Monday, February 22, 2010

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Day Two

The morning after the Opening Ceremony was a rainy Saturday on February 13th. Considering the late night at our friend's party the night before, I got up early and turned on the TV to watch the first Olympics events. It was such a novelty to see these events taking place in my own back yard!

But in between watching the moguls events, the news was featuring a breaking story where a group of anarchists (parading around as protesters) had marched down Georgia Street vandalized the Bay department store downtown, among other things. While not surprised, I became enraged when I saw the footage of somebody taking a chair and smashing it into the Bay's Olympics window display. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for protests. I'm all for criticizing the Olympics where it's warranted. This is the home of Adbusters. This is the birth city of Greenpeace. This is the stronghold of the NDP. Vancouver has always been a hotbed of social activism and political protests, but these weren't legitimate protesters. These were a group of young street punks and anarchist kids all dressed in black masking their faces with bandannas. They had no message. They had nothing to share. Their only goal seemed to be smashing any property of any corporate Olympic sponsor, to give Vancouver a black eye while the rest of the world watched.

I quickly logged into Twitter. The Tweets spewing back and forth shared the same emotion: outrage. Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, but you cross the line when you start spray painting cars, knocking over newspaper stands and smashing storefronts. You've lost respect and any credibility or support.

We all collectively knew something like this could happen, that anti-Olympic protests would spontaneously erupt, but didn't anticipate a haphazard anarchy spree. And I didn't think it would happen so soon. Regardless, this all happened in the early hours before I woke up, and I noticed the news reels repeating the same 2 minute clip over and over. Were mountains made out of molehills? It was hard to tell.

I looked outside my window and everything appeared status quo. There were no sirens. There was no chaos. There were only crowds of locals wandering around, looking to enjoy the Olympics. So with a taste of the Olympics fresh on my tongue, I ran outside to explore downtown Vancouver on my own. Because, heck, it's the Olympics! And it's happening in my backyard!

On the first day of the Olympics, I headed over to Granville Street which is a 5 minute walk up from where I live. Granville Street downtown was mostly closed to traffic. There were tents set up with live music and performers. Many people wandered aimlessly through the rain all decked out in their new Canada Olympics gear. Despite the wet weather, there was definitely an incredibly exciting buzz in the city as people poured into the streets to absorb the Olympic spirit they themselves were creating.

The popular Irish House beer garden in the white tent

Granville Street

Granville Street

Granville & Robson

Granville and Robson was busier than I had ever seen it. It was weird to see it without any traffic. I decided to head west down Robson into the heart of downtown where the BC Pavilion at Robson Square and the CTV broadcast tent attacted unprecedented crowds. 

Look in the air! Zip-liners zip across Robson Street

Looking up Howe Street

Outside Chapters bookstore

Vancouver Art Gallery

Crowds along Robson Street

El Kartel - a hipster clothing boutique represents Mexico

Yeti on Robson

Crowds on the Robson sidewalks

Robson was quiet outside of Guu with Garlic izakaya restaurant

Cherry blossoms in the West End. In bloom! In February!

It was in the West End that I met up with my friend Stephanie. We stopped for lunch at a Lebanese takeout  before heading back down Robson Street to meet up with my other half. All together we thought we'd head over to Georgia Street and visit the official Olympic Store located inside of The Bay department store. Thinking we'd skip past the Robson gridlock by sneaking down Burrard, we found ourselves once again stopped in a massive crowd, this time on the sidewalk in front of the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver as a security entourage drove past. We weren't sure who it was, but must have been a political figure. Because of the big crowd, we cut through the hotel to get through to Georgia Street to continue down to The Bay.

Outside of the Bay, they were in the midst of replacing that smashed window, but other than the green spraypaint "genocide" on the sidewalk, you'd have no idea anything had happened. The atmosphere all over downtown was cheerful and festive. It was like Canada Day or New Year's Eve.

Once inside of The Bay, we realized we couldn't access the Olympic Store, we had to enter through a separate entrance. Well, we soon discovered that that entrance had a lineup of hundreds of people that went down the block. Nuh-uh... no Olympic Store this time! Instead, we wandered a few blocks over to the Aboriginal Pavilion at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Again, massive lineups in the cold windy rain. No thanks. So wanting to get out of the rain, we wandered toward Gastown hoping to grab a drink at a pub, but we accidentally stumbled upon the Vancouver Community College Aboriginal trade show. Inside we browsed the booths featuring many of Canada's Aboriginal businesses, including those of many artists.

But still wanting to sit down and get a drink somewhere, we thought about returning to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to have a drink in the lounge. The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (known locally as just "the Hotel Vancouver") is the classy old dame of Vancouver hotels. Heck, it has a Gucci and a Louis Vuitton store inside. Enough said. Josh and I used to have a tradition where we'd have a drink at the Hotel Vancouver lounge after Christmas shopping. Well, it had been years since we had done that, so it seemed fitting to go during the Olympics.

While there were lineups everywhere else downtown (or so it seemed), we immediately got a seat in the lounge next to TV's showing the Olympics. It was a great atmosphere. There were people from all over the world sitting around. Older women with white fur coats and red lipstick (definitely not from Vancouver!). Americans in Team USA Ralph Lauren outfits. Media representatives and Olympic volunteers. There were entire families with Canada hoodies and USA jacket with their eyes glued on the TV. All the while a pianist playing a variety of familiar tunes on the grand piano next to our table.

We ordered some snacks - a cheese platter and a crab artichoke dip. And I just had to order one of their special Olympic-themed cocktails. Called "The Torch", it was made with ruby red grapefruit vodka and muddled red pepper. And yes. Those gold leaf flakes floating around? Yup. That's exactly what they were.

While enjoying our drinks, Josh received a few texts from friends of ours who were out on the town trying to figure out where to go. Some were in those impossible lineups standing in the rain, waiting forever to get into n overpriced beer garden. So we invited them over to join us. Sure, the Hotel Vancouver lounge is pricey, but it's no worse than those beer gardens, except much classier, better service, and no waits! 

Before we knew it, our table of three had grown into a table of 6.  It was all very exciting and, again, a great atmosphere to be during the Olympics. We were there when Canada slaughtered Slovakia in women's ice hockey, winning 18-0. We saw Joe Biden arrive and disappear countless times with his security entourage. We also had members of Russia's Olympic team sit beside us, fiddling around with their Vancouver maps. However, the most memorable moment was perhaps when the pianist brought in a singer and stand-up bass player, and an elderly couple who were in their nineties stood up and danced along to the music.


Lorra Fae said...

You were outside Chapters and didn't come say hi? Pfft ;)

Paul Letsgo2Vietnam said...

We are enjoying watching the games from your beautiful city.

Weymouth Summer Olympics 2012

Unknown said...

A real flavour of the atmosphere Robyn, so exciting, and thank you for taking the time out to write and take photos during the Games - loved the photos of Granville St etc. and also the fireworks over BC Place on the opening ceremony.

Sue (Reading, UK)

Robyn said...

Hehe, Lorra, you know I'll visit you after the Olympics chaos is over. ;)

Editor, glad you hear you're enjoying the Olympics. I bet it's exciting knowing you're next!

Sue, so happy to hear you're enjoying the updates! Being across the street from the fireworks during the Opening Ceremony was incredible!