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.