I can’t remember life before the 2010 Winter Olympics, in much the same way that I can’t remember life before Google, the iPod, Netflix or the Segway.
(Yes children, there was a day when humans didn’t glide through the city magically on two wheels – a time when you couldn’t watch Independence Day on demand – you had to wait for it to be on TV or walk to something called a “Blockbuster.”) What we did before any of those things is beyond me. And like them, the 2010 Winter Games is an event that is now inextricably woven into our lives, like a white maple leaf in the red yarn of a child’s tattered Olympic mitten.
There can be no doubt it was a life-changing event for anyone who got close enough to feel the warmth of its flame. And it is with glowing hearts™ that we encounter reminders of that event one short year ago – small examples that have faded into the background of everyday life in this post-Olympic city.
Some downtown Skytrain stations, for instance, are now marked with a large blue and white letter ‘T’, presumably to indicate Transit. This concession to our many international visitors is why we now routinely say, “I’m taking the T,” which is so much more hip-hop and ghetto-cool sounding than using Skytrain as a verb.
There are also the many helpful yellow way-finding signs posted along Main Street and at the Broadway and Commercial Skytrain – sorry, T – station that now point the way to things tourists have zero interest in ever seeing.
There are the many glittery lights, arranged in pleasing displays through the Cambie business district where some retailers even managed to survive Canada Line construction. (I know, not an Olympic project.) You’ll find more lights along Commercial Drive, that hotbed of Olympic boosterism, where I still occasionally run into Alex Bilodeau at pay-what-you-can vegan improv night at the Café Deux Soleils. At least I think it was him.
There is a swimming pool, a monolithic curling complex and a skating rink. (Okay, the pool is pretty cool.) There is the Sea to Sky Highway, the Richmond Skating Oval and the Whistler Sliding Centre.
And there is Millennium Water – the former site of the Olympic Village on the shores of Southeast False Creek, where the promise of social housing succumbed to the hard realities of cost overruns and the “too big to fail” Vancouver real-estate market.
As if all of those reminders of the glory of the Games weren’t enough, the city of Vancouver is whipping out its bio-fuelled Zippo to light the flame once more in celebration of the first anniversary of the Games.
The actual pitch from the city’s website: “Think back to when the streets overflowed with cheering people dressed in red and white, singing O’Canada and high-fiving till it hurt. Now get ready to do it again as we celebrate the first anniversary of our 2010 Olympic Winter Games.”
First off, I don’t want to do anything until it hurts, especially high-fiving strangers.
Secondly, who installed the apostrophe in the title of our national anthem as though it were some kind of Tipperary surname like O’Connor or O’Brien?
O’, wait. I think I know.
To make the event feel as authentic as possible, there will be road closures.
TransLink is asking that we embrace the spirit of the Games by planning ahead and exercising patience.
Among the city-sanctioned events: free public skating, pin trading and winter sports on Wii. Also planned, a reunion of Olympic volunteers with a pancake breakfast featuring former VANOC CEO John Furlong, who is promising an insider’s account of the 2010 Games, providing he’s not exhausted from this week’s Skytrain-flash-mob-book-flogging. (Yes, John Furlong’s book was promoted this week by way of a flash mob, on the Skytrain, with Mr. Furlong himself present.)
If the city really wanted to capture the spirit of the Games, why not reunite people who spent more than 16 hours together waiting for a 20-second ride on the zip-line? Why not bring scalpers together with the people they ripped off?
Maybe ask some downtown food-service outlets to randomly gouge customers “for old time’s sake.”
Or invite children 5 and under to compete in a “most-soiled Quatchi” contest.
If the anniversary party brings back even a shadow of the excitement of the Games, I imagine that following the celebrations I will be left feeling disoriented, empty, and wanting – though perhaps to a lesser degree than after the Olympics itself.
Thank goodness that when that feeling becomes overwhelming, I’ll still be able to ride the T.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One in Vancouver. 88.1 FM and 690 AM. Stephen.Quinn@CBC.CA
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