Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The flame! The flame!

All of my post titles during the Olympics will be breathless exclamations!

Hundreds of islanders gathered in the Cove this morning at 5:45 to watch the Olympic flame travel down the hill from BICS to the pier where there were some ceremonies, thank you's, draws for prizes and singing of Oh Canada and Lorne Warr's new Bowen Island song.

There was a whole mix of people out, reflecting I think the overall mood of things.  Some were cynical, some were genuinely excited, some were really trying hard to get excited, and some were a little over the top excited.  There was a small dissenting crowd led by a runner who proceeded the flame with her own "shame" torch and a sign advocating for more housing and services for the poor instead of spending money on games.

I have to say that Olympics is creating tons of cognitive dissonance in me.   As a kid, I loved the winter games, and was a devoted watcher of them every time they came around.  I wanted to be a luger, and a distant relative of mine, Vic Emery, was a bobsled driver who won a gold medal for Canada in 1964.  When I was a kid I sent him designs for the 1980 Canadian bobsled team colours.

My favourite games of all time were probably the 1988 Calgary games, and of course the Canadian hockey teams winning gold in 2002 was an all time highlight.  Since then, things have changed for me.  As a life long hockey fan, my love of the sport has waned considerably in recent years, due largely to the way the NHL has been run.  That all started with the lockout in 2004, and I have never really recovered an interest in hockey since then.  And then of course in 2006, the Canadian men's team broke my heart with an appalling performance at Turin.  They played hubristic hockey with an entitlement mindset and they got creamed.  That was the final straw for me.

When the games were announced for Vancouver in 2003 I have to admit I was excited, but a number of events over the years dampened my enthusiasm for them.  I think the first thing that made me cynical was the logo. The organizing committee has made a big effort to include First Nations in the planning and execution of the games, but I was in the First Nations Summit offices the day the inukshuk logo was unveiled.  With a deep and world renowned genera of visual art springing from the indigenous west coast of Canada everyone thought that a logo featuring a west coast design would be a natural.  To have chosen an indigenous image from 5000kms away, that has no relevance in this part of the world was a huge message to First Nations communities here, and it was received as a slap in the face.  

That was the beginning.  Since then there was been the two years of destruction, demolition and paving of the mountain across from me, which has left an incredible scar and a devastated arbutus forest.  All of that was unnecessary as a tunnel by-pass was a viable option.  in recent months the security situation has been ramped up and now there are security guards roaming anywhere flexing their minimal muscles.  there have been many little irritants over the years that have added up and until now, very few credits in the other column.  One has the feeling that VANOC and the IOC get their way with anything they want to do and so they have done very little to provide little exciting things along the way.  Ask the folks in Whistler.

So there is great spirit around here, but I'm not feeling it.  Until this month there has been very little community oriented events around the Olympics...no street hockey tournaments, no go-kart races, that kind of thing.  Now of course, Vancouver is wide open and lots of free things are going on, and we'll head into town to catch some of them, but I'm ambivalent.  I'm trying to get excited, but it's not working. I'm content just to skate through the next couple of weeks and be with what is, finding a middle ground between over the top boosterism and downright cynical contempt!

We'll have some fun, but I can't help wondering how, in the end, we will pay for all of this.  This endeavour seems totally imprudent - like taking a round the world cruise when you have just lost your job.  It is costing our province $6 billion dollars that we don't have and we will pay for that in service cuts in years to come.  Had these games been financed privately and run to cover their costs, I would have no problem I think with things.  But we're going into deep debt to pay for these games and that is going to hurt.

So I'm ambivalent.  I'll take in what is offered, and hope Canada does well, and I won't "ruin it" for others but I'm having a hard time getting up for it.