Will Vancouver be awash in yellow umbrellas for the Olympics?
For the last couple of years, I've paid a little more attention to weather conditions between Feb 12-28. If you're wondering why, it's because those will be the dates Vancouver hosts the 2010 Olympic Games. It will be our time to shine...so to speak.
In 2007 and 2008, the weather patterns were actually quite favourable if Vancouver had wanted to show off its best side. There was an abundance of sunny mild days, alongside a few cloudy and rainy ones. Will Vancouver be so lucky as to have nice February weather three years in a row? If the answer is no, are we prepared for the ramifications?
There will be 10,000 accredited journalists descending on Metro Vancouver in less than a year from now. They are coming to witness what is the premiere spectacle for winter sport. I would venture to guess, a majority of them will be stepping foot on Vancouver soil for the first time.
Now imagine that a big Alaskan low pressure system parks itself off of the coast of Vancouver Island for 17 days and dumps buckets of rain on Vancouver during the Olympics. Any bets on how many of those 10,000 journalists are going to report the Host City is one big sog fest?
So much has gone into preparing the City for the Games. Whether it's security, transportation planning, outdoor celebration centres or venue construction, officials have been working their tails off for seven years to get the City ready for 2010. The only thing they can't control is Vancouver's winter weather.
One of the things I urged officials to plan for during my time at City Hall was the possibility that it might actually rain for the 17 days of the Games. If you've ever lived in Vancouver, you know exactly the kind of weather I'm worried about. It's the low hanging cloud, the dampness that works its way to the bone and the shroud of 'greyness' that falls over the city.
My view has been that we should plan to celebrate the rain and the benefits it provides to our community. What benefits you say? How about smog-free air, a rainforest on our doorstep, clean and pristine drinking water to name but a few.
Yes, celebrating the Olympic Games in a downpour will be a challenge, but we had better be up to it. Otherwise, you'll begin seeing reports streaming over the airwaves about how miserable the weather is in Vancouver and how it's put a "damper" on the festivities.
I can just hear the interviews on NBC now.
NBC Reporter - "Mam, how do you think the rainy weather is impacting the Games and your Olympic experience?"
Tourist from California - "This is just miserable, I had expected less rain, and more snow. It kind of puts a damper on everything."
This is certainly not the kind of publicity Tourism Vancouver wants when the world arrives. However, I think there are ways we can collectively limit this type of bad press.
How about if everyone in Vancouver were to purchase bright yellow umbrellas that could be pulled out if (when) it rains. On one side could be the Olympic rings, on the other a slogan that read "We Love the Rain...Really".
Could you imagine what a sea of bright, cheerful yellow umbrellas would do to help lift the spirits of an otherwised dark, grey streetscape? 10,000 of these puppies making there way along Granville Street would make for some sight! It would also send a clear message that Vancouverites are not afraid of the rain, rather we're embracing and celebrating it!
If you go to IKEA, they sell big umbrellas for only a couple of bucks. Surely VANOC could find a way of ordering a bunch of these collector umbrellas and challenge all of us to buy one and pull it out when it rains. Not having to see a single gloomy black umbrella on Vancouver's streets during the Games would help to make the Vancouver Olympic experience that much more unique.
For those who don't want to purchase a yellow umbrella, why not pull out your blue, red or green one to match the Olympic colours? Okay I realize black is also an Olympic colour, but I'm asking you to work with me on this one.
Here's hoping for nice weather for the Olympics next year. But just in case, let's hope there is a backup plan to make sure we celebrate the rain and all the benefits it has to offer. I for one already have my yellow umbrella on order.