, it would appear the world has already tuned in, and not everything it sees is positive. The New York Times just published an in-depth look at the Downtown Eastside -- drugs, poverty, fights and insanity.

“By bidding for the Olympics, Vancouver invited the world to visit,” reads today’s story. “Now city officials are trying to redirect the international news media spotlight from this blighted neighbourhood in the shadows of the picturesque North Shore Mountains.”

The Times quoted other recent foreign media descriptions. “North America’s festering sore,” wrote the Sunday Times of Australia. “Notoriously squalid and poverty-stricken,” the Daily News of Egypt offered.

Mayor Robertson’s smile didn’t sink an inch when asked about the negative depictions.

“We expected a wide range of coverage about Vancouver,” he said. “We have our problems like every big city. We don’t mind drawing attention to those challenges and trying to rally support to solve them in the years ahead.”

The city recently opened an information centre about the Downtown Eastside in conjunction with the province. The Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers are corporate sponsors, the Tyee recently reported.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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