Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic Games Side Effects on Vancouver

As a kid, I have always viewed the Olympic Games as a time of excellence; a time where people come together in harmonized spirit and where some show off their talent and skill, so that they can achieve a goal and dream of a lifetime. The Olympic Games, for me, has always been about community, sport, and celebration that brings together the nations of the world.

A few days ago I went on an eye-opening adventure that changed my view of the Olympics.
Perhaps you remember one of my first blog posts about how ridiculous I thought it was that Vancouver was shelling out about $500 million to pay for a retractable roof to put on top of BC Place? The point that I was arguing had to do with the fact that when our city does not have that kind of money to just throw around everywhere, we should not be spending the big bucks on gigantic luxuries like the retractable roof when there are basic things about our city that could be improved first. For instance, we could be spending that money to contribute to a variety of good causes; charities for the homeless and hungry, the many children and people living below the poverty line, and making sure that kids who can't afford proper education can get it.
But when faced with the prospect of making some money and pleasing the avid football fans, our city can just suddenly toss half a billion into this, and forget the proper who, truly, need the money?
When faced with an event as prestigous as the Olympics, Vancouver should be able to celebrate our city and what makes us proud - our great community, our beautiful land, and our large groups of various nationalities. We shouldn't half to spend millions or billions just to please the tourists for a few weeks.
I have recently taken this view, but it wasn't until a few days ago that I actually got to see people who were being directly affected by the money being put into the Olympics instead of themselves.

It started out as a quest to find the anti-olympic protestors that have been showing their active spirit throughout the downtown area in the past couple weeks. Massive mobs have been seen carrying posters and signs advertising anti-olympic slogans, and there have been people vandalising and breaking things (a couple windows at the Bay were smashed). These are obviously a few of the extreme actions being taken against the Games, but I wanted to find regular people who remain silent about their dislike for the Games. They would be less dangerous, but they'd make an interesting story - everyone has a different opinion, and not many people get to express theirs the way or amount they'd like to.

After walking around the art gallery on Robson street, me and a few fellow reporters were directed by a woman to check out a small building in towards the east side. It's a place called "W2", where unaccredited jounalists and reporters can write and express their views. Upon arrival, we were then directed further down East Hastings to a place called "Tent City".

"Tent City" is an area blocked off for homeless people who cannot find shelter to stay in for the duration of the Games. The area is being used to build condos after the Games, so the homeless cannot stay there permanently. (Many in this neighbourhood are upset that this area will be used for condominiums, because it will raise the housing prices and force more people out onto the street). But for now, Tent City is what they call home. A hard, gravelly surface is what they sleep, eat, and live on.
When you first walk by Tent City, you notice the posters up against the fence: anti-olympic ones.
When you enter the fenced-in area, there are chairs set up in a semi-circle around a small fire.
Off to one side, there is a covered food area, where products have been lined up and the homeless can go help themselves. Most of this food has been kindly donated.
The rest of the area is for the tents.

Upon going inside this tent area, I was struck by how different this was to where I live. There are obvious reasons as to why I felt this way, of course - it's outdoors, sort of like a camping ground, people can just walk right in, and there are many different people living there.
But there was also the unobvious reasons - like the fact that I didn't even feel like I was in Vancouver. It was a very strange experience for me; I was somewhere that felt so...surreal.

It is a sad thing that so many people can't have shelter or food, and that in a big, wealthy city like ours, they have to worry about how they are going to get by and survive everyday.
Many people look down upon the homeless, because they think that they are scary or bad, or that they are poor because they are addicted to drugs.
In many instances, however, this is not the case. A lot of people who are living on the streets do not do drugs. And most of them are really nice people.

We are introduced to one of the elder homeless ladies on our way out, named Stella. She is mostly in charge of speaking on behalf of the people living in Tent City, she is well-spoken and thoughtful.
When asked about her view on the Olympics, Stella says: "Quite honestly, I am a little disgusted." This is because of many of the reasons I've mentioned above; the amounts of money that the city is spending on luxuries as opposed to immediate needs.
But this homeless woman does not say she is disgusted because she and the rest of the homeless people do not have homes, she is disgusted because she thinks that the massive amounts of money should be going towards young people, to help them with their education. Many kids cannot afford a proper education, or they come from a background that does not promote it, and so they therefore do not pursue it.
Stella does note that she has no problem at all with the sports; she thinks that they are a great thing and that there should definitely be an Olympics, to promote athletes and various communities across the world. There just shouldn't have to be this problem with spending serious amounts of money and landing in debt because of it.

Stella and the other residents of Tent City are not asking for much - all they want is shelter and food. "It is frustrating", Stella says, "Because we are really not asking for much, all we want is a place to stay. Please, Vancouver, give our people a place to stay."
The point that Stella makes is this: Vanoc can ask for a zip line, the Canada line, an ice rink at Robson square, a waterfall in front of the art gallery, new sports venues, new media centres, a snazzy convention centre - and yet, all the residents of Tent City are asking for is a place to stay; a roof over their heads.
And yet, what has been easier for our city to get?

If you want to see something that makes you feel like the most fortunate person in the world, that makes you realize you take so much for granted, and that will really bring you back down to earth from your Olympic-filled head that is still buzzing from taking a trip on the zip line, please go visit the city of tents. It will be an experience you remember much better than the zip line!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Victory and Life for Maelle Ricker

In the photo above, premier Gordon Campbell is congratulating Canada's Maelle Ricker on becoming the first British Columbian to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Maelle is also the very first woman in Canada to win a gold medal at the Olympics on home turf, though none of this has gone to her head yet.
She has a pleasantly shy and sweet demeanour, laughing nervously at times when interviewed.

When asked about how it felt after her race yesterday, and what it feels like to own a gold Olympic medal, she shakes her head in disbelief. "It's unbelievable, I am on cloud nine, I feel like I am floating everywhere." She says that it has still not really sunk in yet.

Maelle is known for leaving the starting gate at the beginning of a race in good time, and when asked what she is thinking about, she talks mainly about visualizing the race course in her head, and winner.

As a high school student, my fellow reporter Emily Chan and I wanted to know how Maelle balanced her schoolwork with her snowboarding passion when she was our age.
In order to get her work done, her teachers had to be flexible with her schoolwork, which they were. She also had to do a lot of her studying when on the road; travelling to and from various mountains and competitions.

As a kid, Maelle participated in many sports; biking, soccer - you name it, she did it. She loved - and still loves - to play. Although she's shy, she has an inner competitiveness that sports bring out in her. She was "one of the boys" on the ski hill in her younger days, following her older brother around. Now, she focuses on being a role model for younger girls who want to participate in sports and follow their dreams.

When asked about the new fashions surrounding the Olympics and the ski hill, Maelle mentions the red gloves and puffy vests - not exactly something we haven't noticed. But she also comments on the "jeans" that snowboarders have been wearing on the hill...are they actual denim or not? Everybody has been wondering. "No, I don't think those are real denim," she laughs. (There are snowboarding pants, however, now coming out in "waterproof denim". They have been put out by some of the top snowboarding name brands, such as Burton, but most people find them out of their price range).

Tonight, Maelle will be celebrating her accomplishment at the BC place victory ceremony in Vancouver, where Canadians from all over will be cheering her on.

The epitomy of determination and tenacity, we can't wait to see what Maelle Ricker will do next.

Lindsey Vonn: Worth All The Hype?

With all the American titles, the Sports Illustrated photos, and crazed hype over her skiing skills, beauty, and talent...will Lindsey Vonn be able to hold it together when her moment comes?

Apparently, she can. After finishing her race just before noon today, she leads the competition by a good margin (the woman sitting in 2nd place as of now is about a whole half a second behind). She started out her race strong, and finished the same way, falling into the snow past the finish line immersed in victory...although she hasn't won yet.

With the American flags waving like crazy, we can only assume that America's golden girl will most likely find herself on the podium, possibly in first place.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Magical Moment for Bilodeau

He is the first ever Canadian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal on Canadian land, yes.
He will have his name put into the Canadian hall of fame, yes.
But perhaps his biggest achievement is not one he's accomplished on the mountain, but more the role he plays at home - in his older brother, Frederic's, life.

Alexandre Bilodeau is a 22 year old freestyle skier from Quebec. In the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics, he finished 11th. Upon being disappointed in himself for not doing better, he was immediately cheered by his own inspiration: His older brother.

Alex's brother, Frederic Bilodeau, has Cerebal Palsy. Although told that he would not be able to walk by age 10, he is still walking and now 28 years old. He even skies a bit, one of the reasons Alex originally chose to go into skiing in the first place.

Alex has said before that when times get tough in his sport, and he doesn't feel like he can go on, his brother Frederic has always been there for him, reminding him - what if he wasn't able to do his sport at all? What if he didn't have a choice?
At the end of today's mogul race, Frederic was at the end of the run, waiting for Alex and cheering him on wildly.
Frederic isn't just able to put things into perspective for Alex, he is always there to celebrate and support his brother through anything.

Frederic isn't the only one cheering on Alex, though. Fans and Canadians all over are now buzzing about our hero, the one who ended Canada's long stretch without a gold medal on Canadian turf.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lack of Snow at Cypress means less practice time for snowboarders

This past Saturday, about 50 trucks were shipping snow to Cypress Mountain.
This is all due to the lack of snow on the mountain from the surprisingly mild winter tempertures Vancouver has been experiencing these past few months.

Now, however, there are more extreme measures being taken.

Vanoc decided to cut off two practice days for the halfpipe snowboarders to help snow stay on the mountain, although Tim Gayda, the vice-president of Sport for Vanoc says that this should have no affect on the athletes.

Hopefully it doesn't!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowball Throwers Petition to put their sport into the Games

While everyone is excited about the upcoming Olympics, none are as excited as the members of the IFST.
The IFST, also known as the International Federation of Snowball Throwing, is an organization promoting the sport of snowball throwing. The group is hoping to be able to represent their sport at the Games, and is also hoping to "get some more ink on their petition", which would help them get into the Olympics.
You can view their plan at
"We've come too far and thrown too many snowballs to miss our goal," the site says, adding that although they've been practicing hard on their throwing skills, they now need to focus on getting more attention to their sport.
Their website includes tutorials on throwing exercises and the proper uniform needed for snowball throwing.

I was told about this by a friend the other day, who was bewildered at the fact that something like snowball throwing could get into the Olympics.
So I searched this topic up, and I found the website representing the IFST.
And here is the catch:

At the very bottom of their web page, in tiny print, a box describes:

"*Although snowball throwers are portayed as serious athletes, this blog and IFST petition are not. Let's be real, the content on this page is about snowballs and is designed to entertain. It's a parody site paid for by the Coca-Cola Company with the intent of generating excitement for the upcoming Games".

Well, isn't that interesting.

It is curious how there is now being artifical hype spread, but I guess that that's part of the package that comes along with the Games. Also, the fact that it's one of the Olympics' sponsors that is putting out the fake hype.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

52 Days to Go

When we first step outside each morning we are now greeted by a draft of chilling air. As we walk, frost crunches beneath our boots or we may even slip across ice. We are wearing scarves, mittens, and toques.
Usually this change in our atmosphere is the symbol of hope for many of us: the winter holidays are almost here! Something to look forward to after slaving away at work since the summer.
This year however, the extra special wintery feeling that is hanging in the air is not just due to the holiday season, but more so to the event we are so anticipating: The 2010 Winter Olympic/Paralympic Games!

We have 52 days to go now, and it seems as though BC may be more ready than ever. Our mountains are looking good with fresh snow, and all of the tickets to see the games (approximately 1.6 million) are sold out.

This should be a great experience for all of us, and it is sure to create many good memories.
To my delight, I have been accepted as a junior reporter for these games, and so I will be able to keep blogging and possibly interview some people participating in them!

Have a great winter break, everyone!

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