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Poet Slams VANOC Paralympic transportation system

*Story updated at 8:35 a.m., March 20.

VANOC should be ashamed for their organization of the Paralympic transportation, a poet assigned to cover the Olympic and Paralympic Games wrote recently.

In two blog posts for the Literary Review of Canada, Priscila Uppal said the earliest Greyhound bus to Whistler was often late, which meant missing the start (or all) of an event, and that Greyhound didn't appear to be ready to accommodate people in wheelchairs.

Uppal is the poet-in-residence for the Canadian Athletes Now Fund during the Olympics and Paralympics

She blamed the problems on VANOC's decision not run the Olympic bus network, which forced those without cars to rely instead on Greyhound.

Here's how she described her third attempt at getting to Whistler:

"The last two times I have taken the bus to Whistler, the bus has been late, once by 15 minutes and once by 35-40 minutes. While this may not seem like a long delay, for those attending the Paralympic Games at Whistler Creekside or Whistler Paralympic Park, this means one might miss the start of the event, if not entire competition fields, as is what happened today."

"I asked the woman at the counter, Will this bus actually leave on time today? I was told yes. Yesterday, apparently the bus was faulty. A new bus had to be found. Shouldn’t someone have checked the bus earlier? I asked. The 6:30am bus is the only bus that can get spectators to the Whistler games on time. Shouldn’t they be concerned about this? I was informed that during the Olympics 98% of their buses ran on time. OK, so you’re now zero for two for the Paralympics.

"Let's make that zero for three. Today, my fellow passengers and I waited over 2 hours for a bus we were told would be here any minute. (Please keep in mind that we are waiting outside, and have been since about 5:45am.) The problem: two passengers (one of whom told us he’d made his reservation days ago, indicating that a wheelchair accessible bus would be required for his trip) who would require wheelchair accessibility, and no accessible bus available."

Uppal went on to ask:

"Does no one seem to realize that because VANOC has refused to offer the Olympic bus network to venues for the Paralympic Games, this 6:30am Greyhound is one of the only options for those staying in Vancouver, another location of the games, to get to Whistler, and you don’t have a wheelchair accessible bus available?"

And then later in the piece:

"The most heartbreaking scene: an entire Japanese fan-club, in face-paint and full national wear, was waiting for the bus. The boy who spoke English told us his father was competing this morning. He very well might have missed seeing his father ski, as our 6:30am bus did not leave until 8:30am, and did not arrive at Creekside until 10:30am (and then one needs to walk to the venue, up a hill, and then take a chair-lift to the stands). This is ridiculous. And despicable."

"We told the manager so, who assures us that he does not want a black stain on Greyhound’s record, and therefore the 6:30am bus tomorrow will run at 6:30am and that they will order more accessible buses from Seattle for the rest of the week. We are also all receiving refunds for today’s trip. Of course, as many of us said, the money isn’t the point. The point is VANOC and Greyhound both dropped the ball and both, particularly VANOC, should be embarrassed by their treatment of Paralympic athletes and spectators."

The next day, Uppal told The Tyee in an email, the bus left 40 minutes late and was still not wheelchair-accessible. Greyhound hired a taxi to take one paraplegic fan to Whistler.*

Uppal, who otherwise blogged enthusiastically about the athletes and events, said her fellow Greyhound passengers urged her to write about "VANOC's abandonment of the Paralympics and their fans."

According to the description at the top of the blog, "Through dispatches and poetry for the LRC, Priscila [Uppal] will blog about her experiences there and at the Arctic Games in Grande Prairie, Alberta. She is the editor of The Exile Book of Canadian Sports Stories and author of the Griffin Poetry Prize-nominated Ontological Necessities."

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