One would think that because I live so close to Vancouver that I would be there, right now, cheering on my nation's sports heroes instead of spending the day cleaning the bathrooms, baking and blogging.
My absence it is not out of any kind of protest against the Olympics or the fact that, in my crabbier moments, I have likened the expense of our country hosting the snow-dependent event in a rainforest city like Vancouver to me spending a month, on my present budget, wining, dining and gambling high stakes in Las Vegas. In fact, we are Olympic enthusiasts in this house and I think the television must have been on for twelve hours yesterday. If my husband and I were twentysomethings and childless we would probably be in Vancouver as much as possible like my friend Emee's sons, who just had to experience the excitement in person. After all, there are great concerts every day at Robson Square and up at Whistler Mountain, and it's only $25.00 to get into BC Place to witness a medal ceremony each evening, which would be $150.00 if we took the kids who would certainly not want to be left behind.
I admit, it would have been wonderful to be at BC Place stadium to witness the opening ceremonies (which I thought were quite beautiful, and did an artful job of expressing the overall culture of our huge country - apart from the David Fosterized version of 'Oh Canada,' our national anthem), but since we were at the stadium in October for the U2 concert it was easy to imagine the scope of being there with 60,000 other people. We also couldn't afford the $800 + ticket price...each.
For years now we have heard nothing but warnings about the blocking off of the center of Vancouver (which is already a tricky city to navigate) during the Olympics, the lack of parking, the need to take the skytrain and busses instead (which sounds great, but authorities were also warning us of overcrowding and delays, and the nearest train station is an hour's drive from my home). It's enough to keep this crowd-fearing mortal at home. I have heard, however, from a friend that the new insfrastructure of walking trails along the shores and improvements in general to the downtown core really are beautiful and a lasting use of tax dollars. I am sure the new sports facilities and the improvements to existing ones will come in handy to the city, as well.
My Olympic participation has involved attending the torch relay with my family as it passed through our town, and enjoying the entertainment which included my son's high school jazz ensemble. I admit it was pretty exciting to be one of the last of 12,000 coast-to-coast stops for the Olympic torch. My daughters even got a free Coke and flags (emblazoned with Coke icons) to wave. And I found a coveted official red mitten on the ground which I will keep as a souvenir. On Saturday night I went to a concert of Prince Edward Island's 'Vishten', who play an earthy style of traditional, very danceable Acadian music (Acadians are Maritime French Canadians who were originally expulsed over 200 years ago from Nova Scotia - many landing in Louisiana). They were on their way to play several shows at the Olympics this week. They were fantastic, and so was the parking right in front of the village hall.
My husband considered taking a child or two to an Olympic event but the ones he was interested in seeing were far too expensive for us, and the hockey games we could afford promised to be, what he calls, 'blowouts', ie. Finland 15, Estonia 0, and no fun at all. He lived in Calgary during the '88 Olympics and said all the evening concerts were free, transportation well organized and accessible, and it cost $25.00 to watch downhill skiing. It was a different time, in a spacious city planned in a grid of roadways over a flat landscape, and the Calgary Olympics actually made money.
Last week at my younger daughter's school they held their own version of the Olympics. They held competitions in all sorts of adapted sports involving hockey sticks and scooter boards. They even had one competition called 'Find a Parking Spot'. My daughter was assigned to 'Team Switzerland,' so now she says, next to Canada, she's cheering for the Swiss. Her whole school has been invited to attend a Paralympic curling match, so she may go to that with her class. My other children certainly would not mind going to an event, but unlike in the city of Vancouver, their schools are not closed for two weeks.
We are going to go to Vancouver at some point to witness all the downtown improvements for ourselves, but I think we'll wait until the city calms down a bit. In the meantime, we'll keep the t.v. on in the evenings and cheer from our comfortable couch. It is very cool to watch an event at Cypress Mountain (where we have been nordic skiing many times) or Whistler or the Pacific Coliseum and say to each other, "We've been there!"