The Olympic cauldron and LiveCity sites behind barriers - is it necessary? Photo: Reuters
This is an open letter from the editors of CityCaucus.com to the leaders of Metro Vancouver Host & Venue Cities and VANOC. The efforts of the RCMP, Vancouver Police and security forces to create a safe Games are welcome, but in the case of certain important public spaces, the excessive safety measures are smothering the spirit of the 2010 experience for the public. Vancouver's LiveCity sites, Richmond's O Zone and the Olympic cauldron housed at Canada Place are all wrapped in layers of security that seem incongruous and unnecessary. Are there no alternatives?
With thousands of people trying to get a glimpse of the Olympic cauldron burning brightly on Vancouver's waterfront, news that Olympic organizers plan to keep the chain link fence in place during the Games is utterly disheartening. When we visited the site on Saturday, there were hundreds of disappointed people complaining that they couldn't get close to the flame, nor could they take a picture of it without the chain links in the image.
Then there is the City of Vancouver's decision to allow both of their LiveCity sites to be put behind a chain link fence and force visitors to go through magnetic screeners. You begin to wonder if this is all a bit too much.
In the case of the flame, there's no credible reason why Plexiglas cannot replace the chain link fence. VANOC has had 7 years to plan this event, you'd think someone would have thought about turning this into a Kodak (or Panasonic) moment for the thousands of visitors wanting to snap a keepsake photo of the Olympic flame.
What visitors see instead is the cauldron encamped in a medium-security prison.
As for the City's live sites, they were originally intended to be open public spaces where local citizens and tourists alike could wander in and enjoy watching musical acts and big screen broadcasts of sporting events. We never imagined that these public venues would be behind a large barrier and require spectators to get frisked and scanned with a security wand.
Let's get real here. Do people really need to be frisked and patted down in order to visit the Canada Pavilion or CentrePlace Manitoba which is located in the LiveCity Downtown compound? Compare that to the Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Atlantic Canada pavilions or a dozen other popular destinations which lack any such security measures.
The LiveCity Downtown site promised to be a great gathering space for the public to share in celebration. Instead, a large chunk of the property is left as unused space and off limits. On the other end, a large swath of the property has been set aside in order to accommodate all the lengthy lineups of people waiting to go through the security checks.
There is still time to rectify this situation. In the famous words of former President Ronald Reagan, perhaps we should be asking Mayor Gregor Robertson, or his Venue City counterparts to "tear down that wall"! Or at least conduct an immediate review of how to make these sites more accessible to the thousands of visitors with the short time we have left.
More likely, however, the City and VANOC will abide by the heavy-handed plan they've set out, and the barriers will remain. And that is a shame.
Now it's time for our readers to weigh in. What do you think about these security measures?