Vancouver 2010: an Olympic Party

The fireworks set off outside BC Place, where the closing ceremonies took place inside

The fireworks set off outside BC Place, where the closing ceremonies took place inside

During the winter olympics that just passed, Vancouver experienced the biggest party of its life. It traditionally has no festivals, concerts or carnivals that are large-scale enough to bring hundreds of thousands into the city, causing every hotel, resturant and bar to be packed to capacity 24/7. In addition, road closures and traffic bans were made, allowing the same thousands of people to flood the streets for any combination of shopping, walking, dancing, drinking or celebrating, and overflowing all the buses and sky-trains, and sea-buses despite increases in frequency.

On big game days, mostly men’s Canadian hockey, but also some skating events, and other days for no reason at all except that it was the olympics, you would feel the Canadian love simply by the sheer masses in the streets wearing red, screaming “Go Canada” and being overly happy. Everytime Canada won a medal, one of the large cruise ships parked in the harbour would blow its horn loud and clear, so that everyone in the streets erupted in cheers, whether or not they knew what medal or event they were yelling for. During the qualification playoff, quarter final, semifinal and gold medal hockey game, this would happen every single time Canada even scored a goal, so the entire city, whether they wanted to or not, followed the game’s progress until Canada won, and the same chorus of cheers lasted just a bit longer and louder to let everyone know the game was over and subsequently, that is was party time.

On the last day of the Olympics, Sunday February 28th, the combination of the Men’s hockey final and the explosive, impressive closing ceremonies sent the city into a full day (I’m talking an 8 am party start time) and night (til 4 am the next morning) long celebration for the most successful Canadian Olympics ever, with Canadian pride pouring thick and the colours of red and smell of alcohol inescapable in all the streets of downtown Vancouver. Im sure this happened in other Canadian cities too, but what was so suprising was the intense silence that followed Monday morning. No more fans, no more athletes, no more red, no more Canada cheers; the entire city seemed like a ghost town as businesses and people returned to their regular, every day lives, and traffic began to fill the pedestrian-empty streets.

Goodbye Winter Olympics, we loved having you!

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Vancouver: Rainy City

sunny vancouver

The Olympic Rings floating on a barge in the Vancouver Harbor. Visible from Stanley Park on a rare sunny day.

Dec 21 has just passed, the shortest day of the year, and now we can slowly start to look forward to longer days. Ironically though, the weather will still get colder, as Vancouver gets most of its frost and snow in January and February. Even though it doesn’t get very cold (temperatures hover around 5 degrees Celsius), it is typically very damp and dreary in Vancouver from Nov until about April, and this is the worst time for bad weather since its so dark all the time. But, now we can begin to look forward to longer days, and atleast the grey clouds won’t seem as dark anymore.

It never really feels like Christmas without the icy cold chill or snow Iceland usually gets around this time. But the lights covering all the houses makes it a bit more festive. Maybe it just doesn’t feel like the holidays since all I’ve done since getting back to Vancouver is work in an office or write my thesis. I also came here from California, where the sunny days and palm trees never make you think its winter or Christmas time.

This year my family decided to do something peculiar. We are not exchanging any gifts, both because our materialist, consumer driven society has begun to make me, my sisters and my mom very anxious in an economically tight time, and also because there are much better things we can do with our spare time and saved money other than add to the clothes hanging in our closets that we never wear. We are going to spend Christmas day donating half our possessions (mostly clothes and accessories we’ve accumulated over the year, in addition to some household things), and I think it will be a much more gratifying experience than opening gifts that result in more stuff to pack into our rooms.

Vancouver seems extra rainy and non-christmasy because everyone is just thinking about the Vancouver Olympics as the games near closer and closer. February will be a crazy time here as thousands upon thousands of athletes, fans, and tourists flock this little city to try and get a glimpse of just a handful of events that actually comprise the Olympics. Tickets range from $60 to $1,100 – a hefty fee for watching the opening ceremony, but apparently a price which people are still willing to pay. Which made me think – perhaps thats why people are thinking less about Christmas and spending less on gifts, because the Olympics are occupying our minds and draining our accounts.

Eitherway, Vancouver is still the same old, familiar place in all its rainy greyness, but it makes you appreciate the sunny days so much more. Today the weather had bright blue skies, not a breeze in the air, and me and a friend actually managed to have lunch outside on a patio, basked by the sun and wishing we had our sunglasses. It felt like I had just momentarily been transported to a warm, sunny vacation destination (even though I was cloaked in winter clothing which was actually the cause of my warmness); I guess its true that without rain, sunny days wouldn’t be so special, so let it rain – as long as the sun shows up once in a while.