JASPER PARK, B.C. OLYMPIC WOES AND UNESCO OVERLOAD
JASPER, Alberta – Wow.
I was here once a dozen or so years ago but only for a couple hours on a trip with my wife and kids. This time it’s a golf trip, starting Sunday night and ending (too soon) Monday morning. We’ll have more time down the road in Banff and Canmore and Kananaskis later in the week, but last night it was a barbeque at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
I forgot how far it was from the airport in Edmonton to Jasper Park; nearly four hours with a few construction delays on the highway. But what a magnificent place; huge, craggy, folded mountains of all shapes and sizes rising out of nowhere, plus endless forests and wide, green rivers. Last time I checked Jasper Park is in Canada, but the first group of cottages I saw on the side of the highway were called the Pocahontas Cabins, and can't we find national treasures of our own to name things after?
Anyway, we saw a bit of wildlife on the way in; a couple groups of light brown bighorn sheep grazing by the side of the road and a small elk. Our bus driver (we’re in a bus that’s used by movie stars and rock bands, with comfortable couches and a bar; pretty spiff) told us he saw a coyote chasing a deer across the road but most of us were looking at the mountains off to the side and missed it.
Interesting story in the Globe and Mail on Saturday by Gary Mason, talking about how folks out in Whistler are having second thoughts about staging the Games. It’s the same in almost every run-up to the Olympics, as people focus more on the money they’re spending and the construction delays and changes. Remember the big fuss over the beach volleyball facility at Bondi Beach prior to the Sydney Games? Ever hear that tale of woe again?
Once the Games start, people get excited and most folks who stick around and don’t try to rent out their homes for a million dollars say they’re happy they didn’t miss it. But there are still heavy costs to be paid for staging the world’s biggest circus.
Down in Salt Lake, an acquaintance tells me, they’re thrilled with the hockey palace left behind but have little use for the curling facility. Athens still hasn’t figured out what to do with some of the stadiums they had to build for the 2004 Games, or so I’m told.
Canadian Press the other day carried a story where a Conference Board of Canada economist predicted the glow will fade quickly after the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia.
Paul Darby, the board’s deputy chief economist, said there will be “an Olympic effect” from the Games that will drive growth in B.C. by about 3.3 per cent in 2010, more than any other province. That compares to the board’s prediction of two per cent growth across Canada in 2010.
However, Darby said the economic impact of the Olympics will fade within two to three years.
In the same story, CP reported that Canadian Ski Council stats show the number of skiers and snowboarders to hit Canadian slopes fell 10 per cent year-over-year to 18.4 million visitors, down from a record 20.5 million visitors in the 2007/08 season.
Poor snow conditions, the recession and an aging population are said to be some of the factors behind the recent drop.
MY BACKYARD IS NEXT ON THE LIST
Associated Press reported recently that the Dolomite mountains in Italy are among 13 new sites added to UNESCO’s world heritage list. Other new natural sites added to the list included the Wadden Sea wetlands, an area rich in wildlife in Germany and the Netherlands; and northern China’s Mount Wutai, a sacred Buddhist site known for its five flat peaks and a landscape with 53 monasteries.
AP said the new designations included the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in the countries of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Kyrgyzstan. I’m sure they’re all terrific, but there are now 890 properties on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Isn’t it getting a bit much?
I mean, it’s like when the Neighborhood Watch program started. At first it was cool, but pretty soon everyone had the signs on their street and it stopped being special. If the whole world is a UNESCO world heritage site, how we do we know what’s truly spectacular? Maybe they need a “super” world heritage site with the top 100 spots around the world.
THAT’S A LOT OF PRETZELS
Anyone see where some crazy traveller from the U.S., Mark Malkoff, recently spent a month living on airplanes? It seems he set a Guinness World Record for the most scheduled flights in 30 days by making 135 schedule flights. That surpassed the old record of 128.
Malkoff, 33, took his flights in June and covered more than 100,000 miles. He landed in three dozen cities, including New York, Atlanta, Raleigh, N.C., Jacksonville, Denver, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
Malkoff’s campaign was organized with AirTran.
Malkoff, 33, a comedian and filmmaker, posted updates throughout the month on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and on his blog, http://www.MarkOnAirTran.com. He also posted wacky videos, like one in which he flushed the airplane toilet to watch it suck up an entire roll of toilet paper that he had unrolled down the aisle of the plane.
In another video, he was hosed down on the tarmac by the Flint, Mich., fire department. He had no access to showers and had been using baby wipes in the airplane bathroom to clean himself. I've sat next to people on airplanes who I wish would take the same precautions, but that's another story.
Malkoff, a former audience coordinator for “The Colbert Report,” had said at the outset that he was using the month to try to overcome his fear of taking planes. He said in an e-mail that after talking to the pilots and spending all those hours in the air, “I’ve pretty much gotten over my fear of flying.’’
His past projects have included “Mark Lives in IKEA,’’ documenting his weeklong stay in an IKEA store, and “171 Starbucks,” in which he visited 171 Starbucks stores in Manhattan in less than 24 hours.
Now that I think about it, I kinda admire the guy. I just wonder if he got any airline points out of it.