I’ve got a fever, and it’s not for more cowbell. The Olympics are on in Vancouver, and I’ve been attending all kinds of events. The most incredible one so far was the men’s hockey game between Canada and Switzerland, which was unbelievably close and ended up in Canada winning in a shoot out. I’m a big hockey fan and I’ve attended many games, from minor hockey tournaments to Canuck’s playoff games, but I have to say that this game was unbelievable. The atmosphere and excitement at the rink were palpable. As the young guy beside me put it in an awestruck voice: “I can’t believe I’m here!”
And that was the part of the game that was the best, the energy of everyone in the rink. 18,000 people feeling the same tension, hopes, and the final common jubliation at the win. And despite all the hype and worry about the Olympics, it turns out that it’s energy of people that make the Olympics a fantastic experience. As I walk around downtown Vancouver, I see hundreds of people in places where nobody normally walks, just drinking in the beautiful city and everyone around them. On Granville Street at night, I see big groups of happy people partying it up. The city is transformed by all the people. The Olympics creates a mix of different nationalities, different ages and different interests, all together in one spot.
So, what does this have to do with art? Many artists have been protesting the Olympics as too much spending on sports and not enough on the arts. However I think that this us vs. them mentality is wrong. The truth is that between the beginning of the Olympic process and the games, there was a global economic crisis, and governments at all levels were forced to retrench and cut arts spending (among many other programs). They had to honour their Olympic spending commitments, and so cuts came at the expense of other things, many more important than arts. Whether there will be long lasting economic benefits to Vancouver cannot yet be judged, but I believe there is hope.
On the streets of Vancouver today there are many lineups for different pavillions and for the Vancouver Art Gallery. Because the truth is that no person is one dimensional. Tourists may come for the Olympic games, but they are also interested in the culture of the place. I saw the beauty of Barcelona at the summer Olympics and two years later found myself in Spain, touring the Bilbao and the Prado. As a parent, I have tried to raise children who are well-rounded, active in sports & arts and interested in culture & ideas. Well-rounded people who travel and enjoy many aspects of life. A few people are fantatics, but most are interested in a variety of things, and arts are usually one of them. So any event that brings more people and more interest to the place you live is fantastic.