Yes, the Games have begun, and like many people in Vancouver my thoughts about them were mildly grumpy when I though about the crowds, and extra-grumpy when I thought about the staggering expense attached, the expense that we'll ALL be paying off for years and years to come.
I have no problem with athletes. In some ways they are like artists: they practice their skill hard for years and years and most see very little reward for their work. (I mean, when was the last time you saw a bobsledder with a big-name sponsor? They all get media hype for the olympics, but I bet most of us would be hard-pressed to name a luger, a curler or a ski jumper when the games aren't on.) As a non-athlete who is cowardly about heights and pain, I have huge admiration for people who can jump off a gigantic slide and soar through the air, or survive being cut in the face by their partner's skate and even think of trying again. Some might say that what they do is ridiculous, but hey, I play the accordion for a living. I prance around on stage pretending that I'm someone else from time to time as well. Who am I to throw stones? So if these athletes want to compete in their sports and win little metal discs as a reward for their risks, their pain, their hard work, good on 'em.
I DO have a HUGE problem with the olympics as a money-sucking, corporation-favoring machine. I think that they have no business spending the amount of money that gets spent on these games, lying about how much it's going to cost, and then making us pay through the nose for years. My friend Rodney deCroo writes brilliantly about it on his facebook page, and his arguments are much better-informed than mine, so I'll get off my soapbox now, and say...
... that before yesterday, I never would have believed that I could have so much fun in downtown Vancouver on a Tuesday in February! Jon and I walked around for hours, taking in the free performances, the crowds, the fun. And I thought isn't it kind of sad that we need this kind of bloated, over-priced, over-budget event in our city to let our hair down?
Restaurants packed with happy diners. Strangers spontaneously talking to each other. Parties in the streets. Free concerts all over the place. Pedestrian-only areas. Art installations everywhere. A downtown core filled with crowds and excitement. For a moment, we have become a city that knows how to celebrate life.
When this is all over the after-party hangover will begin, and we will be grumpy again. But I hope that we will remember to tell the ones in power that this- this explosion of art and music everywhere is what Vancouver needs more of.
And in this time of gigantic budget cuts to the arts, something that we're going to see less and less of, unless we fight hard to be heard.