Where's the remedy for Olympic fever?

Michael
Michael Johansen
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As the Olympic flame hop-skips its way closer to Canada's Pacific Coast - now with less than a month to go before reaching Vancouver - VANOC (the increasingly well-known acronym for the Vancouver/Whistler Olympics Committee) is stepping up its drive to spread Olympic fever from sea to sky.
For many people, however, that fever is starting to feel a little like the flu.
"I can't wait till March comes," some are beginning to say - March being the time the 2010 Winter Olympics will be over and done with.
Over the past few months, VANOC has been remaking Vancouver into its own image and now the transformation is being sped up to meet the Feb. 12 deadline. In order to get the city into the proper mood, the famous five blue, yellow, black, green and red rings (symbolizing America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia) were installed in huge form in the middle of the Vancouver harbour. Erected 100 days before the kick-off and lit up at night, they instantly became one of the city's most prominent landmarks (so to speak).
More recently, banners have been hung from lampposts all over the city for the express purpose of instilling the Olympic spirit into the citizenry. And the coverage of the upcoming event by local media, especially television, has become almost giddy in its tone as they count down from the 30-day mark.
The campaign is showing some success, especially among collectors of Olympic pins, who line up for hours on end outside of crowded official trading centres whenever a new one is released to the public. And it's a success for property owners who are in the position to rent out living space to the thousands of expected spectators at highly inflated rates.
However, many of VANOC's other actions are only serving to counteract its drive to bolster the Olympic spirit.
Vancouver's labyrinthine street system has never been well-designed to handle the city's increasing amount of car and truck traffic, but the changes VANOC has been making to accommodate the needs of the Games - closing some streets, converting others to one-way, and eliminating parking spaces (already in short supply) - have only made a bad situation worse. Shopkeepers have found their business steadily decreasing as their customers find it increasingly difficult to actually get to their shops.
Attempts to convince people to drive fewer cars into the downtown area have so far only been met with limited or no success. Organizers can only hope traffic won't get worse.
The question of business is definitely a sore point for many. The Games have been billed and justified as a money-making venture, but VANOC has been tightly controlling who gets to make money off them to a select few who have enough cash to pay VANOC for the privilege. The committee has vociferously been going after those businesses that make any unauthorized reference to the Olympic name or to the rings, thus violating the Olympic trademark. It doesn't help that most of the select few granted the right to benefit directly from the Games are not local producers, but are mostly U.S.-based multinational companies. Seeing fast-food outlets boasting their exclusive support of the athletes strikes many as disappointingly ironic.
Then there's the weather.
Rising temperatures and heavy, snow-melting rain at the Whistler site (which, for the purposes of the Games, is now effectively a suburb of Vancouver) has reawakened questions about the wisdom of Canada's warmest province hosting the world's coldest sporting event.
VANOC says it has plans in place to deal with a lack of snow, but perhaps the problem can be solved in another way: if they can bring the fever down a bit, maybe temperatures will fall again to a more appropriate level.

Michael Johansen has gone into travel mode. For the next few months, he'll be writing from everywhere between Labrador and Vancouver Island.

Organizations: Pacific Coast, Whistler Olympics Committee

Geographic location: Vancouver Island, Canada, U.S. Europe Asia Africa Australia Whistler Labrador

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  • Geoff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    A couple points. The media in Vancouver are not almost giddy about the games. In fact, it's the complete opposite. They are downright downers! Complain complain complain. If anything, it's the media here that's putting out any Olympic fever .

    BC is not the warmest province in Canada. Remember that east of the southcoast, it gets super cold in the winter and hence brings down BC's average.

    Vancouver does remain one of the mildest cities in Canada where palm trees and green grass grow year round. Who says that a winter olympic city has to be a frozen pop tart?

  • Geoff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    A couple points. The media in Vancouver are not almost giddy about the games. In fact, it's the complete opposite. They are downright downers! Complain complain complain. If anything, it's the media here that's putting out any Olympic fever .

    BC is not the warmest province in Canada. Remember that east of the southcoast, it gets super cold in the winter and hence brings down BC's average.

    Vancouver does remain one of the mildest cities in Canada where palm trees and green grass grow year round. Who says that a winter olympic city has to be a frozen pop tart?