The 2010 Olympic Games are just a little more than two weeks away, and everyone is starting to really get excited, especially the host city, Vancouver, where the Olympic fever is spreading like, well, a fever. In the sense that everyone is already sick of them. And as the Games draw closer, Vancouver's attitude toward them continues to worsen.
I spoke to Charles, a bus driver, whose good cheer diminished when I asked him about the games. "I just can't believe I wanted this a year ago," he said. "I voted for it in the plebiscite. But now, yes. I'm disillusioned." This disillusion is developing as the financial burden of the Games becomes public. The original cost estimate was $660 million in public money. It's now at an admitted $6 billion and steadily climbing. An early economic impact statement was that the games could bring in $10 billion. Price Waterhouse Coopers just released their own study showing that the total economic impact will be more like $1 billion. In addition, the Olympic Village came in $100 million over budget and had to be bailed out by the city.
So not only will the games cost more than originally planned (a lot more), but now it's expected that they will bring in $9 billion less to the city of Vancouver. And this all comes at the same time that the city had to cut 800 teacher's jobs. Why? Because of a lack of funding. What options do Vancouver residents have? Not many, besides taking to the streets.
For the first time in the history of the games, a full-scale protest is being planned to welcome the athletes, tourists, and foreign dignitaries.
Bringing together a myriad of issues, Vancouver residents have put out an open call for a week of anti-game actions. Different demonstrations on issues ranging from homelessness to indigenous rights have been called. Protesters from London and Russia, site of the next two Olympics will be there. Expect a tent city, expect picket signs, expect aggressive direct actions. Tellingly, according to the latest polls, 40 percent of British Columbia residents support the aims of the protesters, compared to just 13 percent across the rest of Canada. Harsha Walia of the Olympic Resistance Network said, "We are seeing increasing resistance across the country as it becomes more visible how these Games are a big fraud."
Just what the IOC wants: angry, loud protestors outside of its events.
So, that's a host city that no longer wants to be the host, NBC losing money just to broadcast the games (around $250 million) and warm weather that is creating a serious problem: no snow. Which obviously is an important part of the Winter Olympics. According to Peter Judge, head of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, the organizers are "in crisis mode."
Cypress Mountain, the venue for snowboarding and freestyle skiing events, is bare and muddy in parts. It closed to the public two and a half weeks earlier than planned due to unseasonably warm and wet weather. [...]
[R]ecent warm weather is attributed to El Nino and, to a lesser degree, to what locals call "pineapple express" weather patterns. Both bring warm weather and rain from the Pacific to the west coast of North America, he said. Cypress provides stunning views of Vancouver and the Pacific Ocean.
But organizers are using wood and hay bales as a base for courses there. That will be covered with stockpiled natural and man-made snow brought in by truck or snowcat from higher elevations. Helicopters are also being used to move materials.
Organizers are saying colder temperatures are coming, and that competition will proceed as scheduled and that everything will be just fine and dandy and please buy more tickets and merchandise. But right now, just 16 days away from the Opening Ceremonies, Vancouver certainly has the feel of a multi-billion dollar, uninteresting and non-snowy disaster; the Vinko Bogataj of Winter Olympic games.