I have always taken the view that there will be scepticism and cynicism in any Host City about hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games until just a week or two before the Games start and then it will vanish and everyone will suddenly be a convert. I confidently expect that to be the process in London as we get closer to 2012, unless Mayor Boris Johnson fails to invest properly over the next two years and himself builds cynicism rather than enthusiasm.
I am therefore very pleased to have had the opportunity to be in Vancouver for a few days with only three weeks to go before the City hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics, so that I can see whether my theory is borne out.
On balance, I think it is. There is no doubt that local enthusiam is building: young people are excited and it is mainly locals that are currently swamping the Official Merchandise outlets (where they are finding that they can only buy using cash or a VISA cards – as VISA is an official sponsor, Mastercard and American Express are forbidden).
Businesses are preparing for the rush of visitors and are expecting a serious boost to the provincial economy. Meanwhile, the Cultural Olympiad is in full swing – with an impressive emphasis on events with a link to Canada’s First Nations (the indigenous Indian communities prior to colonial invasion).
So has cynicism disappeared? Not entirely. One cause is the weather: it is simply too warm. One of the Olympic ski runs has had to be closed because of warm weather and heavy rain. And the cynics tell me that this was entirely predictable. This is an El Nino year when warmer ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific bring a milder winter to Western Canada. (An El Nino year is usually preceded the previous year with a colder-than-normal winter and this is what happened in 2009 when Vancouver was totally snow-bound in January.) These meteorological events are on a five-year cycle (or so I was told) and it should have been obvious to all concerned when Vancouver was bidding for 2010 that a mild winter would be on the cards – now in 2014 (the winter before the next El Nino year) would have been an ideal Games to bid for ….
And there are moans at the Mayor (so this is probably another reason why Boris Johnson won’t stand again in May 2012) for the proposed road closures and the extra costs falling on the City.
And there is still a legacy from the February 2003 plebiscite called in Vancouver on whether to support the Bid. This was before the final decision by the International Olympic Committee was taken on the location of the 2010 Games, but after Vancouver was named as a candidate city and had signed legal agreements committing it to host the games if selected. Fortunately, citizens of the City voted heavily in favour of proceeding with the Bid, but the manouevre was seen as deeply cynical: only citizens of Vancouver itself (and not those from the rest of Greater Vancouver) could vote; it could easily have had a negative impact on the IOC vote (which would have meant all the bid costs would have been in vain); and above all it would have been impossible to pull out if the plebiscite vote had gone the other way. Apparently, the Mayor “was just playing politics” – now where have we heard that before?