Vancouver Winter Olympic Games

Vancouver 2010: A Legacy of Olympic Proportions: Part 2

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This is the first Olympics where as a fan you can enjoy the Winter Games of Whistler or the Summer Games of Vancouver. At the same time.

Unprecedented in the history of the Winter Olympics. Not an easy feat but almost flawlessly executed in a climate that has drawn the masses onto the streets.

VANOC (Vancouver Olympic Committee) says they have balanced the books in operation of the Games. That’s if you don’t include security costs, which the Federal Govt has so graciously offered to foot the bill. Fair enough considering that $1B is the most spectacular job creation project ever in Canada. Unfortunately taking such precautions is essential these days if you plan to keep one of the biggest shows on earth terrorist-free. Local government were wise enough to step aside when it came to developing the athletes’ village as cost over-runs now lie in the hands of a developer, who should still make handsome profits in the unrelenting real estate boom here. Imagine owning the apartment where megastars Kim Yu-Na or Apolo Ono slept: the ultimate Olympic souvenir. Full marks to John Furlong, VANOC CEO for his commitment to success, especially over such personal sacrifice: unlike many public initiatives, this one ran to budget and on time.

Some argue the commercialisation of the Olympic Games but without major sponsors taxpayers would be digging a lot deeper. The incredible success of the Olympic Flame Relay has done much to link the far reaching communities of Canada through raising spirits and cultural profiles. This wouldn’t have been financially possible without major sponsors to turn it into such a spectacle. Anyone who participated or even turned up to follow the flame would have recognised this journey was more than that of the Olympics.

So how can we measure the true impact of the Winter Olympics on Vancouver and Canada?

If it wasn’t for something as dramatic as this event Vancouver politicians would have continued in their wallow of indecision with transit and aging infrastructure. Instead, the Canada Line, connecting Vancouver City to its airport in Richmond and surrounds was undertaken, and within weeks of opening it was already running to capacity. The Games has forced Vancouver to take a legitimate look at its social problems: experimental bike lanes and co-operative housing providing homeless support are having some success.  

Aging icons like the PNE Coliseum and BC Place Stadium are being upgraded or replaced by stunning community projects like the Richmond Skating Oval.  And most importantly the Vancouver Conference Centre, currently  the Games Press Centre, is now one of the finest in North America and already has millions of dollars of convention bookings as far out as 2020. To think that all this was built for two weeks of sports is folly.

With growth comes change and some locals fear the affordability of housing for future generations. Vancouver will never be the same. But change will come as it inevitably does, Olympics or not, and the next impact is likely to come with the influx of Canada’s latest new immigrant wave. This time it will be more a tsunami as mainland Chinese are coming to a neighbourhood near you.

How do you measure community morale or civic pride?

The Olympics are no longer an exclusive property of athletes and their entourages. Like other sporting events such as the World Cup or Superbowl these are now festivals, bigger than the game itself, and reasons to celebrate by taking the party to the streets. Many in Vancouver say that it has allowed their families to take back the streets, bringing them together with a common cause. Vancouverites have been told what a beautiful city they have and now they can really believe it. Any signs of resistance to these games have melted in the sun as recent surveys indicate 97% of all canadians have switched onto the TV Games network at some point. Pride is in the air. Even for our homeless.

Like any good party a jolly good hang-over is inevitable but Vancouver isn’t thinking of that now.


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