Sunday, February 14, 2010


I would be remiss if I didn’t write something during the biggest event Vancouver has ever hosted. After all, in addition to the longest (and most creative) torch relay in Winter Olympic history, Vancouver`s Opening Ceremonies succeeded in pulling together a national pride that even instilled a patriotism into the hearts of disconnected naysayers.

Weather Woes

Weather continues to be as ‘iffy’ and ironically, despite concerns of balmy temperatures on the city’s local mountain, Cypress, it was the one to open without hitches … which cannot be said for Whistler`s alpine skiing program where fog and slush ruled the track.

Feeling the Vibe

At sea level, the weather swings between drizzles, downpours and warm, spring sunshine with cloudless blue skies. Regardless, crowds in the downtown core just seem to flow through it all. They wait with the patience of Job to enter the various international pavilions, circle around impromptu buskers and entertainers on steps, plazas, and sidewalks; and meander down roads that during the Games,have become pedestrian only celebratory areas. Watch for actors dressed as British Columbia historical figures; endure a wait of up to five hours to catch a zip-line ride from one hi-rise tower to another across the downtown core below; hang around until 10:30 pm to see a pyrotechnic show at Robson Square (above a public ice-rink) or in Coal Harbour near the Olympic flame and Convention Centre -- home-base to 10,000 international media that range from a team of 35 for Slovakia TV to 1500 for NBC from the United States.

$900 million worth of safety

There is a gaggle of anti-Olympic protesters who make the odd appearance (sadly, they managed to break a few windows of the sponsor store carrying Olympic clothing and paraphernalia) but with some 15,000 security personnel prowling around, everything remains pretty safe and peaceful. In fact, it’s really quite a sight to see so many RCMP officers from across Canada; some with gold stripes to their uniform, others with red (from Saskatchewan), some wearing woolly hats (from the Atlantic provinces) and others speaking with a charming French accent. You see them hanging out at the local Starbucks, kitted out with dogs, diving gear, in patrolling helicopters overhead and in plain clothes. This gig in Lotusland must be a dream. Nowhere else in the country are the daffodils in bloom and cherry blossoms are a sun-ray away from bursting into colour. Oh yes, did I mention that NORAD has had a couple of intercepting flights out of the Vancouver International Airport and the bomb squad was called in to explode a stray bundle? Both incidences proved to be non-issues but the security contingent here is alert to every possible nuance.

Feet First

Downtown is remarkably quiet of cars. Vancouverites have taken heed to the preambles to leave vehicles at home and use public transit. Road closures and diversions are all par for the course and with no-stopping allowed in the many designated Olympic lanes (taxis are having a heck of a time picking up passengers), walking really is the best mode of transport. Besides, stopping in these lanes carries a hefty fine and/or a tow away. No excuses accepted.

And so the Olympic transformation continues.