Frances Bula header image 2

Uh-oh, we’re surrounded by downers

February 16th, 2010 · 23 Comments

Oh, you may all be thinking you’re having a great time out there in your Canadian-flag capes, having a great time crying when our medal-winners make their charming, modest speeches  and then partying your hearts out at various live sites, bars, and overcrowded buses.

But, didn’t you know, things are not really so great. We’re actually having a terrible time, plus we’re losers, as various media around the world have decided to report. Exhibit A, from Utah, is here. (Utah, huh. Don’t throw stones, etc.) And the latest in a string of nasty articles in the British press here.

I can’t imagine who is likely more annoyed about this: all the people who love the Games and are having a great time or all the people who hate the Games, but, if there was going to be media coverage, wanted to it about homelessness, the corporatization of the Game, and the bill taxpayers will have for this party for the elites.

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  • Nelson Yee

    That first one is actually an AP article that they’ve just reprinted, so I wouldn’t blame Utah.

  • gmgw

    Frances:
    Do you, um, need to rewrite that last paragraph, or is it just my confused brain?
    gmgw

  • robin

    To be fair, Exhibit A originated from generic ol’ Associated Press Sports, and not the Utah Daily Herald.

  • Dan
  • Dan
  • JCobb

    The coverage in the left leaning British tabloids was predictable. What else would you expect from reporters with brown teeth from the Guardian? They have no good news to report about the success of British atheletes.

    I see no reason to get bent over it.

  • Sean

    Perhaps that WP writer would be more appreciative if there was a “race to the fridge” or a “buffet clearing” event.

  • Denis

    The Guardian might be considered by some to be slightly left wing, but where would you place the London Times? Are they left wing as well.
    The Luge run got lots of bad press and a guy died, somehow being blamed for his own death. The so called games are being overshadowed by a government that considers it as a ” business oprortunity. No one dislikes the competitor in fact we chear them on. It’s the lunatics that are running the show. One of our kids normally does large boat repairs in False Creek. He can’t go there because some goofy group running security says nobody goes there without some Circus pass. Aks him why he has to go daily to Delta to get access to work. And he isn’t alone. Not much thought about the workers in downtown, but lets all join the rah rah team for Gordos and Vanoc’s errors. wait til,the press gets going on the busues that don’t run and the bus drivers that have never dealt with snow. Or the fenced in flame that Vanoc seems afraid someone will somehow deface. And of course the big bills when they come due.

  • Ian

    There’s a lot going on here from the truly bad decisions (the fence) to the spectacular hype that could never come true ($10 billion in economic spin-off and that’s not counting drug deals) and of course the delight in others’ misfortune and mistakes but I think the big problem is the corporate group think that defines these games.

    As one of your suggested links along the way called it – a major buzzkill but a buzzkill in so many ways.

    You can see it in the security thinking, the omnipresent big brother like marketing, the privileged place for sponsors and the vip first mentality that doesn’t understand why average folks would stoop to question special treatment for the obviously superior.

    Now I credit this mentality for some important things – business sense, bottom line thinking etc… but it’s not exactly fun, spontaneous or humble all of which are central to sports and great events.

    And Sean the WP writer is correct regardless of whether you like her picture or not. As any westcoaster who has skied at Whistler in February knows, you need a backup plan. Maybe a few. Otherwise you’re apt to find yourself sitting on a lift in the rain, not happy.

    By the way I voted for them and am loving the great sporting moments including watching my friend carry the torch, but I didn’t check my brain along with my vote.

  • 3700

    Does it matter? What is the Asian media saying about the olympics? Vancouver seems to consider the rest of North America and Europe irrelevant.

  • An architecture professor of mine once gave me some advice that has often guided me through my life…”If you make a mistake, at least make a feature of it!”

    In design terms it might mean adding some trim to a wall that is a bit crooked, rather than trying to disguise the fact.

    In order to turn around some of the negative publicity, I think VANOC needs to adopt a similar posture to address the inevitable problems that will continue to arise throughout the Olympics.

    Unfortunately, I am not sure this is happening….yet.

    For example, we have all had to endure lengthy line-ups. Rather than think of the people waiting in line as a queue, think of them as an audience! The VANOC volunteers could be the show hosts, asking people where they are from, introducing people to their new neighbours…helping people to enjoy themselves in the line.

    VANOC should also round up more street performers…there were quite a few downtown…why not invite/allow many more street musicians, magicians, and others to entertain people who are waiting in lines.

    On a related matter, why do we always have to line up? Why not use the systems employed at Disneyland and other venues…for something like the zip line, or getting into Canada House, give people a number and tell them to come back at an appointed time. It’s not too late to make some changes.

    The fence around the Cauldron is another missed opportunity. For the life of me, I cannot understand why VANOC is continuing to allow the security people who have dominated so much of the event organization (at considerable unnecessary cost) to continue to dictate how things are done.

    It seems like common sense to remove that awful make-shift chain-link fence completely and employ some of the thousands of police (many who appear to have been brought in from across Canada) and other security personnel to protect the flame. If it’s a problem at night, then put up the fence.

    The decision to modify the fence seems very foolish to me. The fence has become such a strong negative symbol of our Olympics, the logical and creative thing would seem to be to take it down. If God forbid some local protesters or terrorists damage it, then VANOC will be vindicated! But I don’t think this will happen. And if I am wrong, could VANOC at least explain to us why the fence has to be there in its revised configuration. I have not yet heard any justification.

    Let’s talk about Cypress Mountain. Firstly, we should start by publicly mocking the Utah journalist who claims that spectators are falling through the bales of straw. We all know this isn’t true.

    But then we need to review what is really happening there, and be truthful. As I previously noted after my visit to Cypress on Saturday, it was obvious to me on the first day that there were inadequate food and shelter facilities to accommodate the number of spectators, especially since we had to arrive two to three hours in advance of the qualifying round, and then wait a few more hours for the finals.

    But this could have been addressed without cancelling all the standing room tickets. If the concern is safety and we need more snow, bring in snow, or plywood to make the place safe. I am having trouble understanding why this issue cannot be addressed.

    If the concern is inadequate facilities in terms of food and shelter, bring in some hot dog stands, some urns of coffee and hot chocolate, and allow people to bring their own food. (I refuse to accept the excuse given that outside food was restricted in case someone got sick….)

    If they can’t bring in another tent…and I can’t believe there aren’t some tents available, give people $5 umbrellas if it’s raining (and let them keep them!) And bring in more performers and other entertainers.

    The fact is, the VANOC spokesperson is right. It’s bad to lose your luggage, but it is worse when it is not handled well. We are going to continue to have all sorts of problems, and negative press, until local residents, visitors and the media believe we are making the best of a bad situation.

    Notwithstanding the current negativity, I think it can be turned around. I know John Furlong and he is an extraordinary person and leader. He has done a superb job of rallying ‘the team’ to accomplish a great deal up until this point. But there are mistakes…obvious mistakes…and rather than try to conceal them, let’s acknowledge them with humour and thoughtful action. The way we deal with our mistakes can help make us all proud of these Olympics and our city.

  • david hadaway

    J Cobb. Those jokes about British teeth are well past their sell by date and I can assure you that if you want to see truly awful dental disasters you need do no more than go to the DTES. Luckily the British are sufficiently self confident to take that kind of BS in their stride, I wish Canadians were the same.

    The comments sections following the recent Guardian articles have been filled with raging Canucks whose insults have been almost as deranged as the obvious Vanoc puff pieces that also show up. It’s a newspaper that publishes a wde range of opinion pieces along with regular news, as do all the other British papers, I wish we had as many and as varied a selection.

    Some of these pieces are supportive of the Olympics! There is also criticism in French, German, Norwegian outlets and many others I imagine not to mention the Americans. For God’s sake let’s be grown up about this!

  • IanS

    “For God’s sake let’s be grown up about this!”

    Absolutely. The Olympics are a mammoth undertaking and it’s inevitable that things will go wrong. The Press feeds on things that go wrong and negative stories are equally inevitable. There’s no need to be so sensitive about the criticisms, justified or not.

  • Derek Weiss

    I wonder if it is even possible to have an event like this anymore without that kind of press.

    Every journalist is taught – whether by professors or news editors – to find “the other side of the story,” and this used to mean doing the hard work to reveal issues that matter. Lately, it seems, many journalists have found it much easier and/or more rewarding to just lambaste something instead of doing the hard work of finding that other side.

    Kudos to the journalists who are out there finding the real stories. There are plenty of left, and the public needs to support them.

  • Joseph Jones

    Surrounded by downers.

    The biggest downer I can see is $8 billion (figure from Vaughn Palmer on Feb. 11) and where that is going to be coming from.

    Consider this news from opening-day celebrations:

    The B.C. government plans to cut an estimated $10 million in funding from organizations that provide services to some of the province’s most vulnerable children and families.

    Can anybody identify a ringleader here? Surely one person was responsible for all this deplorable damage.

    P.S. This just in from Larry Campbell over at Vancouver Observer:

    I think we budgeted properly. I think we got out in front.

  • Ian

    Another one of those cheap British Tabloids, the London Times, has an article that kind of demolishes the Vanoc spin. I undertand it’s actually a fairly good paper, at least on par with the Vancouver Sun.

    Anyhow, the article makes a compelling case that all is not fabulous.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/olympics/article7031487.ece

  • robin

    (Apologies to Frances and to Nelson Yee for my inadvertent duplicate post up there.)

    Not only but also… the Guardian’s Marina Hyde continues the constructive criticism:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2010/feb/18/vancouver-2010-winter-olympics

  • “If they can’t bring in another tent…and I can’t believe there aren’t some tents available”

    First place I called, Apex Tents, has nothing available until post-Olympics. Not going to waste more time on it, but I can totally believe there’s currently a real dearth of party tents within a day’s drive of Vancouver based upon my conversation with the Apex rep, who suggested their situation in the norm rather than the exception.

  • dang it. ‘is the norm’

  • gmgw

    Thanx to Ian and Robin for the links.
    God, I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning (or, in this case, any old time).
    gmgw

  • Anon

    It’s like Farmville, Frances – or finding yourself stuck in a crowd of drunk hockey fans on your way home from work and wondering how grown adults can act like such morons.

    For the 99.999% percent of us who are busy just doing other stuff and only incidentally into spectator sports, it’s all as thrilling as those annoying Farmville updates from your Facebook friends.

    You’ve got to be there, I guess – and most of us happen to NOT be there.

  • Mike

    “. . .but the fact is the Olympics pander to miserablists.”

    http://timesonline.typepad.com/olympics/2010/02/i-love-vancouver-no-really.html

  • Lionsgate

    Francis,

    Your post in the guardian is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read about our city. I am so appreciative of how you are defending us.