Skip to main content

The popular 2010 Olympic clock outside the Vancouver Art Gallery that stirred so much emotion in the runup to the Winter Games was dismantled Wednesday, its two faces to be relocated to other prominent places.

The clock has been a landmark in downtown Vancouver for 1,340 days. The electronic display that marked the countdown to the Olympics is to be moved inside B.C. Place, the arena that hosted the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies as well as the nightly awards ceremonies. The reverse side of the clock that counted down to the Paralympics is to go to Whistler Olympic Park.

Hundreds of people came to the unveiling of the clock on Feb. 12, 2007, to catch the spirit of the Games. Thousands walked by it daily, checking out the passing of the days, hours and seconds leading up to the opening ceremonies. Olympic tourists from around the world lined up during the competitions to pose in front of the clock.

The site was also a rallying point for anti-Olympic demonstrators and advocates for the homeless. The clock was defaced and, on one occasion, paint-bombed.

John Furlong, VANOC's chief executive officer, said Wednesday the clock had been a reminder to the city of the looming deadline in the runup to the Games. "It reminded everybody that the Olympics was coming around the corner and I, of course, paid very close attention to it every day," he said in an interview.

"Whenever I went by it, I went to see if it was telling the right time," he said with a chuckle.

Sometimes Mr. Furlong felt that he could not escape the clock. Occasionally, he would have a meal in the hotel across the street from it. "They would invariably put me at a table where I was looking right at it, and it would remind me there was a deadline and I better pay attention. [The Olympic clock]always seemed to be in the corner of my eye," Mr. Furlong said.

At the site Wednesday, a handful of city workers was gingerly taking apart the ice-green glass block that encased the clock. Most people walked through the plaza at noon without turning to look at it. Michael Fulton, owner of Googh Salon on Commercial Drive, was taking photographs.

Mr. Fulton said he was interested in the clock for artistic reasons. He was still playing with ideas about how the photos could be used. He envisioned them possibly as a provocative backdrop for models.

Dismantling the clock may spark a response, whether you saw the structure as symbolizing the excitement associated with the Games or the protests, he said. "It's something that might catch your eye and make you think," Mr. Fulton said.

When he looked at the clock, he thought of the money that did not go to help the homeless. He had been ambivalent about the Games. He appreciated "the hype" and some of the Olympic legacies including the bike paths, he said.

But he was disheartened by the multimillion-dollar debt incurred by the city to pay for the Olympic Village, the cluster of housing for athletes. Although city hall has set aside a portion of the Olympic Village for social housing, Mr. Fulton said he did not anticipate the housing would help the homeless.

Yuuki Inomata, a bicycle messenger, sat on the steps next to the structure. He thought the clock should remain where it was. "It brought people here," he said, suggesting it continue to mark time at the same spot.

Mr. Furlong said he was pleased that the clock would continue to serve the purpose that it was intended to serve. "What we are doing is probably going to turn out to be a good thing," Mr. Furlong said. "It will now serve the purpose of always reminding people that the Games were here."