Vancouver: Olympic Winners or Whiners?

As the games draw closer, I worry that my beloved hometown of Vancouver may blow its Olympic chance to impress the world. The scenery is world class, the venues are impressive, and the organization is impeccable. The problem? The sour attitude of so many nay-sayers. Will Vancouver be remembered as a city of winners, or whiners?

The capacity of Vancouverites to see and trumpet the negative is not a laudable trait. There will be traffic. Boo hoo… There will be street closures. Sniffle sniffle…There will be crowds. Poor me. It’s costly. Scandalous! There will be tight security. Ain’t it awful?!

Out here on the left coast, it seems anything with corporate involvement is equated with fascism or some sinister plot to destroy the earth. We live in one of the wealthiest cities on the planet, we are blessed with the wonders of nature, and if that wasn’t enough, we beat out the rest of the world to host the biggest sporting event on earth: the Olympics. The reaction from a lot of sanctimonious Vancouver residents: Boooooo!!!

But there’s hope. The quite majority of Vancouverites, the people with vision and positive bones in their bodies, will rise to the occasion and let the world know we appreciate the privilege of hosting the world. No, it’s not an inconvenience, we’re actually glad you’re coming!!!

Having trouble catching the Olympic Spirit? I dare you to check out these original and amazing songs inspired by the upcoming torch relay from regular people (adults and kids) in New Westminster, BC. Believe. http://www.songsearchnewwest.com

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12 Responses to Vancouver: Olympic Winners or Whiners?

  1. Will T says:

    I was all for the Olympics and a booster but I was in for a shock. The callousness and pettiness displayed by the organizers and the venal elitism apparent in the international IOC really turned me off. The Olympics are not what they used to be. They are now so big and so powerful that I fear every city from now on is just a temporary victim. The sports are almost a sideshow at this point, the main stars being corporate sponsors and committee bigwigs. We need the Olympics to learn to ‘keep it real’.

    Now there are great aspects to the Olympics. We will see lasting benefit and useful community assets. It is always wonderful to showcase our city as well but it should not have to be this painful and the needs and rights of the citizens should not have to be so easily disregarded.

    I think you will find that your ‘silent majority’ are normal folks just holing their breath, biting their tongues and hoping it will all be over soon.

  2. stevebc says:

    Considering that our grandkids will be paying for this 2 week party for the elites, I’d say we have a damn good reason to be negative. Especially when you consider that while only Vancouverites were given a vote on this, the rest of the province is on the hook as well. Meanwhile, Campbell’s gov’t is closing schools and hospitals.
    And all to celebrate one athlete sliding down a snow-covered hill 1/100th of a second faster than another.

  3. dbrett says:

    Thanks Steve & Will for your comments. The “good reasons” you both give to go negative on the Olympics have compelling and winning counter arguments that most people understand, but few take the time to articulate. I will give it a shot here.

    1. “The Olympics cost taxpayers too much.” This is a spurious claim based on subjective notions of value and an abuse of the word “costs.”

    If you take the worst case figures pumped out by the left-wing think tank Center for Policy Alternatives, in their words, “The net cost to the provincial government after taking Games revenues and federal government contributions into account would be a minimum of $1.248 billion.”

    Let’s put that figure into perspective. BC’s ill fated “Fast Ferries” cost $450 million and were eventually sold for scrap, resulting in a dead loss equal to about 1/3rd of the entire 2010 Olympic Games. The Olympics “costs” on the other hand include capital investments that will live on, perhaps for 100 years or more.

    When people lament the “costs,” they typically fail to point out that over $1 billion of the “costs” are actually capital costs, which fall into the category of investments. Whereas the fast ferries were written off the books to zero, the enduring Olympic venues will be amortized over decades and could generate significant positive cash flows in the future.

    Rolled into the much disparaged “costs” are all the venues and the massive upgrade to the Sea to Sky Highway. These expenditures are a good use of funds and, down the road, no one will dispute this.

    The reality is that the Olympics could end up “costing” us nothing, as our balance sheet will be enhanced by the many high-quality investments made.

    2. “VANOC is ruining my life and curbing my rights.” This is nonsense. VANOC is doing a good job of protecting the rights of the sponsors who are paying huge money to be associated with the games. (Keep in mind, sponsorship money is GOOD, as it’s cash we don’t have to pay). What may be seen by pettiness when it comes to branding and logo use is just a misunderstanding of the high-stakes involved.

    Imagine you are Bell, for example. You are hurting because of the 2008-2009 financial crisis (remember that?). But still you pony up huge bucks to honor your Olympic sponsorship commitments. Then imagine an army of Telus people show up in the stands at an event emblazoned with Telus logos, logos that will be seen by millions (or billions), in high definition, on TV. Would that be fair to Bell? Obviously not.

    So it goes with all the sponsors. They have the right to have their logos front and center and I do not understand why so many people don’t appreciate this simple business reality. Logo and brand “poaching” and “squatting” is bad and we should not bash VANOC for laying down the law on that front.

    The 2010 Olympics is a once per century chance to brand our City and Province on a monumental scale. I think most of us are grateful to have been chosen for this honor. Hopefully, come show-time, this better attitude with shine through the pity clouds rising from the minority who wish to block the view.

  4. willt says:

    Fast ferries were sold to United Arab Emirates in 2009 by Washington Marine group. Sold needlessly low $19M by BC Libs to WMG in a sweetheart lowball deal to benefit WMG and to embarrass the NDP who had the boats built. Their true value is more related to the price they sold to UAE. Not sold for scrap. Not written off to $0.

    Your rebuttal on point one does not address the disconnect between public costs and private gain The Olympics are a public cost but much of the gain will be private by corporations. besides that, as I said in my comment, I was 100% for having the Olympics here well aware of the costs…but hearing how so many of those costs are just fluff and luxury for visiting IOC dignitaries, VANOC officials, Provincial Government perks and private extras for fancy elites have convinced me that the purse-string holders do not have the regular guy in mind.

    As ofr 2, no one is surprised that the corporate sponsors want to protect their investment and real, legitimate actions should be taken for interlopers-no problem. Why do we need so many high paid sponsors? Why are the games so big and expensive? Where is that money going? Does the VANOC/IOC really need to be so draconian and petty? Why would any society based on rights and freedoms allow infringement on them for a sporting event?
    Besides sponsors, the reason the town has a lack of spirit to the Olympics is because we are tired of being treated like serfs. We are not monsters, we are not different than others (like in Salt Lake, Lillehammer), the difference is how our Olympics have been organized and the behavior of the organizers.

    I hope the Olympics are a stunning achievement and thousands of guests are filled with a love for the host city and its citizens. I hope that the money spent is re-couped and that no one will have any long-term hardship as a result of the games. I hope we can muster up enough enthusiasm and spirit for the games that overshadows the grumbling we have heard but… it is the logical result of how this event has been handled.

  5. Crunchy says:

    I agree with Will T… it is absolutely elitism. I am all for the athletes having a good and fair competition and the weather and everything working out for them.

    But why should I have Olympic spirit? I can’t go. I can’t afford to take my family to see any of it.

    Even the thought of loading up my family on public transit to see any of the ‘free’ stuff sounds horrific.

    Our transit sucks now..how will it be under pressure.

    We have been told to stay away. We have been told to take time off work to ease the traffic.

    Then we are being told to smile and be polite.

    So we got some ice rinks fixed up. We got the freeway fixed up. We got more housing for the rich investors in False Creek.

    We get more tourism.

    Tourism does not drive a proper economy. It does not pay living wages. It does not promote a thriving diverse community.

    I do really hope it is all fun.
    We did great with Expo..but we were welcome there.

    I hope it all works out but I can’t help but wish something would bite those VANOC snobs on the ass

  6. dbrett says:

    Food for thought: when you go to the movies or watch TV, do you ever get excited when the location on screen is Vancouver, or New Westminster, or Whistler or somewhere in BC? Do you say “hey look! That’s not Chicago, that’s Gastown! :-)”

    Now imagine a billion HD TV’s around the globe glued to Vancouver & BC locations 24/7 for two weeks. How exciting will that be?

    Keep in mind that a spirit of recrimination and ridicule towards the organizers is common in the lead-up to an Olympic games.

    I attended the Sydney 2000 games and was delighted to catch a few episodes of the hysterically funny “The Games,” an Australian send up of the organizing committee, which was carried on CBC for while. For a good laugh, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRegD00RnB0&feature=related

    • Crunchy says:

      No I don’t because I know our film industry is being hosed by being nothing but a cheap and (now not cheap enough) location. Whereas local film tv production struggles.

      And yes..I remember the grumblings about Expo too…and again I am sure it will all be great..but I just think the local population could have been treated with a little more respect.

      I still feel the excitement because Vancouver is on tv and looks pretty is like drinking the koolaid.

  7. dbrett says:

    Crunchy,

    Is there no limit to your cynicism?

    Think about this: We’ll all be drinking the koolaid when Canada wins gold.

    🙂

  8. stevebc says:

    Vancouver: Olympic Cheerleaders or Chumps?

  9. dbrett says:

    Steve,

    Would you like some cheese with your whine?

    Based on the responses to my post to date, the Winners versus Whiners verdict is in: Vancouver Takes Gold in Whining.

    But this is just the preliminaries. I predict zero whiners will make the podium.

  10. dbrett says:

    Wil,

    Re the Fast Ferries, when I say they were sold for scrap, I mean the scrap value. Effectively, the ferries were scrap at the time of sale to WMG, as they were being valued for their parts.

    When I say the CATS were written down to “zero” value, I am being generous, as likely the Province would have needed to in fact carry the barges on the books as a liability owing to the ongoing cost of moorage, insurance, reclamation and maintenance. Those onerous costs were shifted to poor old WMG who “took one for the team” in my estimation.

    To suggest the sale was a tactic to embarrass the NDP is a groundless conspiracy theory.

    The “CATS” were up at auction. Anyone could have come in there with a better bid. WMG did the NDP a favour by saving the doomed vessels from being scuttle into the briny deeps to live among the fishes as a scuba wonderland and a permanently pickled picture of political pain.

    As with all investments, degrees of risk are involved, and there are no guarantees. The CATS were a case study in failure to see or manage the risks involved in the investment.

    With the 2010 Games, on the other hand, I believe we are seeing excellent management of capital. The downside is minimal and the upside is Olympic in size.

    It’s hard to complain about that, unless you don’t like it when the current parties in power look good in any way shape or form.

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