Are busy west coast residents bored of the Olympics? Or will they finally begin to embrace the Games over the coming weeks?
Over the last couple of months the Olympic torch has made its way back from Greece and started the long trek to BC Place for the opening ceremonies on February 12th. Regardless of which city the torch has visited, it seems to have caught the imagination of locals. Even Toronto caught on to the spirit last week when thousands of ordinary citizens lined the streets to welcome the Vancouver 2010 torch as it wound its way through Hogtown. For the folks over at VANOC, all that cheering and boosterism is music (and money) to their ears.
On the west coast things are much more subdued in their tone. The look and feel of the city remains relatively unchanged and provides us with few hints the city is about to host the world's largest event in a few weeks. Sure, a few building wraps are starting to go up and venues are being constructed, but the general mood of the city remains one of apathy. Actually, you could describe the mood more like a grudging acceptance rather than a roll out the red carpet.
My colleague Mike Klassen wrote a great post last summer about how Vancouver was sleepwalking its way to the Games. I would argue that not much has changed since then. Whether it's because of all those anti-Olympic poverty protesters or the fact we initially risked hosting the Games by holding a referendum, Vancouverites are simply not demonstrating the Olympic spirit. Well if not now, will we ever be?
Why is it that so many other Canadians appear touched and excited by the fact the Games are coming to Canada while Vancouverites appear so nonchalant? In my own personal focus group conducted during the Christmas cocktail circuit, I compiled a list of reasons why people feel there is such a blasé attitude toward the Games. In no particular order, they include:
- One gentleman said he was "Olympicked out" He claims to have been listening to all this Olympic stuff for the last seven years and has simply had enough.
- Some folks complain they never made the kind of money they thought they would through the rental of their home or Whistler cabin. The price for rentals has been dropping faster than the temperature in Whistler lately.
- There are those that claim there was no place to celebrate the spirit citing that they can't find out about a single pre-Olympic related event.
- Many people complain the Games are just for the rich and they are going to inconvenience everyone unnecessarily. High ticket prices are cited.
- Some mentioned they've been paying through the nose to host these Games and the tax dollars could have been used to fund health care and education. On principle, they're not going to support the Games.
Regardless of which excuse I've heard, there is clearly a lot of work to do if Vancouverites are going to become serious Olympic boosters in the coming weeks. They certainly won't get any help from the Olympic averse Vision Vancouver council.
Meanwhile, over at VANOC HQ they're not worried on bit. They are convinced that when the torch arrives that everything will change and people will begin to get excited. Let's hope for the sake of the Games they're right.
We're down to the dying days before Vancouver becomes the centre of world attention. Before we know it the final ceremonies will be over and the torch will be snuffed out. As the look and feel of the city begins to transform over the coming weeks, I'm pretty confident the level of excitement will grow.
Whether or not the level of excitement will ever reach Calgary '88 proportions remains to be seen. An archived CBC National report broadcast on Feb. 13, 1987 helps to remind us how the Winter Games were celebrated by the Host City the last time they were in Canada:
The XV Winter Olympics is still a full year away but the city of Calgary can't contain its excitement. A parade, a children's choir and a town crier all help mark the one-year countdown to the biggest event the city has ever known. Organizers hope the 1988 Calgary Games will catapult this pocket of Western Canada into the international spotlight, reports CBC Television. Calgary has been preparing for the Games since winning the bid to host it back in 1981
A reminder to all of our readers that we have added a new link on our blog which provides you with Google Maps, hours of operation and other cool information about all of the free Olympic related events and venues. If you're a local, be sure to send this link to your family and friends if they are planning on coming to Vancouver for the Games.
You can also check out our new online poll on this subject and let us know how you think Vancouverites are embracing the 2010 Winter Games.
- Post by Daniel