I live in Circus City right now. Churlish of me to grumble, I suppose, but I’m such a contrarian that all the hoopla around the Olympics is making me a, well, grouch. (Perhaps I’m channeling my father, who died last February, but would be grumbling by now too; curmudgeonism is in the blood.)
It’s funny, because the truth is I greatly enjoy watching the actual events when the show finally starts. The dedication and physical contortions that individual athletes go through leave me in awe. They are models for individual focus (and I’m not talking about the over-paid professional men’s hockey team either). A model for having a dream and working toward it. And though they’re happy to have the applause, I’m guessing that’s not what drives them. (There ought to be some medals handed out to the support teams, ie families, that make their single-minded purpose possible, too.)
But the contortions to put on such a show, years and years of siphoning off public monies, in order to make a grand nationalistic chest-thumping, leave me cold. It’s like when I’m at a show, and the audience is exhorted to cheer, and cheer louder, my enthusiasm goes out the window. Even if I was excited up till then! And I won’t clap when they tell me either. I’ll clap when I feel like clapping. Contrary, yes. It all feels so manufactured.
Today the torch ‘relay’ where no batons are passed on, is snaking its way through Vancouver, finally, after a gazillion twists and turns around the country, during which I wondered whether they knew which direction Vancouver was. It’s designed, I suspect, to take people’s minds off the enormous outlay of cash that’s been thrown at this party, to show that we’re a great place. I always thought Canada was a great place, but I don’t like it as much with exhortations to smile, be welcoming, but stay away from work, play, don’t use your car, welcome the world, pay your taxes, use transit, but stay off it, use bicycles, but don’t bring them, yada yada. And even more taser-happy police and security people swarming the city, perusing security cameras and generally keeping an eye on us all, while the court system is pretty much shut down, as the police have other things to do.
It’s not that I’m a cheapskate, either. I can be generous with guests too. But it’s the constant background noise of businesses being hammered by road closures and security zones, by cutbacks in other services, promises of no money for pay increases for the poor souls paying the taxes, and the obvious likelihood of many years of government deficit (which translates into increasing debt, you know) at the same time as elected officials get to fly around the country shepherding the hallowed flame up, down and backwards across the country, for the greater glory of, well, just what exactly? All this “Own the Podium” negates the tremendous abilities of the vast majority of athletes who don’t “win” even though they may excel. What are they? Losers? I don’t like that attitude either. It’s great to win, but it’s also great to try.
And I can’t abide the hand-wringing over the weather either. For heaven’s sake, this is Vancouver. What do people expect in a city that is famous for rain, besides crocuses. This is the only part of Canada where winter is not a factor. It’s not the first time the hills have been bare in the winter. I remember clearly a few years ago when all the snow had melted off the North Shore, and the Grouse Grind opened in February. It was a lovely hike. Very springlike. And of course it snowed soon after, and it will likely snow up on the mountains again this year. Just a little hard to predict.
So let the Games begin. May the kids have fun in the snow (manufactured or otherwise) and on the ice (and don’t be fooled by those outdoor rinks, they’re manufactured too in this climate). And though it’s too late for the snowdrops, do enjoy the cherry blossoms. And get an umbrella. And welcome to Vancouver!
Here’s someone I don’t mind my tax dollars going to… (having a poet laureate is a lot cheaper than hosting the Olympics).
his poem 2010-handbook-for-entering-canada
and his essay Notes on a World Class City.