Frances Bula header image 2

Thank the complainers for our exuberant Games

March 7th, 2010 · 38 Comments

Well, now that we’ve had a chance to decompress, to re-accustom ourselves to bad bus service, heavy traffic, empty sidewalks, and winter rain, I thought this was a time to raise a glass of champagne to all those people who complained about how bad the Games were going to be. They predicted that thousands of people would be evicted, that the Games would be dominated by elites partying at exclusive events unavailable to the rest of us, that we’d be living in a militarized zone where free speech was under threat, that the transportation plans would prove to be a disaster, and that generally the whole 17 days would be a downer.

Thanks to them, we went into the Games with incredibly low expectations. And I think it’s what contributed to the emotional highs that people felt. They weren’t expected and so they had much more impact than if we had all been drumming our fingers for the past four years waiting impatiently for the greatest party of our lives.

(And also, thanks to them and their kicking up of such a fuss, there was hyper-vigilance about all of the above.)

If only they had predicted what a downer it would be afterwards.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • gmgw

    “Downer …afterwards”?? To me it feels like an occupying army of lunatic strangers has finally withdrawn. I feel so much more relaxed and less angry/tense now that the event I’ve been dreading ever since voting “no” to Larry Campbell’s farcical referendum is finally behind us. Although I remain worried sick that the accelerated trend toward frenzied development that took hold in the wake of Expo 86 (when we were last “put on the map”) will only redouble thanks to an influx of “foreign” investors, and that in the process the last remaining shards of affordable housing in this city will be systematically sought out and destroyed by those who will always put profits above people. Yes, I’m one of those sorry bastards who doesn’t own his own home, and I feel very, very vulnerable these days.

    Apart from that niggling little detail, I just thank all the deities there are that the Red Nightmare is finally over. To those who would condemn this statement for its lack of “patriotism”, may I refer you to for some choice thoughts on the topic, most of which I find myself with in enthusiastic concord? (The first quote on the list seems eerily apropos.)

  • Love it! 🙂

  • Bill Smolick

    I asked my doctor for a prescription for some meth amphetamines to compensate for the low I’m feeling.

    Goddam medicare won’t pay for it. Apparently “post Olympic depression” isn’t considered an actual affliction. Stupid government.

    I hope they cover me when Gordon Campbell leaves office, ’cause THAT’s going to be a letdown of even more epic proportions.

  • WW

    Excellent summary Frances. What also lowered my mood/expectations going into it (and I was/am a supporter of hosting the Games) were all the inconveniences in the final weeks before the Games. Road closures, skating rink closures, fences everywhere, etc. Inconveniences at that time with no immediate pay off.

    Once the Games started, and we discovered fun, free things to do, none of that mattered anymore.

  • Steve

    I voted in favour of the games. I expected a great party, and my expectations were far surpassed.

    I am also suffering from a serious case of post-olympic depression.

  • kermit

    I’ve never seen so many people so happy to wait in lines before. Waiting in line for what was essentially a fancy beer tent no less.

  • Dan

    I sypathize with gmdw as I was feeling depressed during the games and have become a lot more up beat since its end. I got to live in vancouver for the last 20 years of my life, experience the lead-up to the games (i.e. giddy-nervous anticipation plus, construction, cost overruns, arts cuts, robson square construction eye sore, loss of social housing little mountain, a list of all the sweet free musical guests and the sponsors take over the city), but during the games I watched as an outside from Quebec, where the gold medal mens hockey game drew out approx. maybe 5 canadian flags along st. Laurent by prince arthur and maybe half dozen honks.
    Would have loved to have been there. Can you stop talking about how fun it was?

    Now im interested to see what happens with athletes village!

  • Bill Lee

    But I was hearing, “but we have to work” …and then go home to suburbs, so they couldn’t / didn’t participate. It was a long distance thing.

    And really what was there permanent that changes the city? Could we, as many did, experience it all on TV only?

    Chantal Hebert in her blogue today summarizes several polls on Quebec, who won a lot of medals as a province, and attitudes beyond the Ottawa river.

    Meanwhile a Swiss at UBC calculates

  • Paul

    No way should the whiners be given this kind of credit. They lost this one and I’m hopeful that the legacy of the games will see them lose even more in future if they keep up the way they have.

    The ones responsible for the success of the games are partly VANOC but largely the Silent Majority.

    The Silent Majority are the people who don’t comment on blogs, attend public meetings, go to protests, or write letters to the editor. They voted for the Olympics in Larry’s plebiscite, they voted for the NDP, then voted Campbell in and then back in twice, they voted the NPA out, and they voted for the Federal Conservatives.

    We forget that the Silent Majority are the people who are the audience for our messages we transmit in protests, letters, and blog posts. They became sick of hearing doomsday rhetoric like the “Olympic Corporate Circus”, “$7 Billion+ dollars for a two week party”, “Gordon Scampbell and his band of Thieves” and all of the other hyperbole spewed out by the whiners.
    The Silent Majority is also sick of the whiners calling them “stupid sheep controlled by corporate interests” and “boosters”. The Silent Majority weren’t most afraid that we would fail at hosting the Olympics, they were most afraid the whiner messaging would take over.

    Vancouver was a known as a no fun city because our leaders listened to the whiners. The Olympics came to Vancouver because a positive vision overwhelmed the whiners. The Olympics were successful because the Silent Majority took to the streets and had a good time (as did a number of the whiners). The Silent Majority saw what happens when they say “yeah, we can do that” and not listen to those who tell them “no we can’t, you fools”.

    The Silent Majority was not surprised when windows were smashed and the protestor messaging fractured to the point of ridiculous when Anti-Olympics “Action” started. Also not surprising to the Silent Majority were the calls of a “police black bloc conspiracy” by the same people who hosted these saboteurs in their midst.

    To get their message across, the whiner crew now have to think of a better way….mainly because we’re calling them “whiners” in this and other forums. As FB points out, the messages are valid, but the delivery of this message is abysmal.

    Hopefully one of the most enduring legacies of the Olympics is that the whiners can temper their message to be more constructive and not insult and alienate the Silent Majority that they need on their side to make good things happen.

    Maybe all of us can start being positive about what we have here in Vancouver, rather than searching for something wrong and exaggerating our faults to the point of hyperbole and rhetoric.

  • landlord

    @ gmgw : “…those who put profits above people…”. I wish someone else would pay for my housing too. Oh wait, that’s what my tenants do. Life can be so unfair sometimes.
    Maybe if people complain enough everything will be provided free of charge by progressive politicians with no ties to campaign donors. Like in Cuba.

  • Frances Bula

    To Paul,

    Your post reminded me that one of the huge political-mindset changes that took place in the 1980s was among the left following Expo 86 (the kind of mindset change you’re hoping will occur after these Games among those who protested).

    It likely laid the groundwork for the creation Vision Vancouver, because there were many on the left who felt that they had totally missed the boat by single-mindedly opposing Expo when it turned out to be a huge success with the locals. I remember Jim Quail talking about what a political mistake it had been for them to do that.

    I would venture to say that’s why Glen Clark was able to convince the NDP to support the original Olympics bid and it’s what drove a wedge between the two philosophies in the COPE tent after they were elected in 2002. That led to Larry Campbell et al splitting off.

  • Booge

    What Me Worry?

    … And don’t forget Frances that Vancouver is so much more “liveable” now that we have gotten rid of those hordes. I would like to see the city expunge another 100k and then all would be well…
    Live in Vancouver!

  • Booge

    P.S. it’s “Gordo Scampbell and his Merry band of Thieves”

  • Booge

    Frances: What about the Great Land Give Away post Expo86? 😉

  • WW

    Frances and her readers: you may find this interesting….A blog post from Brent Dowdall of the Conference Board:

    “How the People Saved the Vancouver Olympics”

    And Paul…you are right on. The protesters lost the interest of the “silent majority” a while back. For me (not that I’m silent) it was about a year ago when they did not apologise for small children being injured by their protest signs when they tried to hijack a family-oriented Olympic celebration event. Instead, they blamed the parents and all but threatened more of this behavior.

    That’s not respecting democracy, it’s being a thug. Too many of the protesters proved they were more interested in being thugs than in promoting a cause or sharing information and a message.

  • Joseph Jones

    Olympic nationalism looks even uglier when the infamous Silent Majority starts getting praised.

  • Paul


    May I repeat:

    “Maybe all of us can start being positive about what we have here in Vancouver, rather than searching for something wrong and exaggerating our faults to the point of hyperbole and rhetoric.”


  • Higgins

    With a simple message and a wicked title, Frances managed to bring out all the Olympic ice holes from their hideouts. Can anyone tell me where did it say or who (other than VANOC, Gordy and other profiteers) that these Games were a success? Do you have any numbers to back up your allegati0ns? Of course Paul is happy cause he probably made good use of his boner pills with so much material being here from overseas, WW sold more wicker baskets than the Mayor’s spouse and Landlord is owning the podium in the Slumdog millionare category.
    This “positive attitude”crap is used as I am writing this on a number of people in occupied territories around the globe , so they, maybe, give up their rights as people and just suck it up because it is the civilized way to do.
    Frances , there goes another low for you!

  • Hoarse Whisperer

    We obviously have a “failure to communicate” here ;-).

    However, Higgins, since you want to use the pop cultural references coined by liberal-dressed in conservative-clothing social satirist/comedian Stephen Colbert, let me point out something he mockingly said the other night about the DTES (yes, irony about the DTES! The blasphemy…).

    “One block—that shows (Vancouver) as a failed socialist state!”.

    In other words, it’s kind of relative, Higgins. As someone with ties to medical people from here working in an African village where more babies are born dead than alive, I would say that while life here is not the Utopian existence you wish it were, it is rather several rungs up the rest of the ladder from a larger part of the globe.

    I leave you to your impossible, neurotic search for perfection and dreams of smashing the system.

    And Joe Jones, the rest of us ‘silent majority’ types, who you so obviously disdain because we don’t fall under the rubric of ‘anarchists’ will just continue on in our plodding way to find ways over, around and through the system.

  • gmgw

    The phrase “Silent Majority” was so thoroughly discredited by its increasingly desperate use by the Nixon Administration, in its ongoing and ultimately losing struggle to put a veneer of respectability on the climate of official secretiveness, paranoia and moral corruption that was endemic even at the highest levels of office during that dark era, that only someone completely ignorant of modern history– or someone who considers themselves above it– would even consider uttering it. Please, if you righties are unable to express yourselves without resorting to the basest and most risible of political clichés and catchphrases, try to find one that doesn’t make the rest of us snort with well-earned derision. Your use of it merely makes you look like ignorant fools.

    Unless, of course, that was your intention.

  • If we do a search and replace on “silent majority” for “quiet, busy and just-trying-to-earn-a-living -and-raise-their-kids Vancouverites” it may help some people see the message here.

    You can see and count this “quiet busy” group– you cannot write them off as part of some mythical abstraction from a political propaganda machine.

    We had democracy in action in two ways: a referendum back in 2004 and then people voting with their feet in 2010 and choosing to have a good time, ignoring the vocal minority.

    Actually, democracy in a third way: the winners respected the losers’ right to whine and protest (until peacefulness started to disappear).

  • blue

    Honestly, I really wonder what it will take to make Vancouverites happy. When did we become a city of complainers? The no-fun city transformed itself into an incredible experience, but even in that people have to whine about too many people, and too many flags.

    I suppose some people are just more comfortable in a land of beige.

    I understand that our city needs a lot of work- but the money is spent, so instead of beating a dead horse, why not come up with some solutions. But of course- please do that quietly, we wouldn’t want you to get excited about anything.

  • landlord

    @gmgw : You’ve got to be kidding, right? “…completely ignorant…”? “…ignorant fools”? Dark freakin’ era????
    Don’t tell me. gmgw is an anagram of George McGovern. Am I right?

  • DougP

    Spot on!
    I was one of those people who voted against the Olympics. I thought the whole thing would be an over priced embarassment. Instead it was an exhilarating triumph for this city that has generated rewards both tangible and intangible.
    A friend of mines two daughters who were never interested in any sport are now crazy for skating. I know another kid who has taken up ski cross. I’m 40 and I can hardly believe it but I’m taking up biathlon now. All because of the Olympics.
    Spectators aside how many volunteers told me this was one of the best experiences of their lives? These games literally changed peoples lives.
    And these games weren’t just for elites. The free events entertained hundreds of thousands. I went to 6 sporting events, bought all my tickets from scalpers, never paid over face. Some were as cheap as $25.
    Was it worth the cost? The much bandied about total figure usually includes capital projects like the Canada Line which imho should not be listed as an Olympics ‘cost.’ But still, was it worth it? I don’t know. From my perspective it’s a very close call.

  • Paul

    We could sub “Silent Majority” for “occupying army of lunatic strangers” or “Red Nightmare”….right, gmgw?

    Or how about “other people who also rent their homes”?

    All of that would work.
    So many possibilities!
    Hundreds of thousands in fact.
    They were all in the streets but with no masks to cover their smiling faces.

  • Glissando Remmy

    The Thought of The Day

    “And then, Frances said: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche…! Let them eat cake…!””

    I recognize a piece or two of reverse psychology when I see one, but I’ve rarely seen one that’s well executed. And this one was no exception. I could start a lecture with examples of bad outcomes to good causes and good results to bad causes but it would be an exercise in futility, thinking of who the audience is formed of, for now.

    One word: Suffragettes.

    Lest we forget. They were complainers too… without whom, today, women would not be blogging on the Internet or writing in a syndicated paper; Wendy would not be able to vote, bye, bye 2003! referendum, probably be doing Paul’s laundry instead, so she could make enough money to pay rent to Landlord who’s only care in the world would be to entertain Steve and Kermit while Booge would be bringing the bootleg Brandy procured by Blue the Copper.

    Now, that’s the Treatment for a movie I’d want you to see! The question is however; would you have the guts to go watch yourselves…not act?

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Happily, I will always cherish the memory of Sunday, February 28th, 2010, and celebrating that day with my son on the streets of Vancouver. It was a beautiful thing. One for the ages.

    But I think you all need to take a break from your smug hullabaloo and bow down humbly and give credit where credit is really due:

    Say a prayer of thanks to the Hockey Gods for their divine benevolence!

    Vancouver could have just as easily been torn to shreds by a mob of angry testosterone-fuelled drunk guys that would have made the anarchists look like a bunch of old ladies in red mittens.

    One goal separated the joyous celebration we witnessed from pure anarchy, from the Games ending in an unmitigated disaster with millions around the world tuned in. We all would have watched in horror as the largest domestic military deployment in Canadian history kicked in to quell the riot.

    One slapshot. It was that bloody close.

    And imagine how loudly you all would be complaining about it now…

    So show some respect people.

    Get down on your knees and offer your humblest thanks to the Hockey Gods!

  • Hoarse Whisperer


    Your hauteur, as per usual, is riveting.

    God (or the deity of your choice), please, please, save us from that ‘loud minority’ who know so better than we, what is good for us…and who don’t have the wit to discern multi-layed meanings.

    It would ruin their playbooks!

  • gmgw


    Your hauteur, as per usual, is riveting….”

    I’m a little fuzzy today, HW. Are you saying that this is a *good* thing?

  • MB

    My wife and I were originally moderately against the games, notably on concerns about their impact on future health care budgets.

    But in the end we were won over, not necessarily by the medals (though several individuals and competitions were absolutely riveting and got our attention), but by the vibe on the street, and the glimpse into Vancouver’s potential future, should we make wise decisions over the next couple of decades.

    My concerns about health care remain, but they predated the games. And no matter how much a government thinks it can prioritize freeways and sports over healthcare, we Boomers remain the largest voting block in history and can be very nasty to any politician who cuts back just when we need the system the most.

    We Boomers also have to accept responsibility for taking care of ourselves, and paying for the big party that was put on credit.

  • gmgw

    GJG somewhat apocalyptically postulated:

    “Vancouver could have just as easily been torn to shreds by a mob of angry testosterone-fuelled drunk guys that would have made the anarchists look like a bunch of old ladies in red mittens…”

    Given that it became clear, toward the Games’ end, that our national self-repect is so utterly fragile, that this country is so pathologically insecure, that something as banal as losing a hockey game would apparently be capable of potentially wreaking serious and even permanent damage upon our collective national psyche, perhaps leading to civil unrest or even outbreaks of mass suicide (“…the shame! The burning, unbearable shame! We… were… (choke) SECOND!! Beaten at our national game… by the cursed, unworthy Americans!! Oh, God in heaven… this cannot be forborne! Atonement must be sought! Expiation! Expiaaationnnn!!”), I, hearkening back to 1994, somewhat anticipated the possibility of said riot myself, GJG, with rather mixed feelings (sometimes feelings just gotta be vented. Unhealthy to bottle ’em up. Clears the air).

    But let me ask you this: In the aftermath, as the the smoking rubble that was once Robson Street was combed for red-clad survivors, do you suppose the perpetrators would have been denounced by officialdom and in the media and in on-line discussion groups as “anarchists” or “terrorists”? Or just a bunch of patriotic good ol’ Canadian boys who got a bit carried away? Makes me wonder.

  • Paul

    C’mon gmgw!

    We’re discussing the hypothetical spin of hypothetical headlines of a hypothetical worst-case scenario for an event that already happened without incident.

    Where will this get us?
    What’s the lesson?

    Be sure to win big hockey games or lunatics will tear apart the city?

    Don’t let local teams play in big hockey games?

    No more hockey?

    How about no more cheering?

  • mezzanine

    Prior to the games, I neither really was for them or against them. I did like the canada line that was built, but did not buy any tickets, buy anything from the Bay or plan anything for the olympics.

    Starting with the sunny middle stretch something palpable changed in the city, and my attitude changed with it. On a fluke, I bought standby tickets at the tourist office at face value to ice dancing long-program (total, marvelous fluke), and went to some cultural olympiad events. i do think the olympics were a transformative event for the city in an overall positive way.

    and on a related note, I was at work on saturday when I heard about the window smashing on georgia street. and as a long-time vancouverite, i felt a very strong and palpable anger against the instigators. IMO this event will set them back further that they expect…

  • spartikus

    I found this comment left on the Straight by editor Derrick O’Keefe to be one that hits the nail on the head (in fact most of the comments there are worthwhile):

    As I said at yesterday’s debate, the ‘dualism’ of an event like the Olympics has to be considered. It’s a two-week sporting event and mass spectacle, replete with tons of free activities for the general public — it’s not the same as a three-day meeting of the world’s bankers and politicians.

    The fact is many if not the vast majority of those critical of the Games coming here in the first place — who would have preferred public resources had gone to housing, health care, education etc — still enjoy watching the world’s greatest hockey players, or going out to see a free show, or just walking about and seeing and meeting folks from around the world.

    I think this dualism was missed or underestimated by some of us, and as a result opportunities for creative outreach around a range of social justice issues have been given less energy than they might have.

    But there have been some great successes. I think indigenous sovereignty and rights issues are critical, and a lot of great work has been done in exposing this reality to the international media, for instance. The Tent Village and the Red Tents campaign have been brilliant in drawing attention to the homelessness crisis. But more like that could have been done, for sure.

  • MB

    @ spartikus @ Derrick O’Keefe: “I think indigenous sovereignty and rights issues are critical, and a lot of great work has been done in exposing this reality to the international media, for instance. ”

    I found it surprising and uplifting to see the prominence First Nations received in the opening and closing ceremonies. Now let’s move on to complete resolving outstanding issues around land claims and justice.

  • Dan Cooper

    Before the Games, my position was that I wished they were somewhere else, but since they were coming here I was going to take part. I was concerned that bad things would happen – because the “opposition” warned of it, because bad things have often happened at similar events in the past, and not least because VANOC itself was making so many apocalyptic statements about the need to show up three hours early to get into any event (although the buses didn’t get there until later), expectations of the worst traffic jams ever seen, and an incredible risk of violence, with a terrorist under every bush, requiring a billion dollars of security. It sounded – again from what VANOC was saying – like the entire city would be locked down, with a cop on every corner and three hours needed to drive a kilometre. Then of course, the City and Province were passing these laws that said the police could break into private homes to confiscate negative signs, could drag the homeless off to shelters…. Of course, when challenged about this, they quickly said they never had any intention of actually enforcing the laws they had passed as they had written them. Why, how could we be so silly as to think they had passed laws they intended to carry out?! Don’t we know that they pass laws drawn up in a few minutes, as the whim strikes, with no attention to the meaning of the words they used?? (That did seem to be what they were claiming…., “Oops, clumsy/stupid us! Now trust us!”)

    And that is where I see the “opposition” as having played an important role. I suspect that if no one had pushed back and pointed out the potential abuses, there would have in fact been abuses. As it was, the Powers that Be were forced to save face and commit ahead of time to not doing what they had given themselves authority to do. They were also forced, by people constantly pointing out they had promised to do so, to make at least some token efforts, more or less at the last minute, to keep people housed.

    That all being said, I definitely give those in charge props for doing a good job of organizing the actual events, and in almost every case acting with a proper balance of authority and restraint in the face of problems. My fears, anyway, never came to pass, so good on them! (Not that I want anything like this to come back any time soon!)

  • Gassy Jack’s Ghost

    Yes Spartikus, I agree with that assessment. And Paul, that was kinda the point of my comment:

    – Most people I know (and perhaps they represent the silent majority?) were/are ambivalent about the Games. We looked forward to the party, the spectacle, the atmosphere, and will cherish the memories, but most were/are also disgusted with VANOC and our political masters’ mortgaging our future on Big Brother-style control, the blatant hypocrisy represented by the Inner City Inclusive Agreement and Greenest Games Ever label, and the shameless corporate shilling. No matter how much fun I had, these complaints were and are still legitimate and should not be overlooked. “Bread and circuses” alone cannot sustain us.

    – The riot scenario was only to suggest that the Games succeeded purely by luck and chance (or divine intervention) and had pretty much nothing to do with VANOC and the Preem, which seemed hell bent on embarrassing the hell out of us with their constant snafus and making us look like bush leaguers. BTW, the #1 threat identified by the Security forces was never terrorism, it was street riots, and the size of the force was based on the ratio needed to contain a large riot a la 1994…

    – And, as gmgw picked up on, I was invoking the 1994 riots. Thankfully, we got a Game Six-like celebration at the end of the Olympics, but it could have easily been a Game Seven nightmare. I would venture to add that the No Fun history of Vancouver was a direct result of the backlash to the Stanley Cup riot. Prior to that, Vancouver in fact was a bloody hell of a lot of fun, so much so that we were labeled “Sin City North” by the American press in the early 90s!

    Lastly, I share a similar ambivalence toward your initial comment, Paul, because you ended it with:

    “Maybe all of us can start being positive about what we have here in Vancouver, rather than searching for something wrong and exaggerating our faults to the point of hyperbole and rhetoric.”

    Hear, hear!

    Although I’m sure many would label me a complainer who often resorts to rhetoric and hyperbole, most of my comments on this blog are founded on that very same belief of yours. I know this is off topic, but, for example, it frustrates me to no end that our politicians and Planning Department willfully ignore the immense potential and highly marketable capital that lies latent in the Historic Area, and see fit to justify destroying our history and heritage by trotting out the constant clichés, hyperbole and rhetoric that most people/press use to negatively define the DTES.

    Just saying…

  • Bill Lee

    Wot ’bout the cameras!

    Ian Mulgrew in Vancouver Sun today 10 March 2010