Vancouver’s moment to shine

Vancouver’s abuzz. Excusing the sad sight of those “living on the edge of the night” ever-present a few blocks along the downtown eastside, this city is eager to share itself with the rest of the world. And so it should.

With the 21st Winter Olympiad set to kick-off on February 12, gorgeous Vancouver, B.C., is getting ready to host the world and to party like it never has before. On the whole, the pride of its citizenry is obvious. You’re hard-pressed to find a local who isn’t sporting a Vancouver 2010 hat, shirt, jacket or something that screams ‘Team Canada’.

The official Olympic Games clock in Robson Square. Photo by Liam Lahey

And why not? Vancouver may in fact be the crown jewel of Canadian cities, though tucked away beyond the imposing yet breath-taking Rocky Mountains. As Gary Stephen Ross wrote in the Mar. 2010 issue of The Walrus, this is young Vancouver’s moment to step up and sit at the global table with larger, more influential urban centres.

“It’s easy to forget . . . what a small city this is. With a population of about 600,000, it’s quarter the size of Toronto proper. Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, and Ottawa have more citizens. Hell, Mississauga (Ontario) has more. Winnipeg has more.”

Regardless, it’s fascinating to see the effort behind it all going on seemingly everywhere. Scores of municipal workers are out putting the spit and polish on streets citywide, businesses are hanging Canadian and international flags in their storefront and office windows, police and security personnel are “locking down” regions and streets where Olympic buildings and/or events are set to be staged. Downtown, construction crews are working feverishly around the clock to finish building the international pavilions where much of the partying will ensue.

For instance, inside the Irish Pavilion, operated by Doolin’s Pub and The Granville Entertainment Group in conjunction with the Irish Heritage Society of Canada, management is busy training temporary staff while delicately sidestepping a dozen or more builders as they work to make the interior be that of an Irish castle. It’s chaotic at the moment. But then, so is the bar scene in many ways. The Irish Pavilion’s management team doesn’t look nervous, but they do look pumped. And they’re dangling a carrot in front of their new hirees to perform well and bring in the bucks.

“You were all hired because you’ve the gift of the gab and you’re all type ‘A’ personalities. So I’m guessing you’ll enjoy, at the end of your employment at the Irish House, a fully open bar and a party at The Roxy with a band,” Julie Connolly, Irish Pavilion GM, told a roomful of her trainees. “We want everyone to have a helluva good time . . . most of us are here because we want to experience the Olympics in a way that’s different from the average places we work. We all want to be part of it. Honestly, that’s the biggest benefit we’re all going to get from this.”

Vancouver is in for it. For nearly three weeks, it’s going to host the Olympics and the Paralympics, and party all the while hosting the world. In its own way, it’s the ultimate social media happening: the eyes & ears of the world will be trained on the Games and the host cities (lest we forget Whistler).

The world will be dazzled by British Columbia’s awesome natural beauty. People will cheer and cry for their country’s athletes. But it’s Vancouver’s character that will leave the lasting impression.

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About @LiamLahey

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