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!