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.