It's time for Plan B with Olympic cauldron controversy

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Should the City of Vancouver open up a few venues to the public for free?
Should the City of Vancouver open up a few venues to the public for free?

If you’ve been following the media lately, no doubt you know a few folks are choked with the Olympic cauldron being kept off limits to the public. Despite moving the chain link fence closer to the flame, the compromise solution still doesn’t appear to be winning over many fans. Perhaps it’s time for the Mayor to “kick it into gear” with Plan B. With a little over one week left until the Games are over, and line-ups at the free Olympic pavilions stretched for blocks, could a little bit of creativity help to get us out of a public relations pickle? Might I humbly suggest the following...

Why doesn’t the Mayor look at a few public venues under his control in Vancouver and throw them open to the public during the last week of the Games as a goodwill gesture? This would not only help to make up for Vancouver's Olympic PR disaster, it would also provide a set of new venues that local tourists could visit in their last week in town. If the City of Vancouver were willing to consider it, here are three public institutions they may want to consider adding to our Where 2 Be for Free guide.

Maritime Museum: Located in Kitsilano, a stone’s throw from downtown Vancouver, this museum celebrates Vancouver’s martime history. A ship called the historic St. Roch is located inside. The venue is a bit tired looking, but rest assured it would get lots of interest if we added it to our list.

Bloedel Conservatory: The Mayor announced he was going to shut this 40 year old institution down a few months ago. It is located in beautiful Queen Elizabeth Park near the Olympic curling centre. If they opened up their doors “by donation only”, they may well get more revenue than a regular week. Who knows?

Stanley Park Petting Zoo: The City of Vancouver is also planning on shutting this venue due to budget cuts. This petting zoo is located in beautiful Stanley Park and would be a big hit with parents looking for something to keep the kids entertained for an hour or two.

If you don't think throwing open the doors to a public institution would be successful, just check out what happened to the Vancouver Art Gallery when they got rid of their entrance free. The line-ups are now snaking around the block, and tourists (as well as locals) are having a great experience as a result.

While we’re at it, perhaps a few other private tourist destinations may want to show their hospitality by providing free entry for one day next week as part of this Olympic Cauldron promotion. How about the following as a good start:

  • Vancouver Aquarium (Vancouver Park Board provides support)
  • HR MacMillan Space Science Centre (City of Vancouver provides support)
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge
  • Van Dusen Gardens (City of Vancouver provides support)
  • UBC Botanical Garden

If each of these venues started announcing they were opening up their doors to international tourists next week to help VANOC make up for their cauldron gaffe, just imagine the kind of publicity they would receive.

In the short term, it may cost the City a few bucks to open up their three venues to the public, but it most certainly would go a long way in helping to repair some of the damage done to Vancouver’s reputation. And it might the be the last kick at the can for two institutions which are set to close in a few months. What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know.


I think your suggestion would be a long way to pleasing both the visitors and the locals here right now. I am very disappointed that I have been unable to get into any of the Olympic free events because of the huge line ups. I don't have the opportunity to take time off work, so anything between 9 and 5 is out, and weekends are mobbed even more. Plus, with a small child, standing in these line ups at what has been promoted as "family friendly" venues is unrealistic. The city have already shut down our community centres, parks, and playgrounds (since January!) but really gave us little in return. Opening up these venues would certainly be a refreshing welcome! Just a about free gondola rides up Grouse, free admission to Capilano, and FREE transit for us locals that have been asked not to drive!

Now that's thinking out of the box! Let's hope your mayor reads this website. I think opening up these venues for a week is a great idea!!! It would help make up for that terrible fence fiasco...and the city could redeem itself.

What a great idea. People would be able to see what the city has. The lineups are very long. I was down there last weekend, and was only able to go into one venue as it had a short line.

What a great idea! This would also help to get some people out of downtown and explore another part of the city. What do you think the chances are that he'll do it? Should we start a facebook petition? I'm from out of town. So why is he closing these things?? If the city has enough money to pay for the olympics, it should have enough money to keep a petting zoo open?

What a wonderful idea! On sunny days like the last few have been, it would definitely show off the city for future return visits. As well, other neighborhood restaurants, pubs and bistros might cash in a little! And locals who have suffered from the economic downturn may enjoy free admission to some of our city's famous places that they otherwise can't afford to visit either. Go, Mayor, go! :-)

This is precisely why many tax paying Vancouverites have been against the Olympics for a very long time. All the money spent here was not just lying around, it was diverted from other areas - education, arts funding, parks and recreation. Meanwhile, we are funding (via our taxes) many of the free events, yet are unable to visit them since we still have to work and the line ups make it impossible. I live in the Coal Harbour area and, since January, our community centre (which we visited on a daily basis and my daughter attended pre-school at) has been closed to process diplomats and dignitaries visting for the games. It will not reopen until April. Ditto Science World, David Lam Park, Roundhouse Commmunity Centre, my daughter's gymnastics class, the list goes on. I appreciate that we are opening up our city to the world, but there has been a whole lot of money gone into this event that could have gone to much better and more needed causes. Sorry for the rant - my point is that, yes, we should be able to "afford" to keep open the petting zoo and the conservatory (a GREAT place to visit if you haven't already done so), and we should also be able to "afford" to offer tourist spots in the city for free to help disperse the crowds. Will it happen? I very much doubt it!!! Still, an excellent discussion and a fabulous idea!

I think your idea is completely crazy. No one is forcing people to go to check out the free events. I have been out on three different days and experienced tons of free stuff and entertainment without having to line up. This includes concerts at the O Zone etc. Seriously what do you expect? This is a world event that the world came to so there is going to be line ups. For the mayor to open up further free events is really a silly idea. Wishful thinking....We all love free but I think this is pushing it. Line ups unfortuntely are part of the event and you have two choices, don't line up or line up and have fun!!
Keep up the good website!

@ Amber. Crazy? What's so crazy about opening up a few venues to the public that are about to close anyway? The mayor would get big brownie points from everyone if he finally popped out of his Olympic cocktail parties and did SOMETHING!!! about all the big lineups. Openign up these venues would be a huge coup! I don't think the private venues will do it, buy why not some that the city owns! Great website. Great idea!! Go Canada Go.

What a brilliant idea!

You should be organizing the olympics! What a wonderful idea. Perhaps the mayor and offials will read your blog and act on this great suggestion. Bravo! look forward to visiting the conservatory. I check it on the internet and it looks cool.

Everyone wants everything for free and then gets upset when taxes go up or services get cut. My experience is that People appreciate things more when they have to pay for them. I'd actually like to see a fee of $2 - $5 for all the current free olympic palivons and live sites. They money should be then allocated to something the citizens of Vancouver feel is a priority like homeless or environment.

I wonder how many people would lineup if they had to pay even $2.00.

If the City charged realistic prices instead of fees from the 80s for the petting zoo or the conservatory we might not be in the position we are of loosing them. Other cities in north america charge double we charge. I wonder of all those people who are upset about our loose would actaully put there money where their month is and pay $12.00 to viist the conservatory instead of the low fee it is today?

@Amber...I'm a little confused. First you said that you have been out 3 days and not had to line up, but then you say that line ups are part of the event. So did you line up, or didn't you? If you didn't, please share with the rest of us where you went and what you saw - I would dearly love some pointers on stuff to see without a line up. As you quite rightly say, no one is forcing us to stand in line and see the free stuff - and I choose NOT to stand in line, hence my comment that I have not seen any of the free events. However, if there are free events WITHOUT a line up (as you managed to find on the 3 days you went out) please share them so that we can all enjoy them. Thanks!

@Michelle...I agree with your point. I'm sure that many folks would not be standing in lines for hours if this stuff weren't free. I, for one, would rather pay a fee and not have to line up. I guess I realised this when I saw a line up at least 4 blocks for a free $2 bottle of vitamin water. Really? I'd rather go pay for one at the drug store if I were that desperate!! For the Bloedel Conservatory, I would happily pay $12 - it's such a nice, peaceful place. The petting zoo - not so much. The poor animals all look so miserable.

I agree 100% that we need more redemption for these folks who did not get to share in the City of Vancouver's purchase of $400,000 worth of tickets.
Come on Gregor surprise us and actually do something good for everyone and open these venues NOW!!

Gordon, you took the words right out of my mouth. While Gregor wines and dines IOC officials, and his councillors attend Olympic hockey games, the least he could have done was open up a few of these venues. What a smart thing to do considering he is closing them down anyways!!!

Robertson has almost vanished during these Olympics. The only time I saw him was when I made the mistake of visiting the vancouver pavilion and a big screen with his video came up. Yikes.

If he could pry himself away from Jack Rogge and John Furlong for more than a minute, perhaps he'd notice all the long line ups and how everyone wants to visit everything vancouver. OPEN UP THE VENUES NOW.

I don't think the Vancouver Aquarium receives financial support from the Parks Board. It is a common assumption that the Aquarium receives government support but I am pretty sure the Aquarium is a non-profit organization.

I do agree venues facing financial difficulties (i.e. Farmyard & Bloedel Conservatory) may very well benefit from being open during the Games to earn admissions & raise its public profile.

Opening the venues you have named for free or "by donation" visits from locals and tourists is a GREAT idea! We locals need to go places that will offer us a little peace amongst all this revelry and the tourists deserve to see more of the wonderful sites in our beautiful city than just what's downtown.
Mr. Mayor Robertson, are you listening???

Yes, the Aquarium is a non-profit organization and is not Government funded. While not offering free admission, they are offering a 50% discount if you go early in the morning - check out their website for more info. It's a great place and their 4D movie is 100 times better than the one at Ontario House!! We visit at least once a week and never tire of the aquarium. It would be great if they could offer a free day so other visitors could see what we have in Vancouver!

You really have a great flair of writing. I like your article and look forward to your next posting. Thanks alot keep up the great work. - SparkySoundTech

Tracey, how would you think Grouse Mountain would deal with free rides. There also is a high safety concern there. If I had a say my idea would be charge something for the better pavilions and some people would not line up there. I do as others do, I walk by the long line ups, saw some walk-ins in the first 2 days, they now have line ups as well. Went to a hockey game and that is a six hour event (waiting before hand - shuffling out at inch by inch the end). A younger mother with two under 10 kids taught their kids how to push through the crowds, they formed a three person chain and literary shoved through the crowds. I could not help myself to make a remark, said "Shame on You". This lady had a chance to leave the game a few minutes before the end (a six-zero game) but no wanted to have it HER way! Waiting for March :-)

For all of you who keep harping on "the money could have been spent in a better way" do you have this same crappy attitude for Xmas? For once can we keep HOMELESS and Olympics out of the same sentence?

We 'adopt' the entire country's homeless due to our bleeding hard programs and warm weather. There is no end.

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