When things work out well – contrary to expectation – it is only right and proper that one acknowledge this. And, as it turns out, the Olympics (whatever the long-term consequences might be) appear to have been a stellar experience. People even less enthused about them than I (whose interest, to quote Edward Lear, would have had to grow to be even cursory) have told me that the energy was positive, the vibe, good and the atmosphere good-natured: in short, the whole experience was simply splendid. For whatever reason, these 2010 Winter Olympics brought out the best in people, visitors and residents alike.
So all in all A Good Thing – and now that the 2010 Winter Olympic and ParaOlympic Games are over, closing ceremonies and fireworks finished, one can breathe a sigh of relief and say: Bravo Vancouver!
Inevitably, a handful of people have taken this wonderful memory way, way too far – at least according to what I read. These folk are said to be “grieving” the end of this huge party, this wonderful feeling of liberation, this sense that Vancouver was a real city, united and at one with the universe. Ah, get over it. Parties end, everybody goes home, the mess has to be cleaned up.
I’ll wager the many small businesses who did zero business during the Olympics aren’t that sorry to seen the end of it, no matter how much as individuals they may have liked dancing in the streets. (A merchant at Granville Island, a hub for many pavilions and events, told me that “unless you sold fast food or booze you didn’t sell anything”.) Perhaps that is why, pleased as I am that it all went well, that I am glad (nay, ecstatic) that I left the city and that it’s bloody over.
My impression is that festivities tended towards youthful exuberance and the beer-fuelled; my proclivities tend more towards red wine and quiet jazz. A friend who wrote an Olympic Diary to record the wonderful time she and her husband had relates that they stood in line for nearly three hours to get into some pavilion or t’other – and frankly, I wouldn’t stand in line that long to meet the late JC .
I don’t see the point of wandering the streets, no matter how charming the crowd or super-cool the win – which that Canada-US hockey final turned out to be.
Even the massive police presence felt benign, protective, apparently. There were a few hiccups at the start, particularly the second day when some scary looking ski-masked thugs broke windows at the Bay downtown and the police looked really jittery. But things settled down – and the massive crowds felt like a large, happy family. Another friend, about as enthused as I was at the outset, told me he found himself (much to his own astonishment) high-fiving a large, mildly sossled, American gent partying downtown and this uncharacteristic gesture actually felt right. OK, that’s impressive.
Perhaps it was all that international attention, the bulk of it positive. This I noticed on my travels; people really seemed psyched about Vancouver and not just the gorgeous scenery, although that did garner much attention. The mountains! The water! The forests! Si beau! And wasn’t I lucky to live in such surroundings. I smiled and mumbled something lame. One cannot, after all, take credit for nature. Still, I couldn’t help feeling a little chuffed. (I didn’t mention I live in the heart of the city and not up in the Whistler mountains.)
Most impressive was the fact that more people turned out to watch and cheer the ParaOlympian athletes than ever before, something no host city or country has done. That was elegant.
So now can we say it was all worth it? Too soon to say, really. True, we did get a metro to the airport from downtown (though having lived a few blocks away from the construction I am still smarting from the dust and noise). And Vancouver did raise its international profile – but will that translate into actual benefits, economic or otherwise? More investment, better and more social housing, fewer homeless people, more opportunities? Possibly, but I doubt it.
In the grand scheme of things, then, did any of it matter? This short event, lasting only a few weeks, no matter how grand everyone says it was? To quote Bertrand Russell: “The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatsoever that it is not utterly absurd.”
Well, a spot of absurdity is not the worst of things in a world where so much seems so unrelentingly dreary. So, ephemeral as it may have been, to everyone who was here, to the many volunteers and guides and people who worked on the Games, to the athletes and coaches and all the rest: a tip of my fedora and a red-mittened high five.
The Vancouver Olympics may not have changed the world, but they didn’t stink. A curmudgeon can’t say fairer than that.