The grey overcast days hanging over Vancouver seem almost fitting for the final days before Vancouver throws the biggest party in its history. The air is hardly thick with excitement. Rather, the city seems stuck in neutral.
Sure, the streets downtown are starting to fill up with people speaking in several tongues. Restaurant tables are getting harder to come by. Yet overall, the busyness is not translating into buzz. There is the distinct possibility that Vancouver could lay an egg in February, instead of exciting the globe.
My friend Wayne Hartrick, a reputation and public relations expert who has recently traveled abroad, seems to have the same feeling in his gut. He wrote this in the Vancouver Sun yesterday:
With mere weeks before the Opening Ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics, there is scant visible evidence that Vancouver has any of the expected spirit, "Rah Rah" or party atmosphere befitting what will be the biggest celebration on the planet.
I returned to Vancouver after vacation this week expecting to see the city festooned with Olympic bling — flags, the iconic intertwined Olympic rings, banners, balloons — and buzz on the streets.
Little bling. Few rings. Low buzz.
Yes, there are tidbits of the Games — the big rings in the harbour and at the airport, a flag over city hall — but hardly the fanfare that one might expect with days to go. Even the Olympic graphics on the new Convention Centre are subdued, and you have to look hard for the Olympic rings.
There are probably hundreds of decisions that have factored into our sleepwalking toward 2010. For example VANOC, bound by the protocols of the IOC, have managed the Games' operations with an iron grip. Decision-making loops suffocate spontaneity, and the chain of command is always evident in any public pronouncements. While the public relations staff of VANOC seem competent, they were ill-cast for this project. The truth is – they're boring. They're managing the message rather than selling the sizzle.
The Province deserves its share for our Olympic-grade somnambulism. It would appear that the Games was managed tightly by bureaucrats, instead of carnival barkers as it should have. If you want to put on a great show, you put it in the hands of the best agents and producers, not Deputy Ministers. You need P Diddy, not the Public Affairs Bureau.
To their great credit, Premier Campbell and John Furlong both are running a marathon at this moment. Campbell is following the Torch Relay like his life depends upon it. He's stumping in every town on the route, getting crowds pumped up until he's hoarse.
Furlong is carrying the weight of the Earth on his back and managing it with extreme grace. John deserves praise for keeping this whole mad enterprise from imploding a million times over the last few years.
If there is one person who should shoulder the blame for a 2010 bust, it's Vancouver's aimless Mayor. Gregor Robertson cycles from media op to media op like someone running afternoon errands. This guy stepped off a jet back in October with the Olympic flame, and he should have started the sprint of his life at that point. instead, Robertson has stumbled out of the gate.
Robertson has been nearly invisible for the past several months. It's painfully obvious he doesn't realize it's showtime. On Monday's CTV News broadcast which showed that Vancouver's taxi industry is woefully ill-prepared for the onslaught of Olympics travelers, Robertson's response was "yeah, we better look into that one." Pathetic.
Instead of holidaying in the States over Christmas with his wife's family, Robertson should have dug his heels in to try and get Vancouver excited about the Games. So unsure of his own steps, he's relying upon his Minister of Everything Geoff Meggs to handle all major files, while his Chief of Staff Mike Magee makes him dance like a marionette. Robertson has abdicated responsibility for leading Vancouver to his political backroom.
Seriously, if you want a great Games then give the reigns to someone who gives a crap. Look at 2010VanFan, the Games blogger extraordinaire. Daniel and I have created a comprehensive 2010 Free Events Guide off the sides of our desks, and we're getting 25,000 page views per day. It wasn't rocket science to understand that most of us can't afford to attend Olympic events, but want to enjoy the party. How come bloggers are the ones making things happen?
It seems like ages ago that I received an invite by email to attend the sneak peek opening of the new Olympic Centre at Hillcrest Park. From 5pm onward last February 29th the public were welcomed to visit this brand new building where the curling competition will take place. My family and I arrived near the opening and the facility was packed. There was an immense buzz that evening that revealed to me that Vancouver really wants to embrace these Games. When we left a half-hour later there was a line-up down the block to get inside.
Last August we began to write about the fact Vancouver was not doing enough to build excitement for the Games. Our comments were poo-pooed by those who said we don't want the excitement to peak too early.
Well, we're seventeen days away from the Games. Do you think we could maybe do something now to get folks fired up?