Friday, October 23, 2009

2010 Olympics torch relay: realization of a myth

Yesterday at 2am local Vancouver time, somewhere in Greece, the 2010 Winter Olympics torch was lit, marking the beginning of the torch relay which will, after 106 days, travel over 1000 communities before arriving in Vancouver.

Although this city has been bombarded with Olympics hype for the past 8-9 years (and therefore we tune this stuff out), this particular event really hits home. It signifies the realization of a myth. This so-called Vancouver Olympics which have been perpetually stuck in the future... it's starting to feel like, no really, it REALLY is happening. It's not just talk!

Since the announcement that Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 Olympics back on that sleepy 2003 morning, this city has had its major city streets and downtown blocks torn apart. Major downtown intersections and shopping districts literally were ripped apart and turned into 3-4 story open trenches for the construction of the Canada Line rapid transit (subway). For years and years our city has been one big inescapable construction site full of gaping holes in the ground. Entire neighbourhoods like Yaletown, Granville Street and Cambie became one big detour.

I mean, I used to giggle when tourists showed concern about staying in hotels next to construction sites.

Honey? This city is a construction site. Escaping construction in Vancouver is like escaping freeways in LA.

New bridges have been built. New venues have been constructed. Cute fuzzy mascots with First Nations aesthetics are for sale EVERYWHERE.

The twisty Sea to Sky Highway was blown apart and reconstructed so that impatient speed demons could speed their way faster to Whistler. Greater Vancouver lost one of its few campground/RV parks, where they not only demolished the park, they built over the Fraser River and its estuary and built the Richmond Oval on man-made land. How very Dubai of them!

And I'm not even getting into the political protests.

When I worked downtown I used to walk by the Olympics countdown clock outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, and I remember the day when it finally reached 1000 days before the Olympics. Any day now, it'll reach 100 days.

The Olympics are only a few months away, and I live in the middle of it all. I live across the street from where the media will be based. I'll look out of my window and see the world's media. I'll look out my solarium and see BC Place Stadium where they're holding the opening and closing ceremonies. I'll look out my bedroom window and spy on Cypress Mountain. If I looked at it with my telescope, would I be able to see the snowboarders?

It's just weird.

The Olympics have always been on the horizon for 7 years in Vancouver. It's been so long. It's a new sensation - goosebumps - to see that the torch has now been lit and that it's seriously making its way to Vancouver in 4 months.

I still think the torch looks like a joint.

Very fitting Vancouver.


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