2010 Flashback: Games bring good times for many

With the 10th anniversary of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, we are looking back at some of the stories that were making the news in the Courier during those 17 days in February.

This story was originally published Feb. 26, 2010

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As if on cue, the rains have returned as the 2010 Games wind down.

This reminds us of our incredible luck with the sunny February weather while hosting the world and enjoying our city. Even buddies of mine who argued strenuously against this multibillion dollar exercise finally caved.

When I caught one on his cell phone Sunday as he wandered towards Granville and Georgia, he said: “It is here. We might as well enjoy it.” And he was.

I must have used more public transit in the past two weeks than I have in the past six months. And every trip was like a very cheery party. From deepest Kitsilano, the number 22 bus made its way past houses far from any Olympic venue but decked out in Canadian flags and “Go Canada Go” signs.

Children boarding the bus had maple leaf decals on their cheeks. Their parents most often had something red on — those Olympic mittens were ubiquitous — and frequently the word “Canada” appeared on shirts, jackets and hoodies.

We locals chatted up the tourists. In particular on my first trip we helped a grandmother from Constance Bay, Ont., just east of our nation’s capital on the Ottawa River, to make sure she got off at Burrard and Pacific where her granddaughter was waiting for her.

On our return, crammed buses limited new passengers to “only two more.” And we discovered a new Olympic sport of sorts when a young man described how he raced behind the bus down Burrard from Dunsmuir up the hill to Nelson until enough people got off so that he could get on.

I realized just how spontaneous people’s plans were around these Games. You may have been planning for months to see this or that. Many did not.

A family from Kelowna explained they just decided a few days earlier to catch a hockey game, but only after friends with a house here decided they wanted to head to Big White for a few days skiing where the Kelowna folks have a condo.

Aside from a few grumpy drivers and the crush of the crowds on the buses, TransLink, I would say, did well. That was certainly the view of a couple and their young daughter from New Brunswick who billeted out near UBC and were amazed they could catch a single bus along King Edward running early enough to connect them with public transportation out at BCIT, where they took a bus up to Whistler.

And while I’m on the topic of public transit: The huge numbers taking buses and SkyTrain and cycling and walking meant a real treat for those of us getting around by car. In comparison to a few weeks earlier and except around Olympic venues, the streets seemed deserted.

The cops were particularly well behaved, aside from the half dozen or so who were sent home, a couple with criminal charges pending.

The incident on the opening weekend with the vandals described as “thugs from central Canada” was so outrageous that even the anti-Olympic crowd was on the cops’ side. Suspending booze sales early on the weekend was a nice touch, too.

VANOC stumbled a few times, no more obviously for most people than with their plans to put a chain-link fence around the Olympic cauldron obscuring the public’s view. Give that victory to the people; the bureaucrats backed down. The area has been swamped with people and flashing cameras ever since.

Even if you weren’t a jock, there was a lot to do. The number of events, and high quality ones at that, which made up the Cultural Olympiad had the artsy crowd swooning with delight. I caught an amazing performance of The Blue Dragon at the new SFU Woodward’s Theatre.

Meanwhile at the Games, records were set and hearts were broken. The “Own the Podium” program was over the top and un-Canadian to say the least. But the young men and women representing Canada did better than they have before at home.

And to quote the English Poet Robert Browning: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for.” Or an Olympic Games for that matter.

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