Like Toronto, Guadalajara has an Entertainment District — except theirs isn't covered in barf.
Instead, the lovely 7 or so blocks of bars, discos, cafes, and shops along the Avenida Chapultepec are a pedestrian-only zone. The hope is that the area, about a five minute drive from the main media centre, will serve as a sort of a cultural home base during these Pan American Games; a neighbourhood where people and media can interact with athletes. A place where you can come with friends to watch the events on television. So far, the athletes have been sticking to the village, but the Avenida Chapultepec has been packed and buzzing since the Games began last week.
Tonight is the 45th anniversary party of my campus paper, The Eyeopener. So fellow Eye alum Sean Fitz-Gerald, a National Post sports reporter, and I headed to this uber hip locally-loved street to celebrate in absentia.
The zone is heavily guarded by "policia." Revellers must pass through a security check, backpack search and metal detectors before entering the pedestrian zone. Once inside, the majority of people seem to be locals, although a healthy number are English speaking ex-pats.
A tented strip down the middle serves as a quasi-(over priced)-market for staple local souvenirs: ceramics, bead work, tiki-style chairs, etc. Other tourism-geared booths highlight local attractions. Flanking the road are half a dozen American-friendly bars, many with Rock and Roll themes and English in the menus.
Along the strip are viewing areas equipped with small cinema-size projector screens, which are broadcasting the events. Life-size cutouts of famed Mexican sports heroes are set up throughout the area in case anyone wants to take a funny photo. Which is important because the athletes aren't actually hanging out here, (see above.)
What's interesting about this area, compared to Toronto clubland, is that yes, while there are stiletto-wearing girls dancing on balconies, the area is pretty family friendly. Parents bring their kids. No one is stumbling down the street shouting obscenities (although honestly, I don't speak Spanish, it's possible they are in a very cheerful tone). This is actually an Entertainment District.
At the end of the strip, near a beautiful European-style statue sculpture thing, is an ongoing concert featuring local talent. The three times I've been so far, hundreds and hundreds of people have shown up to watch. I met a guy the other night who swore his friend's friend was playing sometime soon. It's that kind of Games. Everyone knows someone who is involved, or kinda involved, or used to be involved.
I have no doubt Toronto will put on a fantastic show. But I wonder if our sometimes cynical city will pull off this kind of excitement. And please, let's pick somewhere for our cultural hub that's far away from the Entertainment District.