Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lighting a flame

The Olympic torch has been lit, the relay has begun, and the Games are on their way to Vancouver!

As I've mentioned before, there has been a lot of local negativity and knee-jerk NIMBYism around the Olympics. There have been good reasons behind some of the negative reactions; the local media are ramping up their coverage, and it seems as if most of their stories highlight cost overruns, heavy-handed treatment of anti-Olympic protesters, new traffic restrictions etc etc etc. I was strongly pro-Games from the start, but have had to concede that the anti-Games crowd have a point when it comes to some of these specific criticisms.

But there have been some strong positives, too. The recession hasn't hit BC as hard as many other places, thanks partially to all the Olympic and related infrastructure construction work that's keeping people employed. The venues have all been completed well ahead of schedule, and have even been winning awards. I've seen some of the plans to turn the venues into community facilities after the Games, and am stoked to be getting access to a brand new aquatic centre about 15 minutes walk away from my house. There's a bit of a buzz developing around the Cultural Olympiad, which promises to keep even the most rabid anti-sports people happy. The Canada Line is up, running, and packed to the gills. The improvements to the Sea-to-Sky Highway got us to Whistler in record time a couple of weeks ago. However, these stories haven't been getting as much media coverage as all the negatives.

The tide seems to be turning, though. First the (mostly) favourable reaction to the medal designs (I love them!), and now the tradition and symbolism of the torch ceremony. I hope that things are on the upswing.

An Australian friend gave me another reason to be cheerful. He was living in Sydney during the 2000 Summer Games, and said that the negative media coverage and vocal NIMBYism that we’re seeing here in Vancouver were also evident in the run-up to the Sydney Games. However, once people from all over the world started to arrive in Sydney, the licensing hours were extended, and the cultural events kicked off, the excitement started to build. The vocal NIMBYs were still spouting off, but they started to get shouted down by the excitement of the people who’d always been pro-Olympics. And then the Games started, and the silent majority who initially either didn’t care or were on the fence, got caught up in the excitement and proceeded to get behind the Australian athletes, go to all the concerts and parties, and generally have an awesome time.

(Oh, and completely drown out all the miserable NIMBYs).

Now, nine years after the Sydney Games, people just remember the fun they had, and enjoy all the leagacy sports and other facilities.

I can't wait for February! Once the hockey starts, the NIMBYs don't stand a chance!


  1. NIMBY-ism is so tedious. You would think a place like this would be excited at the opportunity to show itself off. There will be lots of people who have never been to Vancouver before who will want to come back and bring their money with them. I say great! I also say great when I travel on the Canada Line!!

  2. Me too! I expect we'll have the last laugh!

  3. BOOOOOO @ Olympics!!!!!

    I do love the hockey though.. and the medals are pretty spiffy. But BOOOOOO!!! Let's take care of the people in our own province before we play host to the world.

  4. By that logic we'd scrap the Olympics completely, plus all world cup and international championship events in all sports. (No more international hockey games). There's not one single place in the world that doesn't have its problems, its people who need taking care of.

    Personally I believe that long-term the benefits of hosting will outweigh the negatives. I already use the Canada Line at least once or twice a week - how long would it have taken to get that up and running without the impetus of the games? We had some US collaborators in town this week, and they took the Canada Line from the airport straight to our building. 20 minutes, pretty much door to door. They were hugely impressed, positively buzzing with talk of how great it was. And I can't wait to trade the nasty old Percy Norman swimming pool for the brand new aquatic centre!

  5. Good point Cath, but Vancouver has a bigger poverty problem than many cities. I have lived in both Calgary and Atlanta, who played the same game of pushing the homeless to remote areas before hosting the games. Now, both cities are left with costly, underused venues. Not to mention expanded highways which reduce the effect of the Canada Line (which I totally support, Olympics or not). Personally, the Olympics coming to Vancouver was a major factor in me leaving the city.

  6. Well, you've had those experiences that I haven't, and who knows, maybe I'll be singing a different song in a couple of years! I fully intend to enjoy the party first, though. We've already paid for it, for starters.

    And BTW, I have no issue with anyone who wants to answer "sure, scrap the Games completely then", in fact I'd say hurrah! for someone being consistent. So many of the anti-olympic people I know are rabid hockey fans who've got super excited about every previous tournament. Never a peep about "I don't think Canada should have sent a team to Turin (or Beijing - most of my friends got really into the last summer games too), it's just not fair on the local people who have to pay for it, they should have spent it on healthcare instead". But when it's in their backyard...

  7. I'm very much hoping that the Olympics might shame the city and the country into understanding what a monumental disgrace and failure of society the poverty problem is in Vancouver. There seems to be so much denial here and no desire, at least amongst many of the liberal minded people I know here (who should know better or all people), to actually do something about it. The politicians should have ti ringing round their ears all the time at elections that it cannot carry on. Instead, they can afford to brush it under the carpet as they are not held to account for it. It is a true scandal. I strongly suspect without the games the situation would be a best no different.

  8. I think the last provincial election proved that people aren't voting with those issues in mind. (I got citizenship too late and missed voting in that election by about 10 days - but it's OK, our riding is VERY NDP and didn't miss my vote!)

    But yeah, let's see what the international media spotlight does for the problem.

  9. Indeed it did, and I feel that is the root of the problem. It is quite amazing though, it is hardly even out of sight out of mind, in fact it is right there for anyone to see. It's not very Canadian!

  10. It's very Vancouver, though! NIMBYism goes hand-in-hand with "I'm alright, Jack". As much as I love this city, the mindset of many of its people drives me nuts at times. It's hard to find a real sense of community. Commercial Drive is a rare (partial) exception to the rule - I miss living there.

  11. This is the first time ever I have had this much information about preparation to the games and how everything comes together, even though I have always been curious how cities (nations?) pull it off. I look forward to the ramp up in the final stretch :)

  12. Me too! I'm getting some info from my sister on the London 2012 summer games, too, which I'm hoping to go to!

    It's funny how universal the nimbyism and other dramas are. Apparently it's ALWAYS like this. But most people in each new host city don't realise that, and think their situation is unique!

  13. As someone living in England but NOT in the southeast, my impression is that there's a lot of WhyIsn'tItInMyBackYard-ism in the UK about London 2012 - we're getting mightly fed up of hearing how great it is for the COUNTRY when LONDON is benefitting hugely, but vey little is seen to be happening in the regions (except that we are apparently all being INSPIRED to TAKE UP SPORT).

    I happened to hear the Olympics Minister on the radio today, insisting that lots of companies all over the country were getting contracts and that there would be training camps everywhere and we would All Benefit from the better transport in London and the wonderful profile we'll get as a nation and all the tourists that will flood in... I just find it very hard to believe, certainly I see no local evidence. As someone who assiduously avoids London, finds watching competitive sport even more boring than being made to do it at school, and prefers NOT to have to listen to 'news bulletins' about sport, sport and more sport to get to the news, I'm expecting a rather tedious few years.

  14. Ha, yeah, you don't need to tell me about how annoying the English media's Londoncentric bias is! Thanks for the reminder that, as a resident of the biggest (Canadian) city for many hundreds of miles, I'm getting more than my fair share of the benefits!


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