Sunday, February 28, 2010
Vancouver - a city divided by the Olympics, despite great results for Canada
Bill Tieleman's 24 hours column
February 16, 2010
Vancouver – a city divided by the Olympics, not united
By Bill Tieleman
Vancouver is lovely. There is no other word for it.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author, 1859-1930
Vancouver: a terrible hole.
- Brendan Behan, author, 1923-1964
Vancouver is a city divided – by the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
And with media hyped to the max about the Games, it’s a reality not readily apparent.
It’s not about all the protestors – it’s about the rest of us.
And the truth is, the Olympics may bring together a country – even the world – while splitting apart a city.
This is unfortunate, unsettling and altogether expected for Vancouver.
The city is constantly split – East Side versus West Side, working class versus upper class, B.C. Liberals versus New Democrats – so it’s just one more dichotomy.
And sport is no different than class or politics – not when it comes to the Olympics.
Ironically, and mostly lost in Games’ coverage, is the fact that former B.C. Premier Glen Clark actually initiated the 2010 Olympics back in 1998 when the NDP were in power and had defeated current Premier Gordon Campbell in 1996.
In other words, the two major political parties both supported the Olympics, as they do today.
But when it comes to Vancouverites and British Columbians, there is no unity.
An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll just last month found that across the entire country, B.C. was the most negative about the Olympic Games with only 50% believing they would have a positive impact on the province.
That compares with 70% of Canadians overall feeling the games would be good for Vancouver, B.C. and the country.
You can see the split easily by talking to people here. One acquaintance of mine related that she voted against the Olympics in the city referendum but is now enthusiastic, encouraged by the display of Canadian flags and excitement.
But when she took a taxi last week, the driver – who had voted in favour of the Olympics – was completely negative and wished Vancouver had never got the games!
Then there is the fear factor.
A large number of Vancouverites are fleeing the city in advance of the Olympics.
A Mustel Group poll estimated that about 12% or up to 250,000 people from the Metro Vancouver area will leave town for all or part of the Olympics.
I’m in that last category, deciding to vacation in Mexico rather than celebrate winter sports I neither follow nor participate in.
I still support the Olympics and want the city to shine, because I think they will improve our economy and put Vancouver more impressively on the world map.
But one thing is clear – we Vancouverites love our city, period.
And no one’s love for this city should ever be measured by their support for the Olympic Games – no one.
Hopefully we can all agree on that.
NOTE - This column from February 16 was printed in 24 hours newspaper but not posted on my blog at the time due to my absence.