Confused in 2010

I didn’t want to have the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. I wish we had spent the money on something else (or, perhaps, accepted that we didn’t actually have the money to spend). But, living in North Vancouver, I didn’t get a vote.

Here are some of the things I don’t like:

  • The mixed-up priorities. I am concerned about hospital and police services being unavailable for the needs of residents for the duration of the Games. I don’t like it when public officials and others fail to understand conflict of interest. I don’t like the water-cooler conversations on how much money people can make renting accommodation to visitors, as though money is the only thing that matters and gouging is the only sensible thing to do when the opportunity occurs.
  • The inconvenience. Yes, perhaps this seems small-minded. And I could probably tolerate the road closures and the expected traffic chaos if it were not for the Vancouver 2010 organizing committee (Vanoc) and the media constantly exhorting me to bike, walk, or take transit during February. Those are simply not options for me; they are not options for much of the population.
  • The completely false notion that the Games are about some pure ideals. They are about sport and about business:
    • The sporting aspect is at a level that I don’t understand. When the winning score in speed-based competitions is measured in fractions of a second, the whole thing becomes meaningless to me — not that I have ever understood the emphasis on winning. My idea of sporting competition is a friendly rivalry where people can say “good game” to their opponents afterwards and where an athlete doesn’t have to live with a lifetime of feeling like a failure if he or she doesn’t win.
    • The business aspect is also at a level that I don’t understand. I am offended by the fact that small businesses have been put out of work without compensation as a result of Olympic-related construction, while big businesses will be making making more-than-usually-enormous profits. I am offended by the tight controls on advertising by anyone other than those who have paid a premium to be a sponsor. Of course, since corporate sponsorship is worth about a billion dollars to Vanoc, perhaps it’s not surprising that they control it tightly (with the help of city inspectors — more confused priorities).
  • The threat to free speech. Initially, the city announced that there would be “no-go” areas during the games where protests would not be allowed. Then they announced that there would be designated protest areas. Fortunately, the public outcry seems to have resulted in a softening of the initial approaches and a coalescing around one more consistent with our national belief that we live in a country where we are free to protest anything we like. We will now be allowed to protest in any public place outside of the Olympic fences — probably: the RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department are continuing to give rather confusing messages.

Here are some of the things I like:

  • Our party outfits. The design of the Olympic materials is striking (and I appreciate them more from having looked into the process behind the design). The clothing to be worn by the athletes and the volunteers looks great. The Games-branded clothing that we can all buy is kind of fun. The street banners and even the building wraps are gorgeous (now that I have relaxed after getting all uptight upon hearing the rumour that our downtown public library would be wrapped as a giant McDonald’s hamburger).
  • The torch relay. Seeing pictures of small and large communities across Canada as the torch passes through gives me a sense of a large country united by, well, something mostly intangible but something that is a part of feeling Canadian.
  • The sense of occasion and festivity. Even with all my conflicting feelings, I am going to watch the opening ceremonies (on screen) and watch one or two of the races (in person), reasoning that it’s not likely Vancouver will see anything like this again in my lifetime.

Perhaps I will have to design my own t-shirt. Those that say “CANADA,” or “With glowing hearts,” or “We will own the podium” don’t work for me. Mine will need to have all kinds of explanatory subheadings, accepting that winning is not really all that important and that good sportsmanship is a greater thing; that we will try our best to be fair to everyone and respect all their individual belief systems while gently pointing out that we kind of like a polite, free and tolerant society; that Canada is really happy to have you all here but that we will heave a sigh of relief when the party is over and we can put our feet up while reviewing our credit card bills; that we are mildly patriotic after a few beers (oh dear: apparently we must drink Molson beers, as they are an official supplier) but really we are all citizens of the world.

Ambivalent? Grey area? Maybe Confused will have to do.

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2 thoughts on “Confused in 2010

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