WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN' GOIN' ON
VANCOUVER - Usually one sees lots of tourists standing on the corner of a big city with maps at the ready, trying to figure out where the best shops or lunch spots might be. Out here, it seems you're more likely to see a guy standing on the street with a hard hat and steel-toed boots, gazing down at blueprints.
There's a whole lotta noise and commotion out here about the Olympics, which are coming to town in February, 2010; and that's not as far as it might seem. Granville Street is a mess, with new construction taking place on a transit link from downtown to the airport. There's also a big mess on Cambie and other streets, not to mention continuing construction on the Sea-to-Sky Highway between here and Whistler.
It'll all likely get done on time, and most of the venues for the Winter Olympics are already finished. The Star is out here this week for an update on the construction and the other niceties surround the Games, so we'll try to provide regular postings on the Vancouver buzz.
Right now, lots of talk centres on a couple recent developments. Vancouverites pulled a Bob Rae on Saturday (and, yes, that's a weird day for an election) by approving former NDP MLA (member of the provincial legislature) Gregor Robertson as the next mayor. That means he gets the best seats in the house (after the International Olympic Committee members, of course) for the gold medal hockey game and all that other good stuff. It also means he gets to try to implement his call to end homelessness in Vancouver (good luck) and gets to wrestle with the city's recent pledge to provide $100 million to help out developers of the athletes' village in False Creek.
There's also a huge question mark on security costs. Initial suggestions that it would only cost $175 million for security to protect athletes, officials, media, fans and the general public were laughable. Some have said those costs will be at least double, while others have hinted the true cost could be $1 billion.
Hope you enjoy that gold medal game, Mr. Mayor, 'cuz things could get rough between now and 2010.
Had a chance to check out Seattle on the weekend, which has grown a lot in the downtown area since I was last here about 10 years ago. Happy to report Pike's Place Market is still as much fun as ever; it might be the best urban market in North America. The fish sellers still toss salmon back and forth at one another for the cameras, but not, of course, when I trudged down with video camera in hand on Sunday morning. Still, it's fun to watch and the fish is amazing. There are scallops the size of your hand and enormous lobster tails that look nearly a foot long and four inches thick or more. Great stuff. Not to mention the rainbow-coloured pasta that come in fruit flavours and look like breakfast cereal an 8-year-old would love), the enormous bouquets of flowers and the original Starbucks.
Also ponied up some cash for a game at QWest Field between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, who are making a playoff run in the National Football Conference. The Seahawks have a dreadful defence for the most part, and their offence isn't much better. But the stadium is gorgeous and the surrounding neighborhood, much like the LIberty Village area in Toronto, is a fun place to mingle before the game, with marching bands, trucks with vendors selling cheese steaks, hot dogs and kettle corn and religious types holding up signs warning all "drunkards, addicts and homosexuals" that they're going straight to the place where the Seahawks reside.
Seattle looks kinda like a cross between Vancouver and San Francisco and it's a dynamite place to spend a weekend.