reflections on Olympia

It's week 2 of the 2010 Vancouver Winter (well... spring) Olympics, and I just got home from the madness in Van City. I bought tickets 3 years ago, soooo excited to be a part of the Olympic experience, and let me tell you - it didn't disappoint. For all of the protesting, naysaying, lawsuits, skytrain hullaballoo, snowmelt, traffic concerns, police brutality, etc. etc. etc. leading up to the games, I was pleasantly surprised to find that downtown Vancouver was aburst with red & white patriotism, random explosions of "Oh Canada", dance parties, flags, facepaint and revelry. In fact, despite having lived in Vancouver for more than 6 years, I found myself reaching for my camera to take pictures of the scenery, the events, and the raucousness.

Not to say that there isn't a negative side. Yes, it cost too much. I think that the time is quickly coming when hosting the big O in a new city every 2 years isn't going to be feasible. It costs a fortune! Of course, we couldn't predict that the economy would take to the sewers 18 months before the opening ceremony. and we can't do anything about the warmest winter on record (except reduce, reuse & recycle people!!). And there are lots of people who say that the Olympic budget should include the upgrades to the Sea-to-Sky highway and Canada Line... but seriously, aren't you soooo damn happy that you can take Skytrain from the airport to downtown in 20 minutes for half the price of a cab? Those are the types of things that people will wonder how they ever lived without in a few months.

There were also a lot of logistical issues that really should have been given more thought. We were up at Cypress for the first day of competition, watching Jennifer Heil win silver in the women's moguls. The moguls was actually the best event that we saw - the crowd was incredible, the action was amazing, great views (even from the cheap seats) and generally revelry all around. But the weather sucked balls - it poured down rain all day and there was only one warming tent that was about half the size of an elementary school gymnasium to give shelter to the 10-15,000 people that were up there. And the timing of the event meant that all of those people headed for the concession during the break between preliminaries & the final from 5 until 7 pm. Dinner time, right? so you'd think that they'd have a plan to manage the crowds around the concessions? nope. It was terribly poorly planned. 2-3 hour waits to get food, 15-20 minutes for the pleasure of cramming your soggy, down & fleece-padded body into an over-full portapotty, and no where else to go. Nobody knew what line-up they were in, how long it would take, or where the end of it was. RJ (miraculously) put his hunger on the back burner and managed to make it all the way to 10pm before eating anything more substantial than a rice cake - I was so proud. Good thing the event itself was so damn awesome!

We were also pleasantly surprised to find that there were hundreds of free cultural events all over town. Surprised, because it wasn't really advertised well! There were pavilions all over town (like Expo, but more spread out), but we couldn't find any central source of information to find out where they all were, what was inside, and whether it was worth spending 2 hours in the line or not to get in. You'd think that someone from Expo 86 would still be around who remembers the guidebooks that rated the pavilions, provided information on what they contained, whether they were kid-friendly, was there food, and how much did it cost? I would have been far more likely to spend my time in line if I knew what I was waiting for. Good thing we had some good guidance from friends who pointed us towards some worthwhile events and attractions!

Anyway, the Vancouver Olympics were, in general, a ton of fun. I haven't seen so many people in the city.. well... ever! Granville was rockin', Robson was crammed. We even waited the 7 hours in line to scream (literally) over the heads of the revelers in Robson Square on a zip line. I felt more patriotism than I ever have in my life, I saw some amazing and inspirational athletes, and I went home content that while I'll be paying for that experience for the rest of my life, at least I got to enjoy it! 8/10 on the amazing scale.



If there's one thing I hate, it's ignorance. Ignorance, in my opinion, is the only true stupidity because it not only requires an absence of knowledge, it requires someone to willfully turn their cheek against new information. One of the most prolific forms of ignorance that I see these days is the belief that common folk know waaaaay more than those nerdy, lab-bound scientists who are always telling us to change the way we do things. Take, for example, the caller to the CBC the other day.

The noon-hour show, BC Almanac was discussing the recent recommendation from the David Suzuki Foundation (backed up by a host of scientists in peer-review) that at least 50% of British Columbia be "conserved" in order to limit the impacts of global warming and provide a buffer for species that will need to adapt to a warming climate. I put "conserve" in quotation marks because they weren't actually advocating that we set aside half of the province in a giant no-touch zone.. rather, they were advocating a more science-based management scheme that would address the needs of whole ecosystems. Forestry would still be allowed, but it would be managed differently. Ditto with other forms of land use. Sustainability would be promoted, and more effort would be spent on replanting forests, salvaging already cut wood, collecting waste material for biofuels, etc..

And of course the first caller was someone who didn't believe a word of it.

"The government already set aside 12% of the province in parks and that's enough. We need jobs, so we need to cut down all the trees we can. Scientists sit around in their labs and offices and make these recommendations, but they don't know anything about where we live."

We sit around in our labs? We don't know what's going on out there? I'm sorry, but most of the scientists I know spend the vast majority of their lives constantly studying - in the lab, in the field, in the community - in order to make recommendations like this. And a sustainable economy will still have jobs - they just won't be the type that you're used to. You might now make as much, but the days when you could make $70-grand a year just for driving a truck are coming to close, and they're not coming back. We need to put more value into using the resources we have, and less into just cutting them down and sending them away.

Anyway, this type of willful ignorance of science and how's it's done drives me nuts. I'm a scientist, I'm from a small town, and I spend a lot of time out there looking at what is best for the environment. I don't take any recommendations like this lightly. But when a recommendation like this is made, there has to be some effort by the people out there to understand why it's recommended, what it will really mean for them, and what they can do to mitigate the effects on themselves and on the environment.