VANCOUVER - It’s kinda hard to think of this as a Winter Olympics city.
I walked home from the press centre last night, stopping to have dinner with family at the terrific Italian Kitchen on Alberni, when some hockey fans drove by in a convertible. With the roof down, of course.
Spotted another guy driving with his top down this morning as I headed for a walk down to the parks that line Coal Harbour, which is between the press centre/Olympic cauldron and Stanley Park.
There were lots of folks out and about, walking dogs and taking photos. But the cauldron was nuts. The lineup was more than an hour long, and there were thousands upon thousands of fans in red Canada hockey jerseys, toques and jackets strolling about. Many lined up to see the cauldron from the viewing platform that VANOC smartly opened up, but others pressed their faces against the cyclone fencing or stood on barricades in the road to get their shots.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t remember ever seeing so many locals milling about at the various Olympics I’ve covered. The Games were a big hit in Sydney, but the main action was quite far from downtown. There were Olympic facilities in downtown Salt Lake. But it’s downtown, uh, Salt Lake; not cosmopolitan Vancouver. Athens also was largely a suburban affair, as was Turin and Beijing.
There’s only one real event happening downtown, that being hockey. Plus the victory ceremonies at BC Place. Everything else is at Cypress Mountain or at the Pacific Coliseum east of downtown or in Richmond. Or Whistler, of course. Still, you can barely move downtown some nights, and the whole city seems electrified.