Hillsdon on LiveCity security: an open letter to Vancouver

Post by Paul Hillsdon in ,


Restricted items list for LiveCity Vancouver
Restricted items for Vancouver's LiveCity venues – click for larger

CityCaucus.com is pleased to welcome blogger Paul Hillsdon for this guest editorial...
As we reach the midpoint of the Olympics, I think it's appropriate to say that we've launched the Games off to a resounding success. The city is abuzz with energy, fervour, and pride unlike anything we've ever seen. Although there have been bumps along the way, the powers that be have made tremendous efforts to quickly put out potential fires.

Case in point? The Olympic cauldron, locked away from the people by a grungy chain-link fence. Calls to "tear down the fence" were heard, and VANOC recently made appropriate and timely changes to allow the public a closer look and better photographic view.

However, the single largest failure of these Olympics so far, from the point of view of a non-ticket holding, pavilion touring Joe-schmo, are the City of Vancouver's LiveCity sites.

These sites were designed to be lively gathering places where the public could congregate to watch the Games, celebrate victories, and enjoy some entertainment. The concept was fantastic - the execution, utterly dismal.

Both LiveCity sites, one in David Lam Park in Yaletown, the other on the old bus lot near QE Theatre on Georgia, are locked away from the public by extra high fences, security personnel, and metal detectors. You are not allowed to bring in food, drinks, or large umbrellas - particularly frustrating when it is raining. Meanwhile, most of the organized activities inside the LiveCity sites are disappointing, hardly worthy of the time spent in the long lineups to get in!

Contrast LiveCity to the glorious Robson Square, handled spectacularly by the Provincial Government, which has undoubtedly become "the" gathering place for the public during these Games. Robson Square is a large space, with a vast array of free activities for all ages - from skating and ziptreking, to street performers, interactive exhibits, and large live TVs - all throughout the day and night. Perhaps the best part though is how accessible it is. Despite having so many people doing so many things in one place, there are no gates keeping people out or security guards in your face.

This situation repeats itself in nearly all the pavilions around town. From the Four Host First Nations to Canada's Northern House, these pavilions are not gated off with metal detectors, or demanding people's jackets and bags be checked before entry. And yet, aren't these all just as big of a security threat as the LiveCity sites are?

The double standard is the most frustrating part. There is no obvious reason why security is so high in LiveCity, and yet nearly non-existent (or at least hidden) in the rest of downtown. When children are being patted down by guards without any sufficient rationale, something is most definitely wrong.

And so, I call upon Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Manager Penny Ballem to please, set the situation straight, and open up the LiveCity sites. Remove the metal detectors, shift staff focus to crowd control, and let us enjoy everything LiveCity has to offer. Failing to do so will ultimately be detrimental to both the City and its LiveCity sponsors, as the celebration will simply move elsewhere.

- post by Paul Hillsdon. You can read Paul at his personal blog, and his blog about Surrey, BC.


Mayor Robinson, these are the walls you should be tearing down!

LiveCity Yaletown has been pretty happening, LiveCity Downtown, by the library, was pretty dead last night, and it was a Friday! No wonder, the word has gotten out about what's it's like.

It's got our ten-million dollar Canada house embarrassment, a small beer tent while much of the site is empty or blocked off and no outdoor stage. It should be called the LameCity venue. Don't blame poor Manitoba house, you can't expect them to save this sinking ship by themselves.

Security to get in this place?? They should put the security on the way out instead. That's the only way they'll keep a crowd in this place.

Well spoken. You see boisterous, energetic crowds at Robson Square, but nothing out of hand, no one doing anything harmful to the public nor damage to property. So why all the fencing and security around LiveCity venues? Definitely, thumbs down to the City of Vancouver for poor execution of LiveCity.

Halelujah! Finally someone speaks common sense on this. The live city security is a huge embarrassment to Vancouver. Having the Berlin wall surround what was supposed to be a family fun zone is nothing short of ludicrous. The mayor should hang his head in shame for approving this. Is it really him that approved this?? Or perhaps the city manager?? Regardless, the whole chain link fencing and airport security are WAY OVER THE TOP. I'll still to Robson Square and have fun without getting felt up by the $8 per hour security guards. Thank you very much.

Great article and great call! Robson Square makes it obvious that all of the ludicrous barriers are needless - and worse, are endangering visitors! Nineteen young people attending Tuesday night's concert were injured - nine hospitalized, two with broken legs - with no apology or changes.

How often are nineteen people injured on a city property without a proper investigation and engineering changes to ensure it doesn't happen again?

Instead of ignoring their very real pain, Dr. Ballem would better spend her time apologizing to the children injured at a city event, and ensuring this disaster won't happen again instead of simply repeating false assurances that everything at David Lam is safe ...

As one eyewitness reported: :"there was a bent and broken barrier - the one holding the front row back... I believe that would be the organizers fault. You need to think about the mentality of the crowd, no one at the back knows what is going on at the front... but there was no chaos... the crowd backed off and dispersed without incident - in fact they seemed somber at the idea of someone being injured.

"If I had to blame anyone it would be the organizers and the equipment company. I felt the crowd was calm and in control despite the shoddy and laughable security. You can't expect the crowd to NOT get excited - Alexisonfire is a large act... there were ALOT of people there. I was surprised at how well behaved they were to be truthful. Lets hope that the organizers do a better job tomorrow. On a side note - what a bummer to wait 4 hours in the cold and spend so much money on dinner inside livecity... only to be sent home."

A local concert promoter had this to say: "This is a bloody outrage. I am a professional producer with 20 years experience in Rock Concert productions and I have been fully trained in crowd control dynamics by EPP in the UK. What the hell is going on with the organisation. This was not a professional Mojo crowd control barrier, whoever advanced the production for this show should be hung out to dry. This is shocking and you guys are so lucky that someone was not killed. The H&S standards here are woefull."

ya livecity is terrible, i'm a diehard deadmau5 fan, so i bring my Mau5head which everyone wears at shows, the security goof said if i wear it i get kicked out, i asked him why? and he was being a huge dick about it, then he said its a disguise and this is an olympic venue, and hes lke you wear it your outta here, i got kinda pissed at him, then he says one more word and your out, i was pretty pissed at this guy he thought he had all the authoirty in the world but as you see your running security at livecity LOL. Hope you read this you piece of shit.

I have posted this comment before, but just in case you haven't read it...

For those that still believe the fencing around the live sites is for our security, here are a few stats:

Capacity of LiveCity Downtown: 3000
Capacity of LiveCity Yaletown: 10,000

Canada Day 2009 saw 145,000 descend on Canada Place. No fence, no metal detectors, no frisking required.

Festival of Lights 2009 brought 1.4 million to the beaches and streets of Vancouver over the 4 nights. No fence, no metal detectors, no frisking required.

In 2007, the skytrain transported an average of 271,000 passengers per day. In 2009 the Canada Line transported a further 93,000 passengers per day. No fence, no metal detectors, no frisking required.

This Friday, the opening day of the games, 12,000 pedestrians and 4000 cyclists crossed the Burrard, Cambie, and Granville bridges. No fence, no metal detectors, and no frisking required.

Security? Really? If this were truly the case, surely it would be venue wide and would include high capacity areas such as public transportation, bridges, Robson Street...

I have no problem with checks looking for alcohol, making sure we're not taking outside food and drink, and other common place checks that you would expect going into a concert or sporting venue. I DO have a problem with being told that the checks are for MY security when, in actual fact, security has very little to do with it!

I have gone through the LiveCity Yaletown security on two occasions and both times it was quick and painless with no pat-downs.

Yes, the lineups can grow quite large, but they usually move quite quickly.

Yes, the sites have limited capacity, so if you wait until 20 minutes before a large show starts you may not get in.

It is a family-friendly zone, so you have to leave your liquor, weapons, and golf umbrellas outside. Is that really that much of an inconvenience to enjoy a free show?

Robson Square may not have a fence, but it does have a large number of police officers keeping a diligent eye on what is happening.

LiveCity has been doing a great job of keeping people up to date on wait times and when they reach capacity through Twitter and Facebook. So head over early, have some patience and enjoy the free entertainment. The nightly celebration is definitely worth waiting in line and a quick security check.

i totally agree...
i was totally dissapointed even from the olympic eve, we went there for the torch relay & to celebrate, & found the live city covered fence & i heard theres is only one gate..& you cant see whats inside..why why why???
its a free venue & why the organizer are hidind whats inside..TAKE AWAY THE FENCE or atleast TAKE AWAY THE COVER...

@LiveCity2010 C'mon! Open up the gates & remove security for Super Sunday's hockey games on the big screen! #van2010 #downtownvan

I don't think opening up the livecity sites are a good idea. Having security in place ensures the safety of the patrons. Without barricades, no one is held responsible for any injuries, violent incidents, etc. Having the livecity sites contained allows the security personnel to know exactly how much space is in their domain to secure.

I have spent more time at Robson Square than anywhere else. The crowds are happy, the screens are great and watching people scream on the zipline is lots of fun.

We tried getting into the live city at David Lam Park and were shut out.
We have been to the Live city with the Canada pavillion twice and both times not bothered because the lines were so long.

It's not just downtown either. We visited the Richmond O Zone and the venue there was closed. All these people were there and there was nothing to see. They should be open from the morning with all sorts of things to do. Families were lining up for Heineken House because the rest of the O Zone was closed.

The rest of the happenings downtown have been great.

No different between LiveCity and Robson Square? How about the big-name live bands that are at LiveCity every night. Not to mention the rowdy crowd that can come out to LiveCity, for example the Alexisonfire concert. And before Deadmau5. Alexisonfire the crowd crashed the barricade causing injuries and in Deadmau5 the crowd was throwing things at the performers before that appeared before hand and booing them. I think these 2 concerts are a good example of why LiveCity should continue its use of the security measures that they have put in place so far.

Live City's a family friendly venue? You've got to be kidding. Try taking a 5 year-old there. Try standing in line for 1/2 hour with a 3 year-old just to go through security. Those fences say "families not welcome, go away".

Robson Square, on the hand, is great. You can walk up, walk away, hang out in the crowd, watch the TV's, watch the zipliners, check out the skating. Thrilled my kids to bits. And everyone was happy and friendly, not all surly like at the LC places.

LiveCity Vancouver is a rip off. There's at least a half hour wait outside the security check point and when your inside there's another hour wait to get into the Canada Pavilion. The day I lined up for this (Wed) cause it was Alberta day and they were giving out cowboy hats but because of the long line they ran out just when I got in. And inside is quite boring unless you want to play some kind of a Wii game and get your picture holding the torch which is another line up. The Manitoba house is totally boring, skip it totally.

We shouldn't blame LiveCity that much, they're doing the best they can and it's great they give updates. LiveCity is part of VANOC which is an Olympic thing which has its own rules and regulations. Since The Games are held in Canada which is part of N-America of which the USA is part of too, it has to comply to the security levels The States would like to have.

The security level on all VANOC venues/events is just out of proportion NOT the Canadian way at all! And having to be 5hrs in advance to see your favourite band for free that's just ridiculous. And like we all know ... nothing is for free everything has it's price.

So far I have been totally put off by the security measures imposed at each of the LiveCity sites. I had looked forward to spending time at each to see acts I enjoy but have found myself avoiding them because of long lines caused by security checks.
Is this what the $900 million in security costs have brought us - an inability to enjoy the party we are all paying for?

I think this is all about liability and risk. If you notice, any venue that is on public property or has the City of Vancouver in any way associated with the event has security screening. As Daniel knows well, the legal department is so afraid that the city might get sued for something that they lock things up, or simply say no.

God forbid that something bad happened at a venue or at the caldron where someone was hurt - everyone would be screaming bloody murder.

Can't win so you simply put up a fence.

hmm, so Robson square is not public property? Funny how tens of thousands of people can wander in and out of there daily without needing airport security and the world hasn't come to an end.

Really, stop making silly excuses for the city. This is really about the city officials being control freaks with little (is that no?) respect for the ordinary people who live here. They seem to think if big brother isn't in complete control, us plebs will be unable to function.

I attended LiveCity Yaletown on Saturday to view the fireworks. After the short ride on the Aquabus to David Lam Park, I thought that pier would be a fine viewpoint. Took a short walkaround and at 10pm I arrived back while more and more people also chose to watch. The seawall had already been closed for safety reasons which were apparent. But then big bad blue jacketed attitude man shows up. Of course he has testosterone pumping security gland and a phalanx of RCMP to force everyone off the pier. Safety was his reason? Now the show had gone on for a week, so why wasn't this area already marked with caution tape? Up to this time I had been favorable to Vanoc's difficulties in hosting the games. But they do seem to want to antagonize patrons for no apparent reason. These issues are non-existant at Robson Square. Same games, different intentions from the planners I suppose.

My wife and I drove up from Lynnwood WA and spent Monday (Feb 22) through Wednesday enjoying the festivities downtown. We had a great time, mostly just taking in the music, socializing, walking the streets and drinking beer. We didn't experience any long lines, seeing Dustin Bentall and Colin James at LC Yaletown, Zachary Richard at Francophone and Town Pants at The Blarney Stone on Monday. On Tuesday, a couple acts on The Village stage, Kyle Riabko and La Raquette at Saskatchewan, Nadjiwan at Ontario, One More Girl at Robson, and the best of all, multi-instrumentalist Alain Francois and his band at Quebec. Wow, what an entertainer!! He had the audience in his hands.

Negatives - Although our lines at LC Yaletown weren't long, if you must have fences, had the blue-green screening not been on the fences and the buildings sited correctly, you could have heard the bands and seen the big screens from the outside. Although the blue coated volunteers(?) were friendly and mostly helpful, we were mis-directed three times. 1. - Sending us way east leaving LC Yaletown to boat to Granville Island instead of the landing just to the west. 2. - Directing us to Nelson to get around BC Place to The Village when there are steps off Cambie bridge that are more direct. 3. - At curling (our only event), when at the SE corner of the endless fence, we were sent north instead of west, about three times farther to get to the entrance.

The length of fence and industrial size ecology blocks at curling -- Yike$$$$$ Although the curling rink isn't very big, the secured area, including the baseball stadium, was huuuge. And no parking allowed on the streets by the frisbee course and park. Why? Seemed like security overkill. Anyway, a great time and "thank you" Canada.

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