Five highlights and five low moments from the Vancouver Olympics

The Vancouver Olympics have certainly had their moments. Here are my five favourites so far:

1. The Canadian women's bobsleigh triumph

Who would have expected that a sport like bobsleigh could generate such emotion? It was a joy to see  Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, the  two Canadian gold medal winners, dancing on the podium. Just as appealing was the obvious  excitement of the two silver medallists, Canadians Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown, over their  stunning success.

I never thought I would see a day when  little-known women's bobsleigh teams  would push  millionaire hockey stars  into second place in the hearts of Canadian sports fans. The fact that this occurred on a night when the Canadian hockey team defeated the Russians made it even more remarkable.

2. Jon Montgomery's walk through Whistler Village with a pitcher of beer in his hand

Montgomery, the Canadian skeleton gold medallist, has quickly become a media favourite. He's funny, enthusiastic, and so damn quotable. The Games got off to a rocky start with the death of a Georgian luger. Montgomery's victory and subsequent celebration helped turn the corner for many fans of the Olympics.

3. Joannie Rochette's emotional outburst after her short program in women's figure skating

It was an electrifying moment that will be remembered long after these Games are over. That's when it dawned upon people across Canada that Rochette just might win a medal.

4.   Hayley Wickenheiser being interviewed with the entire  Canadian women's hockey team after their gold-medal victory

Wickenheiser is one of Canada's greatest athletes, and she's never really gotten sufficient credit for her contributions to women's hockey. While the men get all the glory and the money, the women often toil in obscurity, only to get their moment in the sun during the Olympics. I'm glad that CTV invited the entire team on the set after the game.

5. The silhouette of Rick Hansen with the Olympic torch entering B.C. Place during the opening ceremony

There was a great deal of drama about who would light the Olympic cauldron. When I saw Hansen with the torch near the end of an emotional opening ceremony, I felt relieved and pleased that Vanoc had selected  someone who had contributed so much to Canada beyond the world of sports.

Here are my five of my  least favourite  aspects of the Games so far:

1. The nationalistic media coverage

This took away from what the  Games should be about: celebrating the achievements of all athletes regardless of their country of origin. At times, the nationalistic Canadian media coverage reminded me of what we've come to expect from American broadcasters covering the Olympics. I guess this is what happens when CTV replaces CBC as the host broadcaster.  To be fair to  CTV, maybe it  was just giving Canadians what they wanted to see.

2.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper's  smarmy interview  on CTV  with host Brian Williams

Harper rarely consents to  one-on-one interviews. I would have appreciated at least one question from Williams about why Harper felt it was necessary to shut down Parliament to avoid hearing questions about Afghan detainees. It was a lovefest, and clearly the prime minister was using this spot as an opportunity to link himself to the Games.

3. Premier Gordon Campbell acting like such a dolt during the opening ceremony

His rabid cheering stood in sharp contrast to the other dignitaries in the V.I.P box. It made me cringe.

4. The public's apparent lack of concern about the growing disparity between rich and poor in B.C.

I wish more people showed up at a housing protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery during the Olympics. The public is so caught up in the  Games, and I fear  that most middle-class and high-income  people don't appear to care what's  happened to the poor  in this province. Nobody is paying attention to the Fraser Institute, the bankers, and the Conservative government's stealthy attack on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. Next week, the federal and provincial governments will introduce budgets that will likely create more pain for low-income Canadians. And a significant portion of the electorate will probably yawn and go back to watching more sports on television.

5. Pie in the face of David Eby

I think the activists seriously miscalculated by smashing windows on the second day of the Games. This galvanized public support for the Olympics and turned off many people  with concerns  about such issues as police brutality (of which there was little during the Games), the lack of affordable housing, and indigenous rights. A few days later, one of the black bloc sympathizers  tossed a pie in the face of B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby, which demonstrated  a lack of tolerance for dissenting views. Even if you don't like what  Eby has to say, it's immature, cowardly,  and counterproductive to throw a pie in his face.


Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments

15 Comments

georgia straight fan

Feb 28, 2010 at 12:48am

Actually, your #3 low moment happens to be my favorite one.. Good ole' Gordie really showed the world what a doofus he really is at the opening ceromonies waving his little flag with his moronic grin on his face.. this was just the climax to his chasing the torch all over the province like a dog after a bitch in heat and ziplining over Robson Street like he was freaking Tarzan.
God i hope we are soon done with him.

KS

Feb 28, 2010 at 1:17am

#6 for low moments - the ridiculously idiotic rant from Orville Lloyd Douglas you chose to publish and then even more stupidly tried to pass off as your high minded attempt at encouraging a positive discussion on racial issues. To quote one of your very own statements from above that also applies to Orville's piece "it's immature, cowardly and counterproductive".

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Dual cit

Feb 28, 2010 at 7:42am

I noticed this; The highlights were concentrated on the GAMES and athletes themselves.
The lowlights were founded on extraneous stuff.
You will probably find that your biggest fan is the guy in the mirror with the same (uninspired, run of the mill, herd like mentality, America-bashing) opinion.

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Valleyace

Feb 28, 2010 at 11:57am

Seems Iike the highlight are based on actual events while the lowlights again reflect the mean-spirited, biased and narrow-minded opinions of the reporter.

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one more low point

Feb 28, 2010 at 2:18pm

It is 2 pm, February 28th, 2010. The USA-Canada gold medal game is on TV during the last day of the Olympic Games. Most everyone is watching this hockey game and vitually nobody is taking transit to UBC. TransLink has not anticipated the reduction in transit demand to UBC now that the Olympic Games are over at UBC and continues to operate wave after wave of noisy and polluting empty or nearly empty annoying and upsetting diesel buses to UBC because nobody at TransLink thought ahead to scale back transit at UBC after the events at UBC ended.

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Stacey

Feb 28, 2010 at 3:42pm

David Eby, is an amazing benefit to the City of Vancouver, Our Province and our Country. Dissent IS patriotic and democratic. If we cease to hold government accountable and stop asking the tough questions... we quickly lose our democracy.

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Emmy

Mar 1, 2010 at 12:12am

Yes, dissent and disagreement is patriotic and healthy to a democracy. Hold your governments accountable and ask tough questions. You also have to vote; only 51% of eligible voters turned out to exercise their right in the last provincial election.

But where the anti-Olympic stance failed was building coalitions and support among all members of society. Any successful social and civil rights movements in the past were able to build success among many diverse stakeholders. Moreover, it didn't help that they didn't do so in a way that was going to win over the average individual. When the "black bloc" decided to randomly vandalize downtown Vancouver on February 13th, they marred the image of Olympic protesters as being an unreasonable sort. If protesters can't keep things civil, and cannot make their points in a way that wins over people, you'll lose them right away.

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Stock Foyster

Mar 1, 2010 at 1:44am

Hey, Eby praiser......what makes you THINK, wait a minuite.....yeah, what makes YOU.....THINK.....we have a DEMOCRACY?

Have you EVER voiced a real opposing opinion out loud, and witnessed what happens to your 'RIGHTS'? Get real.

S

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Margaret

Mar 1, 2010 at 11:24am

Campbell and Harper's creepy jingoistic boosterism was an ugly sight. But I wasn't a fan of Jon's traipsing through the village with a pitcher of beer either. Why are Canadians so inclined to think of this sort of doofus behaviour as witty? If that's witty, 14 year olds are witty. I agree with these 2 lists, otherwise. The swaggery nationalism of the Canadian fans, and the clownish tired cliches at the 2 ceremonies, have filled me with an embarrassment I'll feel for years. We used to be an adult, forward-looking nation with smarter policies and an ironic sense of humour; we've become a nation of clowns duped by US-style federal and provincial politicians into behaving like a bunch of flag-waving jingoistic yahoos. I don't recognize my fellow Canadians anymore. PS Emmy, lots of mistakes were made on the protest side, certainly, but the sheer effort of organizing and mounting opposition is not taken into account. There are zero resources other than volunteer labour, and then there's the largest obstacle, British Columbians' passive, childlike acceptance of their own manipulation at the hands of politicians and their maneuvering, and the subsequent cynical painting of real, reasonable dissent as "whining." The whole point of these mega-events is to alter urban processes in cities and regions to make them less democratic, to discourage participation or allow fake participation from "stakeholders" - which is what they call us now, as if our cities are corporations. British Columbians are so comp citizens lacent about this it's depressing.

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Emmy

Mar 1, 2010 at 10:27pm

Interestingly, Margaret, I found that as an average resident of East Vancouver, I found that these mega-events opened up the city and made the city and its attractions at least more accessible. It's interesting that downtown became the focus of the hockey and the Olympic celebrations. Part of it is the fact that those who live outside of the downtown core have an easy way of coming in. According to a CBC news report, approximately 200 000 people descended on downtown Vancouver to celebrate.

However, I do recognize that these events have sped up gentrification. There's no way that the average citizen could afford to live downtown. How ironic that Coal Harbour, once industrial land, is now a neighbourhood of condominiums that most people will find expensive.

I think that the challenges of organizing and mounting opposition to the Olympics is a moot point. Previous social and civil movements have organized with less and have done with less, especially in the era before social networking and the Internet.

No one said that social protest was going to be easy. Nowadays, people think social justice means joining a Facebook group. One must appeal to the rational and just strengths of an arguement, and to make people feel that this issue is everyone's issue.

If you cave into an "us" (smart) versus "them" (stupid) position, you are shutting yourself off to potential allies. Simple as that.

And Georgia Straight, for a newspaper that considers itself "Vancouver's Alternative Weekly", does this mean that this regard for Vancouver's downtrodden will result in more coverage for East Vancouver stories and issues? Or will I have to suffer through "Best of Vancouver" surveys that celebrate the feedback that comes from your west side readership and are self-serving for luring advertisers favoured by your survey?

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