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Ottawa, provinces two solitudes at Olympic Games Add to ...

When it comes to showcasing this country at the Olympics, there are two solitudes.

The provinces are putting on an incredible show in Vancouver, while at the other extreme, Ottawa took a mail-it-in attitude toward the Games.

The federal Conservatives came in a day late and a dollar short with their Olympic commitment, a subject of tension with the provinces under the polite veneer of these Games. No doubt concerned about the optics of dropping bags of money on Olympic-themed events in the midst of a recession, the federal government seems to have approached Vancouver with restraint. And it shows.

Canada Pavilion is lame. It's the national showcase, and located in the heart of the action, right next to the main Olympic hockey venue. Thousands of people, from all around the world, walk past the pavilion each day. Take a look at what they see: An exhibit of sports gear, past and present.

The provinces, on the other hand, dug deep. Across the country, the Premiers decided to back B.C. counterpart Gordon Campbell's vision of an Olympic event that showcased the country.

Alberta, the Atlantic provinces, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan are all running massive free pavilions. (I'm missing a few spots, but these are the houses I've visited.) Each day, there are long lines to get in. At night, the lines get even longer.

What's the appeal of these hot spots?

Well, Ontario is running a 4-D movie meant to pull in the tourists, and James Cameron would be proud. In addition to 3-D visual affects, viewers are sprayed with water when the cameras roll over Niagara Falls and snow when they fly down a hill on a toboggan.

The combined might of the four east coast provinces are on display in an ocean-side facility on Granville Island. My breakfast visit to the Atlantic pavilion saw Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter serving up plates of scrambled eggs with lobster, and blueberry Mimosas.

Maison du Quebec has killer architecture - it's a huge white cub that dominates the False Creek shoreline, located behind the Olympic's main hockey arena. At night the cube plays host to a selection of top bands.

Next door to Quebec is Saskatchewan's pavilion, home to a concert hall that draws inspiration from your local Legion, and I say that as someone who has spent many happy hours in Legion halls.

Every night, local acts play the stage, surrounded by fans who sit in fold-up-chairs, resting their beer on small tables. More than 50,000 visitors dropped by the Saskatchewan exhibit over the first week of the Games.

 

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