Olympics: Bigger, Badder

The Olympics are almost upon us in Vancouver. The city is starting to get transformed and there is a buzz. There’s a lot of pieces I’m excited about and a few I’m dreading.

Excited: Venue Energy TrackerPulse Energy has partnered with VANOC, BC Hydro and many of the venues to monitor their energy usage during the games. Want to know how much energy the speed skating oval is using? Or the snow making equipment at Whistler? It’s all available at the Venue Energy Tracker. It is a good feeling being proud of the work you do and having it showcased on such a large stage.

Excited: Concerts and Shows – There are free concerts during the games downtown and in Yaletown (hosted by Live City Vancouver) featuring some really good bands. I definitely want to check out Coeur de Pirate, Mother Mother, Malajube, and Wintersleep. As part of the Cultural Olympiad, there are a lot of theatre productions and and other art installations throughout the city. Emily went to see the Joni Mitchell ballet last night, and we have tickets to see Nevermore and Best Before in the coming weeks.

Excited: Streetcar Demonstration – one the coolest projects setup for the games is a free streetcar line between the Olympic Village and Granville Island. The city has a great vision for building out a street car system throughout downtown Vancouver (see map). As with all major products, funding is an issue. However, I’d love to see this made a priority.

Excited: Sports – I’m eagerly waiting the start of the actual games. I only have tickets for one event – a Women’s curling draw featuring two fantastic matchups: Canada vs China and USA vs Sweden.

Disappointed: Public Transportation – There have been lots of recent improvements to transit – Canada Line, extra buses, SkyTrains, and a 3rd SeaBus. However, once the games is over a lot of the funding for public transit is set to disappear. The provincial government has refused to give transit stable funding, instead shovelling money into sprawl-inducing highway expansion programs (they should really read this Wired article: To Create Jobs, Build Public Transit, Not Highways). The 3rd sea bus will disappear after the games are over, and Translink will have to scale back many of its services.

Disappointed: Cycling – Vanoc has been pushing people to leave their cars at home and ride their bikes or take the bus during the games. And yet I’ve been really disappointed at how they’ve eroded cycling infrastructure around venues. My ride to work takes me past the Olympic Village and the hockey arena. The security zone fencing has taken away cycling lanes and forced cyclists into congested traffic or onto sidewalks with pedestrians (even though that is technically illegal). It’s scary for me, never mind someone who rarely cycles and is thinking of leaving their car behind during the games.

Disappointed: Budget Hangover – The real disappointment is set to hit once the party is over. The Olympic Hangover. Already we’re reading about layoffs for teachers, scaled back transit service, cancelled health care. It’s hard to swallow stories like 800 teachers losing their jobs because of a $30 million budget shortfall, when we’re spending billions on a sporting party. The security for the games alone will cost close to 1 billion. And yet we can’t find $30 million for education.

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