Friday, March 5, 2010

and these are our citizens..........

The lost souls of Vancouver's downtown eastside! The Olympic Committee didn't try to hide them away after all, to get them off the streets, make them invisible, as rumour had insisted was the plan. If anything, the decision to have the olympic flame relay pass through the troubled area, near the end of its coast to coast journey in the months leading up to the games, seemed the equivalent of an international announcement "This is part of our city too, these are our less fortunate citizens" Though the relay did have to be rerouted somewhat, due to the rowdy protests of activists for the homeless.

In another move, a 57ft tall outdoor LED sculpture, carrying the words "east" & "van" which, horizontally & vertically, make a crucifix, was commissioned by Vanoc's arts funding council. The east-van cross has long been a graffiti image of the tough eastside & now artist Ken Lum's inspiration for his contemporary sculpture. He grew up there, the son of low-paid chinese immigrant workers.The permanent "Monument for East Vancouver arises" has already become a defining symbol of the inner city & promotes critical discourse. It lights up at night. It looks a potent symbol of suffering. No, I havn't seen it. Wish I had. There was a fabulous nightshot from Rafal Gerszak for the Globe & Mail / Tuesday March 2nd.

Was also directed, via The Globe & Mail, to the website of Vancouver photographer Eric Deis whose campaign, through raw candid 2 gigapixel photographs of the eastside's streetlife, was to bring all eyes that were on Vancouver for the Olympics to the truth of the plight of the inhabitants of  downtown eastside.

None of it immediately helps those sleeping on the streets tonight, or the one who's going to overdose tomorrow or get beat up or die of AIDS but it seems a step turned in a direction that might have city hall actively looking for longterm solutions. They have acknowledged the condition. Perhaps they will also act. It isn't going to be easy  .......but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is , is it?

see previous post January 13th 2010 : the dilemma of vancouver's eastside......

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

best post-games quips.......

"sorry, we didn't mean we wanted to own the whole podium.....just that bit in the middle."

  .......Globe & Mail letters to the editor, March 1st, from Richard Bingham, Toronto.

"Is it over? Are they gone?  Can I come out now? "

.........Globe & Mail letters to the editor, March 2nd, from Alan Donald, Vancouver.

Monday, March 1, 2010

reflecting on the olympic experience...........

There will be major withdrawal symptoms sweeping across the country of Canada in the next few days. The games started ominously with the tragic death of 21 year old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili just hours before the opening ceremonies, an event which in that utterly shocking moment seemed to have brought an end to the games before they had even begun. Couldn't help but think of the superstitious curse of doom that is believed to hover over any & every theatrical production of Shakespeare's "MacBeth". In its early days it was fraught with controversy about Whistler's sliding track where the accident happened ( too fast, too dangerous? ), anquish about the endless rain & mild temps that all but wiped Cypress mountain clean of usable skiing conditions, outrage over Vanoc's decision to chain-link fence the outdoor cauldron at Jack Pool Plaza, to keep the public at bay. Many many hiccups, not to mention the public relations disaster that was the perceived arrogance of the  "Own the Podium" slogan. Then something else happened that was far greater than anything that could have been anticipated. We discovered that that passion we'd felt murmuring as the olympic flame came into our frame of reference as it crossed the country was, in fact,  a fantastical bandwagon. And that we could, for easy choosing,  ride it all the way. Olympic fever infected the whole country, from coast to coast the citizens of Canada turned 17 days into a collective experience of unparalleled proportions. It wasn't the Vancouver games after all, it was the Canada games. It began when 22 year old Alexandre Bilodeau, the sweet uncomplicated boy-man from Quebec, came to our attention when he won mogul gold & shared with the world his all-encompassing love for his handicapped brother, Frederic. It wasn't just about the delicious taste of first gold on olympic home soil, it was about the human condition of empathy & joy & pride. The moment's emotional content began its alchemy to unify us as a nation, to transform this country into one massive community of souls who cared, that were awed by the youth & strength & sublime physical beauty & committment to excellence of all the dedicated athletes who had gathered on the west coast from all over the globe. I am not a sports fan. You will never find the TV in my home tuned to a sports event or me sitting in an arena cheering for the home team. Winter or summer. Yet the passion I felt, along with millions of other Canadians during this olympic symphony, filled me to the brim & spilled over. Not what I was expecting at all. I had imagined that olympic saturation was going to become very tiresome. That I would be glad when it was over so that we could all get on with our lives. But that was before Jon Mongomery, an auctioneer with a maple leaf tattooed over his heart, everybody's 'bad boy', triumphantly marched through the cheering night crowds of Whistler Village, beer pitcher in hand, cocky grin on his face, looking like the happiest man alive. Before Joannie Rochette became everyone's brave heroine as she skated her programme wearing her crown of courage less than 48 hours after the sudden unexpected death of her mother in a Vancouver hotel room. Before Kim Yu Na of Korea showed us what flawless grace & beauty on ice is all about. Turns out it was less about 'owning the podium' and more about the power of a countrywide human experience, a defining moment in collective national pride. A magnificent excuse to wave the flag, sing the national anthem, to shout out loud "I am a Canadian!" It was a one-off. An addiction to remember & savour for a long time to come. Wouldn't have missed it for the world *~*

And the final beats of olympic 2010 competition, tension & excitement as high as it could possibly be, the metaphoric 'sudden death' hanging nail-bitingly over the heads of the continent's two nations & young Sydney Crosby brings it to a bravo performance curtain with a shot on goal that he says he didn't even see go in. Compassion for the US team came easily. It was a big deal to them too. But a most fitting finale for the greatest party that Canada has ever held, a party where everyone was a welcome guest. Everyone!

image : reflections of a houseboat at fisherman's wharf, victoria, vancouver island.