Bob Ramsay is a Toronto communications consultant.
At the finish line of this year's Boston Marathon stood a large sign that read: "Absolutely no weapons allowed."
Really? Bostonians had to be told that?
But at least they had tragic reality as a backdrop.
Here in Toronto, the "Conditions of Entry to a Venue" at the Pan Am Games are as bizarre and Martian as the security and driving regulations that are making the 2.6 million of us who live here feel like slightly illegal aliens who don't quite get the language.
For example, the rules say you can't wear your gang colours into an event. But you also can't wave the flag of a non-participating country. In other words, wave a Union Jack and you can get thrown out. Seems extreme.
You also can't carry your kayak or canoe into any event, and not just the kayaking and canoe events. I can see how carrying a kayak into the table-tennis finals might spook the competitors.
You're allowed to wear a partial face mask, but not a full face mask.
You can't bring in a commercial-grade video camera. Does this mean no iPhones? Doesn't Apple have a big ad campaign now showing pictures taken by the world's top photographers? Technology trumps regulation.
There's also a big, loud rule against ambush marketing, where someone who's not paid to be a sponsor or advertiser implies they're "endorsed" by the Pan Am Games. In the Olympic Games, this has led to crackdowns that would make Quebec's language police weep in awe. Woe to the Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver eateries with the name "Olympic" in them: In all three of Canada's previous Olympic Games, they were warned to stop advertising, and in Vancouver, Games organizers sued local businesses, including long-standing ones, simply because they had "Olympic" in their names.
The owners of Pan Am's Joint – conveniently situated near the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre in Scarborough – should keep an eye out for approaching lawyers.
Security always flexes its torso in advance of the Games.
Here, some neighbours are complaining because their public park was closed for the Games. The newly opened Corktown Common is a victim of geography. It lies within the athletes' village and so has to be closed to the public.
But it closed on June 1, more than a month before the first athlete arrived. And it doesn't reopen when they're gone. The Games end on Aug. 15, and the park reopens on Aug. 31.
This same impulse of "get them used to it in advance" and "make them suffer after" is also alive in the mess with the HOV lanes.
Officials claim the new three-in-a-car rule went into effect 11 days before the Games so that we could get used to it. I think it's so we had the time to get the bile out of our systems and read up on the Stockholm syndrome.
Again, surprises lurk on the roads for all of us. And don't think that driving will return to normal the day after the Pan Am Games themselves are done on July 27. The limit will merely drop the next day to two-in-a-car until Aug. 15, when the Parapan Am Games are finished – and restrictions will continue for three more days after that.
It's clear to me why: Games officials felt it would take that long for our blood pressure and murderous impulses to subside, thereby lowering the highway fatality rate. I guess someone forgot to tell them that punishing people longer tends to anger them more.
There's bound to be more of this mystifying overkill. When it comes to big circuses such as the Olympics, the World Cup and the Pan Am Games, there always has been and always will be.
Perhaps Toronto will earn a Wikipedia site devoted entirely to this subject. There's one for the Vancouver Games, called "Concerns and controversies at the 2010 Winter Olympics."
It lists 19 flashpoints … and runs nearly 5,000 words in length.