Friday, April 6, 2007

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics - Who's Going?

Who is actually going to attend the 2010 Winter Games? Are you? I have been asking around for about two weeks now, wondering what the great un-polled majority are thinking. So far I haven't met anyone, not a single local resident, who is planning to buy tickets. Most said they would watch on TV, or simply ignore it. The truth be told, since Vancouver is not even a winter city, the winter sports do not have a huge following here. (It's not a given that those who ski for pleasure, also follow competitions.) Heck, some of us even have flowers blooming in the yard during those long, rainy months of the year.

Our family was living in Alberta during the Calgary Winter Games, and didn't go near the Olympics, but it’s not that we are opposed to mass public spectacles. We did attend EXPO 86 in Vancouver, and had a great time. No one should attempt to deny that EXPO revitalized the downtown and added much needed infrastructure to the urban core. True the city overdid it with post-Olympics redevelopment, which created a surreal bristling landscape of condo towers, arching from the Burrard Inlet over to False Creek. But that's planning genius for you. Businesses are fleeing that new downtown reality in droves.

Actually the "Vancouver" Olympic events are much better termed the “2010 Richmond-Vancouver-Whistler Games,” as they are parceled out over a very wide area. The consensus seems to be that only the Richmond venues will be sold out. "Rich-man" as some term it, is a wealthy Asian municipality, and the Chinese do love their city. They will not let their city fathers down, and can be counted on to oversubscribe local ticket sales. The same cannot be said for far distant events. Most people seem to expect tickets for the Whistler competitions to be heavily discounted during the last two or three months, simply to fill empty seats. It will help some, but broadcast TV and streaming video over the Internet will be the only sensible way to take in the games. Who wants to watch
fast moving dots when you can stay home and actually see the event on the widescreen.

The Olympics “legacy” as it’s termed, will be the endless years of paying for hosting the elephant. I was reminded today of the great editorial cartoon which lampooned the disastrous boast of Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, who said on January 29, 1973 “The Olympics can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby.” The cartoon (above)shows the pregnant mayor placing a call to the Morgantaler abortion clinic. The last payment on Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, nicknamed “The Big Owe,” was in November 2006 – a full thirty years after the Closing Ceremonies. I guess the local equivalent to mayoral cupidity might be, “The Olympics can no more have a deficit than a lame politician might walk.” Too heartless you say? Hardly. What’s cruel will be the Olympics bill foisted on ratepayers for decades to come.

The CBC Archives offer some wonderful news clips of the 1976 Olympics fiasco online. They serve to remind us of the wildly over optimistic predictions of an earlier Olympics committee promising a “self financing” festival. In the audio you can hear Mayor Drapeau predict that after the games conclude selfish interests across Canada would in fact fight over the spoils, the huge Olympics revenue surplus his municipal regime was projecting. It's a hoot.

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