No shortage of hope, excitement in Vancouver
VANCOUVER, B.C. – The joke here is that these are the inaugural Spring Games.
Winter? There’s hardly a trace of it in the host city for these Olympics. Green is the predominant color here, not white. There’s lots of grass, lush foliage and rain, and not a speck of snow anywhere. And you can’t walk more than five feet, it seems, without bumping into multi-colored bins set up for recycling.
That, or someone wearing a Team Canada hockey jersey or the signature fashion must-have for these Games, red mittens with the white maple leaf on the palm.
From its spotless streets and its shimmering venues, to the army of Olympic workers clad in aqua blue, Vancouver couldn’t be more ready to play host to the world.
“It’s time to show the world that we’re ready to have everybody come and visit us and see what tolerance is all about and how everybody can get along,” said Carol Barde, a local from Vancouver Island who joined a throng of hundreds Friday at Robson Square, one of the city’s three large Olympic celebration centers, for the countdown to the opening ceremonies. “That, to me, is what it is about. It’s about how we can all be different religions and races, and come together and have a beautiful society.”
Just don’t forget the hockey.
Arguably more than the astronomical cost (estimated at $6 billion), or the challenge of hosting a massive international sporting event under the specter of terror, the main thing Canadians seem to be focused on as these Olympics begin is winning gold in the country’s national pastime. “I think that’s where our focus is,” said Ali Rajabali, a Vancouver local. “Both men’s and women’s.”
Rajabali added that, while most Vancouver residents have cringed at the rising price tag for these Olympics, most couldn’t be happier to showcase their city for what it is: One of the world’s cleanest cities and home to a wealth of races and nationalities. “Yeah, they’re spending a lot of money, but that’s just the way it is,” he said. “It’s worth every penny.”
There is the concern of terrorism and protests getting out of hand. Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, reported Thursday that some 4,500 Canadian troops will be on patrol at these Olympics, and that security alone could top $1 billion. Protesters were out in the streets Friday (at Robson Square; there were more members of the media than protesters themselves) and at every Olympic venue, security checks are scrupulous.
– Follow Nate Peterson on Twitter @N8Peterson and check out his comments from the Opening Ceremonies on his Olympic blog in the “Local Olympics Coverage” section underneath the Sports tab of TahoeDailyTribune.com.
There’s also the price tag, which Canadians like Rich Ashcroft of Calgary said is worrisome.
“The cost of building these facilities in every city is astronomical,” he said. “Consider all the people around the world who are starving and could use the billions and billions they spend on all the Games. But that’s how I think it’s going to go for the future as well with any Olympics.”
Considering the sticker shock, Ashcroft said most Canadians are supportive of these Olympics. And those who aren’t have a right to their say, too, he said.
Barde agreed, adding that tolerance is one of Vancouver’s best assets.
“We have so many different problems, social problems, and Canadians do really care about the underprivileged people, the people who need to be looked after,” she said. “There’s great lobby groups, there’s great protest groups, and they have their right to speak out. That’s democracy. It’s important.”
– Follow Nate on Twitter @N8Peterson and check out his comments from-the Opening Ceremonies on his Olympic blog in the “Local Olympics Coverage” section underneath the Sports tab of TahoeDailyTribune.com.
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