When Leif and I attended the Olympic-bid announcement party as PacificSport athletes in 2003, we were excited at the prospect of having the Olympics come to Vancouver, with all the spinoff and legacy that would mean for sport in BC and Canada. Even though we were Summer athletes, we were excited to have the Olympics coming to Canada. Although I am not an Olympian and have not done that much international competition, I was still brought up in a sport culture that reveres the Olympic ideals and questioning the Olympics feels a bit sacrilegious. Hop in the handcart and buckle up!
The 7 years subsequent to the announcement made it a little harder to maintain the same level of enthusiasm. The tax-funded projects were continually outpacing their budgets. A massive real estate boom inflated the cost of the ahtlete´s village so much that buying those apartments will cost you $1000/sq ft, and the guarantees for low-income family housing slipped from 50% and fell continually, and will probably end up being 0 in that development. In the face of some very fundamental social problems in BC and Vancouver (drugs, homelessness, marginalized aboriginal population, dismal housing accessibility), it seemed harder to rationalize spending so much on the Olympics, particularly the non-sport aspects of it. At the same time, a few really great things have come out of it; I’m not sure when we would have got the Airport skytrain line if it weren’t for the Olympics. We are told there will also be a bump in tourism for the next few years, and Vancouver is such a great city I am sure lots of people will want to come back. (Our local Paper in Sweden recommended Tojo’s as a place to eat, rock on California roll!)
I support investment in sport, especially youth sport and developmental coaching, and I think having some great facilities (for community and high-performance use) will benefit lots of people. The inspiration to get out and get active and to strive for you best is a great message for everyone to take away, and the injection of enthusiasm around sport and dreaming big is valuable. However, I think its fair to separate the Olympic dream and ideals (PS Baron de Courbetin was a classist, misogynistic jerk) from some of the real-world manifestation, which is not always driven by those ideals ($$$$). Also, we should not have to forgo road repairs for 25 years, a la Montreal!
Having said that, I have a poster outside my office that lists all the Canadian medal events and athletes so far (a Swedish one has popped up below it in response). I like watching the webcast events and appreciate the scope and depth of competition. I am cheering for Canada, and I hope that the benefit and legacy of the Olympics will spread out beyond athletics.
The Canadian results so far at the Olympics have been great to see, and there is some friendly rivalry here at work with my rooting-for-Sweden buddies. I heard some Canadian predictions for golds in Men´s and Women´s Ice hockey AND sledge hockey: 4 medals! In preparation for the great matches ahead, here are some of the best hockey songs. I guess only Canadian singers sing about hockey?
I just love me some Stompin´Tom, I swear he is a long-lost uncle. This one is great because it is live, with a story from uncle Tom. How did this not become the replacement for CBC´s Hockey Night in Canada theme?
This is a great one, for the trivia and weirdness. I think every Canadian kid my age knows all the lyrics to this song. Quick trivia! when did Bill Barilko disappear, and when was he found? This video isn’t live Hip, but has some good old photos of poor ol’ Bill.
This one is cool because it has a SWEAR! Oh Gordie. Sadly, I could not find a decent live version of this, and this video shows the album cover so its really about listening. Trivia! Who scored the goal that everyone remembers?
This one is kind of newer, also from the hip. The short Ron McLean interview at the beginning shows why the Hip have so many hockey songs – Gordie played goalie as a kid and some goals still haunt him.
If you don’t recognize this one within the first five notes you are probably not Canadian.
They can’t all be good songs. Here is the anthem for thousands of ‘hockey parents’ across the nation.
Well, this is a bit heavy on the Hip catalogue. Does Leonard Cohen have any Hockey durges I am not aware of? Put your suggestions of other songs in the comments!
Although I know it can’t compare to the excitement back home, people are getting pretty excited about the Olympics; Sweden has a lot of great winter athletes.
A professor at the University sent me this clip from Swedish public radio about the history of Vancouver, including English soundbites from Canadian author Stephen Bown who wrote a biography about Vancouver. The reporter takes a trip on the BC ferry to Victoria. Take a listen and see what words you can pick out.
Click on the mini speaker icon above the seascape picture:
When we were in Vancouver over the holidays we went on a walk with my sisters and family down to the boardwalk around the Athlete’s Village. They are just about to close down the site for security purposes, so we were happy to get a walk in. It was a beautiful sunny day, much warmer than Sweden, and we saw at least one person wearing flipflops (and it wasn’t even in Kitsilano!) Here are some pictures from that day.
In Sweden there is no Remembrance Day holiday mainly due to the face that Sweden has officially been militarily neutral for almost 200 years. While much of the rest of Europe marked the 91st anniversary of the signing of the armistice in Compiègne ending World War I, Swedes went about their normal business (in fact Catherine visited Uppsala and then flew to Umeå for some meetings). In Canada we’re used to having a Cenotaph of some sort in just about every city or town, but I can’t recall seeing any war memorials in Sweden.
We both feel that Remembrance Day is the most meaningful Canadian holiday; one that should not be treated like a day to party because you have an extra day off from school or work. Although there were no events for us to attend, but we did spend some time to remember those who served and continue to serve our country. Catherine has a stronger family connection to the military than I do, but due to my line of work I do get to a decent amount of exposure to what the Canadian Forces are up to.
We were discussing yesterday some of the recently announced plans for the end of Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011. We agreed that it seems like the right thing to do; there needs to be a transition to the Afghanis providing their own security as at the end of the day the people will always be suspicious of Westerners patrolling their streets (and rightfully so). Hopefully the Canadians will stay to help rebuild the country on the peacekeeping/humanitarian side as that is where I believe our military’s experience and strength lies. In that way maybe we can help to address the root causes of terrorism none of which are solved with guns – poverty, hunger, and lack of education come to mind.
It turns out that we had a little more than 20% of our stuff left in the apartment – lots of last minute items that we didn’t gnat to go without for 2 weeks when we did the ‘big move’. I have borrowed a scale from Graham’s parents (we have never owned one), so now we can pack our suitcases to maximize the amount of stuff going to Sweden!
We got our Team uniforms yesterday for World Championships. Everything seems pretty nice except for the shorts. The ‘board short’ style has a super-large waists and cramped bum space… not a very athletic cut, more of a couch potato vibe. The Women’s lycra shorts are super-short booty shorts like you might see at Bikram’s yoga. Happily, I got the men’s lycra shorts which are quite comfy with a nice Canada logo. I’ll upload some pictures in CZ (once I unpack the camera.)
We are planning to cook most of our own meals in Prague so we are eating familiar foods (it is also a lot cheaper!) I am not keen on the typical local diet of sausage and potatoes. Our friend Erica is bringing a rice cooker and I am bringing some spices etc. so we will have rice and bean burritos, couscous and curried chickpeas, lentils, and Thai coconut rice with Tofu (provided they have tofu there!) We’ll be sure to post on how that goes.
We have packed up 80% of our stuff and brought it to Graham’s parent’s place. We are lucky they are storing it in their basement as that is a lot cheaper than a storage locker. I think their basement will also end up being our room when we come back to visit at Christmas.
Now we have to pack the rest – and some harder decisions about what to bring and what to leave. Warm winter clothes are at the top of the list as Stockholm regularly gets temperatures of -15 in the winter. I am bringing my XC boots but not my skis – it costs so much to ship stuff that I am better off getting new skis. We are leaving our snowshoes too, but will likely pick them up when we come to visit at Christmas.
As excited as we are to get to Sweden, we are not going straight there. First we are going to the Czech Republic for the Dragonboat World Championships. Graham and I are racing on the mixed team and Graham is on the men’s team too. Below is a picture of our Team in Whistler last month.
After we are done racing we will visit Poland, Hungary, and Austria. It will be an adventure to drag all our luggage on those trains – but it should be fun.