Vancouver’s Grey Cup wasn’t so grey after all – both in terms of the sky, and the demeanour on downtown streets.
The wet, frigid weather that plagued the city for much of the week gave way to sunshine Sunday and large crowds were drawn to a pregame street party outside BC Place Stadium.
Much of the talk before the Canadian Football League’s title game centred on whether there would be a repeat of the last time Vancouver played host to a major sporting event. A riot ensued after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in June.
Grey Cup festival organizers pledged their event would not lead to mayhem in the streets. They pointed to the lack of outdoor television screens, plus the more mature CFL crowd. The average age of core CFL fans is 30 and up, while the average age of people Vancouver police have recommended charges against for the June riot is 21.
Initial reports indicated Grey Cup organizers were right. Vancouver police said no significant incidents were reported Friday or Saturday night, though one man suffered facial injuries after being assaulted outside a club.
The Grey Cup festival had something of a family feel to it. Fans dressed in Lions orange or Bombers blue posed for photos together, watched free concerts, and high-fived anyone within arm’s length. If there was public drinking – event organizers vowed there wouldn’t be – it was difficult to spot.
Mike Simpson, who travelled from Edmonton to attend his sixth Grey Cup, said the 2011 edition was the best he’s been to, largely because of the nice weather.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who invited fans to come downtown and take part in the football festivities and said a repeat of the riot simply would not occur, commented before the game that he was pleased with how the weekend had gone.
“It’s been fantastic, a huge success for Vancouver, and a big economic boost, over $100-million in economic activity. Surprising sunshine, it’s good,” he said.