There are only six weeks left before the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics winter games, probably one of the most exciting events in the history of our multicultural city.
Just like anyone who is standing in front of a crucial moment, Vancouver is filled with mixed emotions. The pessimists see only dark clouds in their future forecasts. If you listen to their projections, we are headed for a swan dive into debt that will have to be paid by our children, or even by their children.
They saw what happened to Montreal after the summer games of 1976 and they afraid that this scenario will repeat itself here--- like in a Greek tragedy, when the protagonist can’t escape his bitter fate. They see the massive investment in roads, facilities and transit, and the first thing that crosses their minds is that someone will have to pay the bills, even if everybody agrees that this city needed this face lift for a long time.
Other people express their concern about the personal liberties during the games. After all this is one of our most sacred values in Canada. Their claim might be right, for obvious reasons, there will be some changes in the downtown area. Everybody already understands that. That’s why their concerns sound a little bit to gloomy for the silent majority of the population. Vancouver hosted big events in the past, and most of them ended just fine.
The mass is listening suspiciously to these prophets, exactly as they hear the over-hyped Olympic booster talking heads----those who believe that our fair city will turn into a gold pond after the Olympics circus will leave. In their dreams they see a mountain of coins falling from the sky, a mountain so large it will take years to count them all.
The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. The Vancouver Olympics games will be a major global event, but they won’t be as big as some people thought they’d be back in 2003. The world will be watching us, but we won’t get the rating of the Superbowl or the Final game of FIFA world cup.
Being an Olympic city is a great privilege. An elite club of towns get to enjoy this honor. The future might be hard, but so was the past. The morning after might bring us a collective hangover. There might be a tight squeeze, and as always, the middle class will have to deal with the blow. But hey, after all, the rich can get away with anything and – with all the sympathy and respect - the homeless have nothing to lose. The tax-paying workhorse will have to pull this wagon out of the mud. Just like he always did.
But there is also a longterm forecast for the Pacific Northwest. So far, in its 150 years, our province managed to attract only 4.4 million people. There is still a great room to grow. More people mean more schools, more hospitals, more small business and so on. Some people don’t like this idea, but that is the only way to grow.
There are those among us who claim that with the current economic climate we would be better without this Olympic mess. These fellows only have to look at South Africa who will host the FIFA world cup this summer. A much poorer country will host a much bigger event that will cost much more then our slide in the snow. In South Africa there are almost 50 million people who average less the $6000 a year in GDP per capita income.
China ranked 108 (2940$) in per capita income of countries in the world and hosted the last summer games. Brazil ranks 65th at $7350 annual income per capita and they will host the 2016 games. Host status is the stuff that history is made of, something to tell your grandchildren.
As a community, we must try as hard as we can to make the best out of this opportunity. There will be no second chance. Let’s put our differences aside for a few weeks. There will be plenty of time for political arguments after the snow melts. For now, let's enjoy these games.
In some cultures being a host is considered a noble honour and a great responsibility.
Lets adopt this idea and welcome our guests with a warm hearts. Who knows? Maybe 2010 will be the year of our dreams.