Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympics everywhere

Olympic fever has extended its tendrils everywhere.  The Games are underway and all anyone is talking about are the gold medal in moguls, the intricacies of luge track engineering, the chances of the Canadian women's hockey team having a goal scored against them or the technicalities of a triple Salchow.  In fact I think I only ever hear the term "triple Salchow" every four years.

The other day in Vancouver seemed like Christmas, everyone upbeat and friendly and a little excited.  Finn and I went into town and bought some red mitten for ourselves as a way of supporting Canadian athletes and downtown was alive.  (This was before yobbos smashed the windows of the Bay in yesterday, but I think that hasn't dampened the spirit of the place much...)  We'll head back into town a couple of times this week to take in the festivities.  Seeing a concert on Tuesday night and various crowded events on Sunday.  We might even get up to Whistler to hang out with family there and take in the spirit of things.

Here on Bowen, things a lazily moving along.  Other than a TV at Artisan Eats and a few more people in the Pub watching coverage together, nothing has really changed here.  There are a few visitors on the island, lots with various European accents, which is highly unusual for February, but other than that you would know that there are dozens of international sporting tournaments happening across the water from us.

Bowen just stays quiet, which is kind of cool.  That even when the eyes of the world are trained upon us, as you see our little island in panoramic shots of the Vancouver waterfront, no one seems to wonder too much about what it's like over there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lights in the sky!

One of the cool Olympic things happening are lights in the sky over the city which we can see from our house.  They are part of an interactive art installation called Vectoral Elevations.  Very cool, and you can play too!

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 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.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Olympic rainbows

Have you been outside today?  It feels like spring - this end to the warmest winter we've ever had.  Daffodils are coming up and the cherry blossoms are appearing on some of the early trees just in time for the world to arrive for the Winter Olympics.  I was Skyping with colleagues from Australia who were asking me where the snow was.  There is snow at Whistler and some up on Cypress where they have been trucking it in from Manning Park, but otherwise it's calm and a little damp and very warm out there.

Caitlin and I went out for a walk this afternoon down to Miller's Landing beach where we were greeted with an intense rainbow slashed across the flank of Black Mountain.  A neighbour passing by had the same thought we did: the International Olympic Committee put it up!

Perhaps, eh?  Six billion dollars can buy a lot of cool stuff.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Back home after 26 days on the road in an amazing trip that took me to Hawaii for two weeks with the family and then on to South Africa and New York City for work.  Retunred on Friday to see all of the Olympic preparations underway in Vancouver.  The airport was becoming zoo-like, with the usual exits blocked off and taxis and things diverted to other places.  Olympic lanes are in place downtown in Vancouver and the cabbies are unhappy because they aren't allowed to use them or pull into them to drop off or pick up passengers.  To do so risks a $120 ticket.  Seems harsh.

On arriving in Horseshoe Bay on Friday evening I was greeted to more security shenanigans.  There is a sign at the ticket booth reporting that the current security level is MARSEC1.  When I asked a security guard what that meant he told me that it stood for "Marine Security Level 1" which, he said, we are always at.  I rolled my eyes.  Is this really necessary?  Why do I now need to be told the name of a made up security level that has apparently remained unchanged since the Second World War ended?  This strikes me as strangely alarmist.  What is to be gained from this?

There seemed to be some incident unfolding at the ferry terminal as well in which an Islander was detained for complaining about the ticket cut off time and then further detained when he took a picture of the security guard who prevented him from boarding the Cap home.  So the theatre escalates.  I saw none of this silliness in either South Africa or the United States, bar the usual "security threat level orange" announcements that have been playing in US airports since September 12, 2001.  I feel neither safer nor less safe than before.  But all of this does feel a hell of a lot more patronizing.

Hopefully after the Games are over we can all go back to being adults again.