Saturday, February 6, 2010

They say it's your birthday - on opening day

Feb. 12 is a great date for a group of eight.

Eight athletes, including a Canadian, will celebrate their birthdays at the opening ceremony in B.C. Place Stadium. You could say the Olympic cauldron will be the biggest candle they will every see. Just add cake.

Happy Birthday (and welcome to Vancouver) on Feb. 12 to: curling's Thomas Dufour of France (1973), biathlon's Michela Ponza of Italy (1979), hockey's Jonas Hiller of Switzerland (1982), alpine skiing's Steven Nyman of U.S.A., (1982), hockey's Andrei Karev of Belarus (1985), ski jumping's Antonin Hajek of Czech Republic (1987), hockey's Meghan Agosta of Canada (1987), and skicross's Clara Marsan of Austria (1989).

Ski jumping qualifying on the normal hill at the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley is the first and only sporting event on opening day and that could be a good omen for Hajek.

I had a similar experience on Aug. 8, 2008 when by B-day was in the biggest B-town of them all. It was a very happy and sweaty 38th birthday amid the 50 Celsius heat during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games in the Bird's Nest.

I found there was a benevolent side to Big Brother, who was constantly watching us foreigners in China. When I returned to the Huiyuan Media Village after the ceremony, I discovered a gift of a souvenir pin of a Chinese tripod with a birthday card on my night table. Xie xie!

For Los Angeles 1984 silver medal sprinter and VANOC director Charmaine Crooks, it was her 46th birthday on Aug. 8, 2008. We often joke about the 100,000 friends who came from around the world to join us at the biggest party of our lives.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Unlucky Horseshoe

The Olympic torch relay slipped ever so quietly and quickly in and out of Horseshoe Bay in the afternoon of Feb. 4 via the Coastal Renaissance. The ship with Apolo Anton Ohno on the hull was seconded from its regular service on the route to Nanaimo so it could carry the Olympic flame from Langdale on the Sunshine Coast.

B.C. Ferries’ CEO David “The Million Dollar Mahn” Hahn posed on-board for a photo opportunity with employee Bill McCormick, who wheeled the torch onto the ferry at Langdale. A propane-powered community cauldron was lit and O Canada sung. Helicopters captured the moment on the empty-of-vehicles upper deck.

The main vehicle deck was nearly full of VANOC, RBC, Coca-Cola and RCMP vehicles.

I even spotted one with Georgia licence plates and identification for Cooper-Atlanta Transportation Services.

The cauldron was extinguished and whatever thought of a stop in Horseshoe Bay was scuttled. Lions Bay was the first stop for the torch in the Lower Mainland, as it winds its way to B.C. Place Stadium for the Feb. 12 opening ceremony.

Gee, I wonder why?

VANOC claims the 2010 Games will be green, but who can forget the Save Eaglridge Bluffs movement and protests? The controversial plan to expand the Sea-to-Sky highway via an overland route overlooking Horseshoe Bay instead of a tunnel had locals furious in 2006. They camped out to stop Kiewit vehicles from doing their work. Many were arrested for civil disobedience, including the most raging grannies of them all, Betty Krawczyk and Harriet Nahanee. Conrad Schmidt’s Five Ring Circus and George Orr’s Chasing the Dream include dramatic, emotional footage from those heady days.

Nahanee died not long after she was released from prison in early 2007 and is the closest to a martyr that anti-Olympics protesters have. She was the inspiration for the 2007 theft of the Olympic flag from Vancouver city hall.

Anyway, the $600 million-plus highway work was done, the wetlands ruined and travel time reduced between the Olympic city and the Olympic resort.

I didn’t spot any protesters in Horseshoe Bay on Feb. 4, but I think VANOC just didn’t want to pour salt in an old wound that may never heal with residents of West Vancouver’s westernmost village.

For those keeping score, there is another relay winding its way to Vancouver. The Poverty Olympics are a satirical event that exposes the true sadness of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside ghetto. A toilet plunger is being handed person-to-person until it arrives for the 1 p.m. Feb. 7 third annual Poverty Olympics at the Japanese Hall in Vancouver. This is what the first one looked like back in 2008.

On Feb. 5, the Poverty Olympics plunger will be kayaked across Indian Arm to Deep Cove in North Vancouver at 3:30 p.m. Sustainable transportation carrying a worthy message.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Olympic security spending too much? You be the judge.

The Vancouver Club will be an Olympic venue that most will never see. It’s perhaps the most exclusive of them all, so exclusive that members of the posh club aren’t allowed to enter.

It will temporarily be the Olympic Club, a place for International Olympic Committee members to rub shoulders with princes, prime ministers, dukes and dictators and various captains of industry. Plus our local politicians.

The 1889-established club at 915 West Hastings St. was host Jan. 25 to a Fraser Institute-presented discussion on the Olympics and civil liberties.
It was a respectful debate among two people prominent in the legal profession: B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby and Wally Oppal, the former B.C. Supreme Court judge who was a one-term Liberal Party wonder as the province’s attorney-general.

Oppal gratuitously cited the 1972 Munich massacre and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park pipe-bombing to justify the $900 million security budget for the 2010 Winter Olympics. I expect a judge to be more rational than emotional, so I had to challenge him on it.

Here’s how it went.

Mackin: “Mr. Oppal, your background is as a judge, which is not an easy job. You have to consider all the evidence before you and during your presentation you mentioned Munich and Atlanta and I don’t want to be seen to be belittling what happened there, because those were very tragic incidents.

"But the evidence doesn’t support spending a billion dollars on security if you look at all the Olympics in the past, all the World Cups, all the Super Bowls, all the public gatherings.

"We have the Symphony of Fire/Celebration of Light here every year, a couple hundred thousand people converge in downtown. There has never been a major incident (here) that has caused massive human loss of lives, there has actually never been a terrorist incident at a Winter Olympics.

"I think you have perhaps been bought what has been sold by Bud Mercer and the security machine, the security industrial complex, because they want that money to spend in their budgets."

Oppal: "Point is well taken, we haven’t had an international incident here that can be characterized as terrorist, except we did have the bombing of an Air India plane a number of years ago, that originated from here. So do we wait for an incident to take place before we embark on any kind of security? Are the police and all other security personnel not entitled to rely on what’s taking place at an international level?

"We know of terrorist activities that have taken place on an international level wen there are global events that are taking place that could draw attention to the causes of those who may be inclined to take part in those activities.

"I hope you’re right, I hope whatever the amount spent on security was spent without any incident ever taking place. I don’t know if we want to take that chance that because nothing really has taken place in the past. We all know Canadians are a peace-loving nation and therefore we shouldn’t do anything about it and rely on our reputation of the past.

"Keep in mind that we have a lot of international visitors who will come here as well. The police have a very dificult job, I don’t know that $1 billion is too much, it is a lot of money. I agree with you. I’m not in a positoin to say it is excesssive under the circumstances, all I can do is say we have to rely on police and assume they are acting in the public interest."

Mackin: "The evidence with Air India, with 9/11, with 'Mr. Underpants Bomber,' was there were actually communications errors and the agencies were not working together beforehand. These weren’t about buying large amounts of equipment, there were agencies that weren’t talking to each other and not passing on information that could have been very useful to prevent what happened."

Oppal: "You’re right, in that there were a series of errors that were found to have taken place in Air India (flight 182). But we don’t know now what information the police have that if they did not act upon it would amount, would we be in a similar position where it could result in a tragic incident? We don’t know what information they have or what information they don’t have.

"I don’t think we can blithely ignore all of those potential threats that take place at an international level."

Allison Pass: is VANOC's aim true?

The snow situation is more dire than VANOC told the media at a Jan. 28 news conference. Why be surprised? This is a group so adept at the art of the snow job.

A convoy of dump trucks is traveling 160 kilometres with loads of snow from Allison Pass in Manning Provincial Park. The snow is being placed on the snowboarding and freestyle skiing courses for the Games at Cypress Mountain. El Nino brought heavy rains and high temperatures to the southwest coast in January. Snow disappeared from the slopes and Cypress closed Jan. 13.

Allison Pass apparently has pristine powder.

It also may appeal to superstition among the VANOC sport department. It's named for pioneer John Fall Allison (1825-1897), who was born in Leeds, England, joined the 1849 California gold rush and came north to British Columbia hoping to find more gold. In his later years, he owned 5,000 acres but was heavily in-debt.

Gold and debt. Two things you'll be hearing about constantly when the Bailout Games open Feb. 12 in Vancouver.

Blog Archive