Vancouver’s image as an urban paradise, gained during the Olympics, was shattered on an international scale when rioters tore the city’s downtown to shreds.
Canadians who had earlier piled on the Canucks bandwagon were distancing themselves on social networks and in the media from the thousands who packed the city’s downtown core for Game 7 who torched, looted and cheered on public vandalism in light of the Canucks’ loss.
But what happened didn’t just shock people at home. International media on Thursday shone their light away from the Stanley Cup game and onto the crowds.
Sports Illustrated ran it as their top story with enormous art and a vaguely apologetic lead: “I feel bad for the 99 percent of Vancouver residents who didn't riot,” Michael Rosenberg wrote. Passionate sports fans are going to cause riots, he continued, but no matter the city, it’s going to tarnish its reputation – “all of North America now sees Vancouver as a city of chokers and jerks.”
The Christian Science Monitor wrote that “Vancouver riots have Canadians blushing.” CBS ran a headline quote calling Vancouver “embarrassed.” The front page of Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald ran a now-infamous photo of a couple kissing in the riots, noting immediately that “a massive fight raged around them.”
The New York Times called it “one of the worst episodes of rioting Canada has seen in decades” – this less than a year after Toronto’s G20 summit. Times reporters wrote a lengthy piece on the destruction that made its website’s top stories of the day.
The events caused the L.A. Times to ponder the relationship between violence and sport. Len Berman at The Huffington Post wrote, “…it's a Stanley Cup tradition. The two teams shake hands when it ends, and then the fans show their sportsmanship by rioting.”
International news websites also showcased photo slideshows and video montages of the destruction – BBC, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, al-Jazeera and others.
“Vancouver riots” was among the top “in the news” headlines on The Washington Post – with no front headlines about the game itself – and in the U.K., The Guardian featured a scathing attack on the riots from famed Vancouver musician Matthew Good that was at one point the site’s most-viewed story. Both news websites ran headlines saying the riots had “shamed” the city.
Mr. Good’s column, co-opted from his much-read and highly political blog, called the riots an “utter embarrassment” that “disgraced” Vancouver and will for years to come. “If the Olympics succeeded in charming the pants off the world, that warm, fuzzy feeling has now been decimated.”