In the years, months, and even weeks leading up to this year’s Winter Olympics, I managed to miss the Olympic bug. This is despite living in greater Vancouver and reading about the coming Games in the morning newspaper every week for seven years. It has to do with borders. Yes, I tell foreigners that I live in Vancouver but my real homes are my house, my school, and the trails around Rocky Point Park. I visit downtown maybe 10 times a year and I almost always feel like a tourist. The infrequency, time, and effort of getting to “The City” makes each trip a mini-vacation. So, the grand extravaganza of hosting the Winter Olympics has felt much removed from my suburban life.
Two weeks ago, when I received my very own pair of red Vancouver 2010 mittens, was the first time it truly sunk in that the world would soon be coming to my backyard. I wore the mittens for the rest of the week and pondered what they meant. Hosting the Olympics entailed spending lots of taxpayer money, no Evergreen Line out to Port Moody, and whole lot of hassle. However, there’s also something exciting about being the hub of the world for two weeks and then the government keeps going on about tourist dollars. In the end, I couldn’t make up my mind about whether I supported having the Games in Vancouver or not. I decided to save my opinion for later and just enjoy the festivities.
The torch travelled past my school last Thursday. I got up at 6:00 am to be at school by 7:00 am to watch the torch and consume free pancakes (provided by the cafeteria). When I arrived outside the school, the sidewalks and the middle of the road were completely filled with hundreds of cheering students dressed in red and white. About ten half-dressed grade-twelves ran down the street with the letters C-A-N-A-D-A drawn in face paint across their stomachs. I’ve never seen such spirit exhibited by my school. The vice-principle reported that 800 pancakes were eaten and we only got one each. That’s pretty impressive from a student body of 1,150.
Yesterday, I joined the hoards of mitt-wearing Vancouverites and took transit downtown for my share of the Olympic experience. On the bus to Lougheed Station, a group of Dutch people in orange hats began singing their national anthem. The rest of us kept the beat by clapping and then belted out Oh-Canada. It was the most fun bus ride I’ve had in all my years of taking transit, even though there was no room to sit down for the entire 25 minute journey. When I arrived downtown, the line ups were too long for me to do anything other than wander. I let the crowd’s energy carry me along. Street performers called out hip hop, performed comedy, and danced to 90s music (SpandyAndy was the best). Every third person was wearing or carrying something red or that said “Canada.”
In the end, the crowds and the excitement are what made up my mind about the Olympics. Despite the money and all the other controversies surrounding hosting them, the Games have brought Vancouver and arguably all of Canada together. In a country of this size and a city of this much diversity, that’s quite a feat. Maybe its because I don’t pay taxes or live in the downtown core, but I’m glad Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.