Book examines 2010 Winter Olympics

Legacies include highway to Whistler, Canada Line, jammed courts

The second anniversary of the Golden Goal is Tuesday.

Sidney Crosby's titanic tiebreaker inspired a nation to triumphantly "tieone-on" and it happened in downtown Vancouver. Yet the 2010 Winter Olympics seem so distant.

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The Games gave us a decade of political debate, protests and fevered anticipation that were turned upside down with two years of economic upheaval. Then came the 17 days of Olympic glitches and glory.

When that puck went in the net before 3 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2010, it became the ultimate "get out of jail" card for politicians and boosters. The record 14th gold medal and the coastto-coast-to-coast celebration allowed all who stood to gain to proclaim the entire event a success.

Was it really?

I have attempted to answer that question in my e-book about the Games, Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics ($8.99, RedMittensandRedInk.ca).

It's about a journey I started as a sports columnist with the Courier back in September 1998, when Arthur Griffiths held a news conference in B.C. Place Stadium to campaign for Canadian Olympic Association approval.

The world's biggest winter sports spectacle could come to my hometown. Wow.

But hosting the Olympics is really more about politics and economics, especially when elections happen and a recession that nobody prepared for gets in the way.

Governments were constantly selling the benefits and ducking questions about costs. The closer 2010 came, the closer you were to Vancouver, the more the five rings lurked in the background or stared us in the face of every major public spending and policy decision.

For certain construction companies, security contractors, hotels, restaurants and bars in the right place or with the right connections, it was a bonanza. Security and transportation closures made it difficult to get around. Small businesses in Marpole and the West End felt the pinch. Even Edgewater Casino nearly closed.

If you're travelling the highway to Whistler, the Canada Line to Vancouver International Airport or attending a convention, you know the legacies. Vancouver, Richmond and the University of B.C. have new recreation facilities. Whistler Olympic Park is open for cross-country skiing and amateurs can pay to learn skeleton or bobsled at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

VANOC got a bailout. Whistler Olympic Village is stuck with an asphalt plant next door. Vancouverites wonder when their in-receivership Olympic Village will sell out and how much money it will lose.

Vancouverites wax poetically about February 2010's flag-waving, O Canada sing-alongs, but it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows. A barrier collapsed at a David Lam Park concert, injuring 19 people and sparking lawsuits. A thug slashed a man's throat on the Granville Mall and overwhelmed Vancouver police appealed for RCMP reinforcements, for fear of a booze-fuelled hockey riot.

Athletes from 82 nations came to history's biggest, most expensive Winter Olympics, but Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili didn't go home alive. Questions remain about whether Games officials did all they could to ensure safety.

Gentrification is creeping into the Downtown Eastside, where one cafe is hawking donuts for $3 each. The broke and broken men and women there still wander aimlessly. There were 2,632 athletes at the Olympics in 2010. There were 2,623 people counted as homeless in 2011.

The courts are jammed, schoolteachers are underpaid and a suburban hospital's Tim Hortons became an overflow emergency room. Those weren't the legacies we wanted.

Was it worth it?

2010goldrush@gmail.com

twitter.com/bobmackin

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