Kids playing at an Inukshuk exhibit at Canada's Northern House
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that staging an Olympic Games in your city is a decision that brings on strong political reactions, both in support of the Games and opposed to them. While at this moment most of the public seem pretty sold on having the Olympics in Vancouver, and it's clear that the public has embraced them far beyond the organizers' expectations, there were many opponents including several elected officials. However, one political decision in hindsight that supporters of the Games had no control over was the influence of the Vancouver School Board.
A little Vancouver Politics 101 for many of you who are visiting here for the Games: we don't all get along all the time. Yes, I know it might seem hard to believe as we all sport our red and white shirts and jackets emblazoned with CANADA across our chest. Holding the Games was fraught with controversy, and many politicians lined up against the decision to hold the 2010 Games.
For example, on Vancouver's current governing city council, several have admitted they voted against the Games in a 2003 referendum. And amazingly, even current Mayor Gregor Robertson claims to not have bothered to vote in the referendum at all.
But the one group that felt they could get their political point across was Vancouver's elementary teacher's union (VESTA), who urged the Vancouver School Board to keep schools open during the Games. Secondary teachers, to their credit, wanted to keep the schools closed during the Games. The majority Vision Vancouver and COPE school board trustees voted to keep schools open, with only NPA trustee Ken Denike voting to close the schools.
In hindsight, does it seem like a good decision, or a bit of political spite? Many parents are taking these amazing sunny days to get their kids out of school to enjoy the spirit of the Games, and taking in some of the free events. Other parents took vacations and their family members with them.
According to Trustee Denike, it's been incredibly disruptive, and for many children and their families, a huge lost opportunity. "The kids over at Elsie Roy School next to LiveCity Yaletown have had a really tough time," says Denike. "The teachers up in West Vancouver who supported school closures are really seeing that they made the right decision."
For any city or jurisdiction in the future, I recommend that you pay heed to Vancouver's example, and don't let politics get in the way of your kids enjoying the Games.
- post by Mike