The Olympics Came to Town

We’ve lived through the final weekend of the Winter Olympics now.

It became quite a party.

I’m not a fan of the Olympics. The “Olympic Movement” has become a con, a scam, and an avenue for corporations and friends of the government to access public dollars for projects that benefit their interests. It’s the kind of elaborate kick-back scheme that major contributors to political parties expect.

And don’t get me started on the “Olympic Family,” the portable police state, and corporate infringement of free speech and public assembly that might interfere with this oh so important sporting event.

But when the party does come to town, it would be too churlish to deny its attractions. We live in Richmond, a suburb of Greater Vancouver, which includes Vancouver International Airport, and so were in the thick of it.

Oval Main Activity Area

Richmond had one of the Olympic venues, the huge speed skating oval built from the province’s pine-beetle damaged wood specifically for the Olympics, and acclaimed as an architectural wonder even exceeding the  Olympic Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing. Its life as a skating rink will be short, I understand, and it will be turned into a community centre for a variety of activities.

P1020264I had a day off during the week, and walked over to the O-Zone, which is where the free events associated with Olympic events occurred in Richmond, on a large playing field and track with nearby ice rink and arts centre.

On that day, my camera bag was perfunctorily examined by a volunteer. Happily nothing led to a strip search. I wandered around the artificial turf of the playing field, while a school brass band played shrilly on the nearby stage.

A large flat screen showed a skiing event at Whistler. A couple stood with burnt-out Olympic torches, scorch marks still evident on their curved shells, and encouraged passers by to have photos taken with these authentic pieces of Olympic kitsch. It seemed to be a free service, and many took the opportunity.

Richmond has a very high proportion of Asian immigrants. It is the first choice of abode for many Hong Kong and mainland Chinese, and has a high proportion of East Indians as well. So it was not surprising that the majority of the faces with waving flags and maple leaf mittens were Chinese or Korean or Punjabi.

The food concessions around the edge of things were Korean, Japanese and Chinese as well, with some burgers and hotdogs thrown in. All overpriced of course. The $5 latte was a reality.

I had a small Korean pancake which was actually quite tasty, served by an attractive overdressed young woman at a ramshackle booth who spoke perfect colloquial Canadian; perhaps a college student helping out her parents.

P1020268Different countries had their pavilions at various spots in the Lower Mainland. The Dutch had theirs at the Richmond O-Zone: a building with orange and green paint and a long line up for Heinekens. Right nearby was a big Coke trailer extolling the spiritual and athletic benefits of fizzy brown sugar water.

The overall impression was that of a fall or county fair. There was a small skating rink filled with kids and their parents. There were a couple of tents of Olympic related exhibits.

It didn’t quite feel like a major international sporting event, other than for the presence of the Dutch.

But my wife and I did travel eventually to downtown Vancouver and to nearby Granville Island to take in some of the Olympic atmosphere before the closing ceremony on Sunday (although we avoided the crushing crowds of the late afternoon and evening).

I commend to you this posting from mrbeernhockey for his description of a more… intense Olympic experience in the boisterous night time.

We watched a lot of exciting and dramatic Olympic TV coverage. But now, except for the much lower key Paralympics, the party’s over.


Explore posts in the same categories: Cascadia, Culture, Games, Photography, Politics

6 Comments on “The Olympics Came to Town”

  1. Sputnki Says:

    Hey Fencer,

    I liked the description of one CBC reporter on where he saw THE hockey game (gold medal Canada vs US for those of you from another planet). He left work and found himself in The Bay department store and discovered the staff and customers had moved all the sofa’s from home furnishings to the TV’s in electronics… Where was security? Helping move sofa’s, of course.

  2. fencer Says:

    Hi Sputnki,

    Good to hear from you…

    The hockey game was quite an event, and became elevated to a matter of national pride. Fortunately, Canada won and people continued celebrating all night, unwilling to let the party end.

    That’s a good story about the department store and shows how seriously Canadians take hockey…


  3. That is a good hockey story. Reminds of the crowds of men that gathered in front of store windows to watch hockey on a bank of colour tvs before they had an expensive colour set in their own home.

  4. fencer Says:

    Hi Mr. Beer,

    Hope you survived the Olympics okay… taking in the sledge hockey? Don’t know how much is being shown on TV of the Paralympics.


  5. On the Paras: if I watch any of their programme does that mean I get to drink more and make rude comments to Germans and call every Finn I see Jyrkkie Lumme? Something tells me I will be tuning into their Opening Ceremony and take it from there. When I used to skate at the local arenas I used to hate it when the sledgers had been on the ice before the public skaters. They rip up the ice beyond what any Zamboni can repair.

    I did not expect to watch more than hockey, the downhill racing and a little curling during the Olympics but ended up watching at least bits of everything. If tobogganing were an Olympic sport I would have watched that. Speaking of which, why is snow shoe racing not an Olympic sport? And what about sailing on the ice?

  6. fencer Says:

    Hi Mr. Beer,

    Yeah those double duty hockey sticks with the ice-biter on one end must gouge some holes…

    There are lots of winter activities that should be in the Olympics… how about ice-fishing? I like the idea of tobogganing as an Olympic sport. It would be like hockey, so many people have participated growing up, it’s got a built-in major audience.


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