Thursday, February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010

I’m an Olympic junkie. It happens every two years, Summer or Winter Games, where I find myself glued to the TV, absorbing as much as I can. Staying up late to watch Olympic coverage, or even setting the alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to watch an event if the time difference from the site of the Games necessitates. These Olympic Games from Vancouver have been no different, and if anything, I’m soaking it up even more since it’s in Canada.

I read an article from The Guardian that referred to the 2010 Vancouver Games as “the worst Olympic games in history.” I’ve actually been hearing that more and more from some international media outlets, and it’s pretty shocking to hear based on the success that is being reported from Vancouver, from media, fans, athletes, and the residents of Vancouver.

Yes, these Olympic games have had their share of problems:

A) Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili being killed in a training run on the sliding course on the morning of the Opening Ceremony.
B) The Cauldron malfunction that occurred at the end of the Opening Ceremony. (now casually called the Erectile Dysfunction)
C) 20,000 General Admission tickets being cancelled for one of the Snowboard events.
D) The Zamboni/Olympia debacle from the Richmond Oval speed skating events.
E) Complaints about concessions and bathroom issues from venues, such as the Richmond Oval.
F) The unseasonably warm weather that has been affecting many events.
G) Long waits around town for most of the Olympic-themed events and pavilions.
H) Complaints about the fence separating fans and disallowing access to the Olympic Cauldron.

To categorize the 2010 Vancouver Games as the worst ever is an unfair statement without looking at the problems on a case-by-case basis.

A) This was a tragic event that no doubt cast a dark shadow on these games from the opening day. If you haven’t seen the footage, I caution you not to. I turned away at the last moment, but still saw too much, even after being warned about how graphic it was. I’m no engineer, but I have to think that an open pillar/pole near the end of the course (padded or not), is a bad idea…and that an open area, or simply a solid, continuous wall would have been a better idea, but I don’t have the knowledge to insist on either of those things from a structural standpoint.
B) When over 32 million people are watching, and there is a mechanical malfunction at the key point of the Ceremony, yes it’s rather embarrassing. But give the producers credit for still getting it done with only 3 of the 4 pillars up, and having the flame still ignite, even though Catriona LeMay Doan was left standing there with nothing to light.
C) I heard a lot of complaints about this one, and it was the top story in many Canadian newspapers earlier this week, but the only reason that these tickets were cancelled was due to safety concerns. The rain had caused such a muddy and mucky mess that there were points where the structured standing area was slipping and people were sinking down up to their waists in mud. We really have a problem with not allowing people to stand where they may sink?
D) This was rather embarrassing, on a number of fronts. But again, as with the Opening Ceremony, they still got it done! Yes there was a delay, and yes, it was unexpected…but the event still got done.
E) This is poor planning on VANOC’s part, I’ll admit. To have no bathrooms on site, and not allow spectators to bring their own water into the site, and then have to wait sometimes up to an hour at concessions to get a bottle of water, seems absurd. But is it a determining factor to assess whether these games are the worst ever? I doubt it.
F) Vancouver and Whistler are having the warmest winter in the past 114 years. This is VANOC’s fault? I give them credit for scheduling the events that could be affected by weather so early in the schedule, so as to allow backup dates should problems arise. As well, the plan to transport snow in to Cypress Mountain, while less than ideal, still worked.
G) It’s the Olympics! When you invite the entire world to your city for a party, you can’t be surprised when there’s a 7-hour wait for a 20-second zipline ride across Robson Street.
H) I have no problem with this, considering the well-publicized attempts by protesters throughout the Torch Relay and in Vancouver to tamper with the flame. The organizers reacted promptly and: a) shortened the distance between the fence and the cauldron, b) removed a section to allow for pictures without having to include the chain link fence, and c) erected a viewing platform.

From everything I’ve heard, this games are being received remarkably well. My local radio station had a reporter going around Vancouver asking people about The Guardian’s assessment, and of the 211 people asked (all of whom were international visitors, non-Canadians), all 211 said that the games were fantastic, and a resounding success.
My friend Matt lives right in downtown Vancouver, and he and his wife (and 11-month-old son) have been taking in the Olympic experience without actually attending any of the events. They live on the 28th floor of a building overlooking B.C. Place, so they’re right in the middle of everything (see photo above). To quote him, “I love the Olympics, the emotion and vibe is awesome.” Other than the wait times and sheer volume of people, everything is very accessible, and if I lived there, I would be taking it all in as well.

My son Lucas just returned from Vancouver yesterday, as he went out to the Olympics on a trip with his mother. They saw the Opening Ceremony, Team Canada Hockey, Speed Skating (where Kristina Groves won a bronze medal), the medal ceremonies for both Jenn Heil and Alexandre Bilodeau, as well as the Gold Medal Snowboard Cross Event that saw Maelle Ricker win Gold for Canada. He called me from the venue after she won, screaming into the phone because he was so excited. Yes, they were some of the 20,000 people who had their tickets cancelled the day before, but I challenge you to try and tell Lucas that these were the worst games ever.

I understand that when you invite 50,000 media to cover an event, it’s going to be examined and scrutinized pretty closely, but let’s give credit where it’s due, and not grasp at straws looking for excuses to complain.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch Figure Skating...


Jason said...

Hey Sean,

I agree that on a case-by-case basis, it's hard to fault VANOC...and I can't imagine that these are the worst games ever (remember Munich?)...but they do seem to have a cursed vibe to them.

Still enjoying the hell out of them tho.

Matt said...

you win some, you luge some.

Sean said...


I love that you're now an Olympic fan. I remember 12 years ago, when we worked together, and I was going on about the Winter Olympics and Ross Rebagliati's marijuana scandal, you said to me, "why do we care about a worthless piece of tin, anyways?"

At the time I was furious at you, and we had a big discussion (argument) on the value of the Olympic Games and of Olympic Medals.

I'm glad you've come around. :)

Jason said...

I've always loved the Olympics, but I've always loved being combative more.

~Spitfire~ said...

Horrible Matt