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Opinion

Winter Olympics: Stay or Go?

I'm torn about whether to leave town or hang around. What are you doing?

By Bill Tieleman 27 Oct 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. Tieleman can be heard Mondays at 10 a.m. on the Bill Good Show on CKNW AM 980 or at www.cknw.com. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Pack or pack it away?

"Should I stay or should I go now? If I go there will be trouble.
An' if I stay it will be double. So come on and let me know!" -- The Clash

Should I stay -- in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games -- or should I go -- and get the heck out of town?

I'm pondering that question right now, like thousands of other people in Metro Vancouver.

Will the Olympics be an outrageously expensive, insider-only, corporate celebration of advertising where civil rights are quashed and ordinary people's lives disrupted by traffic snarled just so big shots can speed around the city?

Or will the Olympics be Vancouver's finest moment, with the world coming together in peace to witness amazing athletic feats, sports drama, international arts, ending with a tremendous boost to our economy?

I really don't know.

I still support the Olympics, having voted "yes" in Vancouver's February 2003 referendum. Even if only for the job creation, economic development and international profile, they are well worthwhile.

But stay or go? Here are the arguments:

Stay:

This is likely the only chance in our lifetimes to experience a Winter Olympic Games at home -- a unique opportunity.

It will be a global party like no other. The city will be buzzing with international guests, celebrities and media attention.

Since we're paying for the Olympics, massive overruns and all, we might as well get our money's worth.

Go:

The Olympics are a huge advertising event where sports take a back seat to pushing the products of corporate sponsors paying millions for that right.

Rules to protect Olympic sponsors are so draconian that the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is taking Vancouver to court, alleging its bylaws violate the Canadian Charter of Rights.

Ticket prices lean towards outrageous -- $1,100 each for the best seat in B.C. Place for the opening ceremonies, $775 for the closing and men's ice hockey finals, and $525 for ice dance gala. There are modestly-priced tickets down to $25 but for cheap seats for cross-country skiing or biathlon.

But hey, don't worry about the prices. You can't get most tickets anyway! Popular events are long sold out, and for many events 70 per cent of the seats go to corporate sponsors, Olympic "family," politicians and big wigs.

Of course, legal scalpers are standing by to help -- with those $1,100 tickets now going for up to $6,000 each!

Gold medal traffic gridlock. Vancouver will be hell off wheels as security concerns and games transport demands mean street closures and elimination of parking.

Dedicated Olympic-only lanes will ban local drivers on large sections of major streets like Broadway, Burrard, Cambie, Georgia and Hastings from Feb. 4 to March 1 -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

Help me out here

So what to do? Go to Mexico for two weeks? Even Bellingham?

Or party up with the world and enjoy all the attention while splurging for a few events or just drinking with an international crowd at the live sites?

I can't decide without your help -- check my website for a poll on whether Vancouverites should stay or go at: billtieleman.blogspot.com  [Tyee]

Read more: 2010 Olympics

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