Archive for February 8th, 2010

Well, that was unexpected.

Passing through downtown Vancouver yesterday on my last errands until the end of the Winter Olympics, I imagined I’d be affected by the games preparations in any number of ways. Not being a sports fan, I thought I might be offended by the waste. I might flee the crowds and the traffic prepared to be a hermit. I might be angry for the sake of the business owners who had to close down because the traffic restrictions mean that their staff can’t get in and they can’t get deliveries. I might even have been blown away by the spectacle and find myself looking forward to the games after all.

What I didn’t expect was to look around and feel that I had been dipped in tacky excess. Everything I saw was so over the top that it might have been orchestrated by Albert Speer.

The first thing that caught my eye were the banners covering a few of the buildings. Do we really need blowups of athletes six stories high? A Canadian flag ditto, covering most of two sides of a building? Boasts that the corporate owner of a building was an Olympic sponsor? Endless urgings to “Go, Canada, Go?”

Descend to the Skytrain stations, and the excess continued. So far as I can figure, three advertisers had each won the privilege of monopolizing a transit station, and responded by covering as much of their station as possible. At Granville, it was Coca Cola, at Burrard, Macdonald’s, and Acer Computers at Waterfront.

Junk food and cheap computers? How does Vanoc square these with the Olympic ideals of athleticism and excellence? And I wonder who first imagined that repeated the same half dozen ads fifty or sixty times in a confined space was effective advertising, instead of an annoyance.

And everywhere, there were the officials and athletes from out of town, wearing their team uniforms that were not only gaudy but usually with the manufacturers’ names as large as the names of the country. Again, the connection to the Olympics eluded me. The out of towners were so gaudy that they might almost have been wearing Hawaiian shirts.

Yet the out of towners were restrained compared to some of the locals. Well over three-quarters were simply going about their Sunday business, but a minority were as gaudy as the out of towners and jingoistic as well, with Canadian flags flying from their cars and the marquees on their buses giving us a “Countdown to Gold” and urging Canadian athletes on. It was like the hockey playoffs, only on a larger scale.

A two year old might be fascinated by all the bright colors and larger-than-life consumerism, but it’s been a while since I was a child. Surrounded by such general tackiness, I could only complete my errands as fast as possible, and get out of the downtown. Except, perhaps, to see the Aboriginal Pavilion, I don’t plan on coming back until after the Olympics, when the city is back to itself.

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