Own the Odium?

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist… hard to believe press hacks haven’t already used it. Oh, but wait… silly me; of course they have.)

So anyway, now in the wake of the celebratory wave of justifiably prideful ebullience flowing from the record number of gold medals won by triumphant Canadian athletes in this Olympics® on Canadian soil (i.e., infinitely more than the previous total of — none!) climaxing in the storybook comeback by the heroic Canadian hockey team battling their way though steely foreign powers to finally defeat our most formidably vexing adversary and psychological nemesis on planet Earth, the question now is: how will the Olympic® event be viewed in retrospect?

After we collectively sober up from this fantastic mid-winter bash — one that certainly cheered up what’s otherwise a pretty dismal and dourly depressing month of the year, at least around these parts, it has to be said — will we be happy that we were the “winningest” country in Olympic® history? And will that marvelous athletic achievement alone be sufficient to justify the enormous public expenditures devoted to staging the games? Or perhaps will we be subjected to some kind of gloomy post-hoc reality-check and massive guilt-trip wherein the pitiful naysayers and disaffected interest groups angrily parade their litany of bitter grievances that were dismissively regarded by the media and otherwise effectively silenced by the government throughout the event?

Speaking personally, I thought the games were a tremendous success. From this nearby vantage, I enjoyed watching them immensely and took great pleasure in seeing our little corner of the world highlighted to a global audience in generally favorable terms. The ironic factor of hosting a winter sporting event in the midst of rain, fog and cherry blossoms unseasonably blooming in the sunny intervals of clear blue skies was… well, quite articulate of the daily contradictions we gloriously experience here on the west coast. Moreover, it was heartening to see thousands turned out in red and white gear, freely expressing their enormous pride and patriotic love of this country. For a people that are otherwise more naturally reticent and traditionally reserved when it comes to overtly demonstrating their positive sentiments about our home and native land, it was a joyous, emotionally uplifting experience to witness.

But unfortunately, now comes the final reckoning…
When everything is tabulated, did the games make money and was the economic impact to the region in general a positive one? That’s a key consideration these days when we’re all struggling to climb out of the Great Recession. Will those vagrants and other homeless people who were temporarily displaced be “made whole” again, relatively speaking? Will the glorious excesses of the “bread and circuses” games eventually be taken out of the hide of those least able to afford stringent cutbacks the “Liberal” government has planned to tighten their belt now the crowds have disbursed and the shiny-happy-fun has subsided.

And so we wonder what the aftermath will be and how the event will be remembered… Given the achievement of our athletes, certainly not in infamy or disgrace, but pending the economic detritus and inevitable clusterfuck of financial scandal that will eventually surface (or not) over the coming months, judgment has to be muted and somewhat reserved for the time being.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Own the Odium?

  1. foottothefire

    As a pensioner all I know for sure is the Olympics are over so the rest of you better get off your duffs and back to generating tax dollars to keep me in the manner I’ve become accustomed to.

  2. Heh, yessir foottothefire.

    I enjoyed every second of them. I don’t know if you caught Stephen Brunt’s video essay on CTV, but it was really moving, I’m sure you can find it on their website. The two most important things he said were “cynicism is easy” and “there is power in the collective experience”.

    Government isn’t all about paving roads and cutting taxes. Once in awhile (and this was a once in a generation thing) it’s not a bad thing to throw a party for yourselves.

    There’s no doubt that the cynics will be out in full force this week, I’m tempted to take a vacation from the intertubes, but in the end it’s that Crosby goal that people will remember, and Marianna St. Jolie cheering on Hamelin from the stands. I’m not ashamed to admit that there were so many times during the past couple weeks that gave me goose bumps.

    Even the British press, which ripped the Games to shreds, grudgingly had to admit in the final days that, despite the technical issues and the tragedy at the sliding centre, Vancouverites (and Canadians, if I may be so bold), made it a heck of a time. That’s the thing, it wasn’t VANOC, or the IOC that made Vancouver 2010 a success, it was the people on the streets that just kept on smiling.

  3. “But unfortunately, now comes the final reckoning…”

    Boy … you are one classical liberal – forever obsessed with the COST of things.

    How about considering the VALUE of things?

    As a Nationalist, these last fews days were PRICELESS.

    ;>)

  4. *Er, St-Gelais, Sorry. Apparently not as memorable as I thought.

  5. ATY — I’m not obsessed with the cost of things at all — just being realistic. There are certainly worse ways to spend public money. I think we got great bang for our buck out of these games and will probably see a net benefit overall in the same way we did from Expo 86 (which also was a great event, btw).

    That said, however, from a financial standpoint I just hope we’re more like Calgary that actually turned a small profit than Montreal that was paying down its loss on the games for decades.

  6. And furthermore, Oscar, I do appreciate the VALUE of things. 😉

    I thought the games were a wonderful celebration of national pride, enthusiasm and personal achievement. You can’t really put a price on that.

    As Shiner said, government isn’t just about paving roads, building bridges and such — this was a great opportunity to show off our country and to feel happy and proud to be Canadians.

    It is indeed easy to be a cynic, but in this instance I’m not inclined that way. My sentiment is with the countless thousands of folks who were, quite literally, dancing in the streets.

  7. The economic success of the Olympics won’t be decided over the short term — it won’t even be decided over the course of a generation.

    Economically speaking, the Olympics tends to be treated as an opportunity for a city to establish itself as a “world class” city. A pretty decent marker of this is the long-term investment it attracts.

    Montreal attracted the corporate headquarters of a number of Fortune 500 companies following the ’76 Olympics, until Lucien Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau screwed the whole thing up.

    Calgary used the Olympics to firmly establish itself as a major centre in the pacific rim, helping cement some efforts that Ralph Klein had started as mayor of Calgary, and would continue as Premier.

    Vancouver was already better established than Montreal or Calgary at the time of their games as a result of having hosted Expo ’86.

    One shortcoming of some of these economic projections is that they tend to exclude lasting public assets when assessing the deficit left behind by these events. Case in point: the $311 deficit attributed to Expo ’86 excludes the public value of BC Place, Canada Place, the Telus World of Science, the Plaza of Nations or the Skytrain, or of any revenue that they attract.

    In a big sense, a lot of the revenue attracted by events taking place at these venues can be in turn attributed to Expo.

  8. Heh. That’s an alleged “$311 million deficit”.

  9. I should also mention that maintenance costs of the venues also have to be tabulated — the famous “Sydney example”.

    I believe the same also applies to Olympic stadium in Montreal, but mob connections and substandard construction were afoot in fouling that particular deal.

  10. PR — Agreed. Although it would be nice if there had been a commitment to building some low-cost and/or affordable housing come out of the deal. Expo 86 spurred reclamation and development of the False Creek area and these games will probably have a similar knock-on effect for affected parts of the real estate market.

    If one takes the attitude of “a rising tide lifts all boats” then it should be a good thing, net-net, I guess.

  11. I know the Calgary Olympics planned for their athlete’s village to become low-income housing after the games were over.

    (I’m unaware of how successful that plan was.)

    Did Vancouver make the same pledge?

  12. Not that I’m aware of.

  13. It was promised during the bid. Then it ran $100M over budget and, I assume, they realized people paying a million bucks for a condo don’t want to live next to (or on top of) social housing. They said they still plan on having 20% of it set aside as affordable housing but that depends on… well, it depends on it actually getting set aside as affordable housing.

  14. We have the same kind of deal in our little burg. New developments are supposed to devote a percentage of space to “affordable housing” but it almost never works out for one reason or another. It’s just posturing.

  15. HockeyMan

    It was promised during the bid.

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