Vancouver Winter Olympics – Lines, Houses and Hockey

Vancouver is an interesting city. In general there is nothing spectacular about it but there is nothing you can really put as a negative either. It’s kind of ‘neutral’ – which why I find it interesting. There are few cities I have been to that I would class as ‘neutral’. There is lots of natural beauty, a positive but the weather is average, a negative. Groceries are cheap, a positive, beer is expensive, a negative. During the 2010 Winter Olympics however, there is a unique buzz.

In terms of organisation and controlling logistics, I would say Canada did an average job. There is minimal information available on transport, pricing, events both sporting and cultural. Maybe there is information, just not much on the first page of Google, which is usually as far as I look. Either their information sucks or their SEO specialists suck, either way, not too impressed. Busses have arrived at events up to 90 minutes late, people have had their tickets refunded due to badly designed venues and there was no backup plan in case Mother Nature didn’t deliver the required snow for the various events (which she didn’t). But to be fair, organising the Winter Olympics is probably more difficult than the summer. Everything needs to be frozen!

I understand the difficulties associated with the various sporting events, but one true complaint I have is about the lines for everything else. You seriously have to line up for everything! The houses, the bottle shops, the shows, for pizza, for the train, there is a line for everything… I don’t have a genius solution for this problem, just venting.

But there are definitely positives too. The tens of thousands of people that have flocked here for the Olympics have seriously given this place a buzz, especially in the nights. The downtown streets are alive (pending weather) with people. Red and white are the colours of the moment, with people sporting flags as capes, red maple leaves as hats and usually some form of red face paint.

The second positive fallout from the Olympics are the houses. For those that don’t know, there are a number of countries who set up what are called ‘houses’ to promote their countries, host their natives and get people drunk. There is the Russian House trying to convince people to attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, houses from the major Canadian states and other random houses such as the Irish, German and Holland Heineken which I think are there just to get people really really drunk. The houses are either temporary structures built over open spaces such as car parks or non-alcoholic venues converted like Science World.

They have interactive events during the day, lots of cool Winter Olympic virtual stuff resembling the such as virtual ice hockey, speed skating and snowboarding. Historic facts and shows on the Winter Olympics. Cultural displays from the relative countries and various things for kids to do. Then at 8pm they kick out all the kids, bring on music of some sort and turn into massive parties in excess of 3000 people!

One of the main notables of Canada is their love of ice hockey. I’m pretty sure this is a well known fact but Canadians seriously love hockey. Most people would sacrifice a limb of some sort to see their country win gold (which they did and went nuts over!). I’ve seen hockey games on the main downtown street at midnight. Hockey games played by 5 year olds. Hockey sticks replacing walking sticks. Hockey in parks, back yards, on streets, in cars, frigin hockey everywhere! It’s so infectious, that every expat I have met has been converted. It’s like a living breathing entity that consumes you. Pretty weird. I imagine it’s like soccer/futball/football in South America or the UK.

I’ve had a great time here, it’s fun partying with people from all over the world and the buzz of any city hosting the Olympics is going to be great. But I think to get a true feeling of what the city is like I will need to spend some non-Olympic time here.