Olympic Fever Hits Downtown Vancouver

The weather has been great the last several days and the sunny cloudless skies, and 15 degree warmth, have brought out the Olympic crowds en masse here in Vancouver. All the trees and bushes are flowering ahead of schedule, including beautiful pink Japanese maples and magnolia trees; these latter had only furry grey buds two days ago.

On my drive home from the Island Thursday it was so beautiful that I just had to slip on the inline skates and go for a cruise around the park. Since most of the action is downtown, the seawall and park are not nearly as crowded as they usually are – great for skating! As I made my way around the seawall, I saw that all the sculptures and statues gracing the park have been adorned with red Olympic mittens, including the giant English Bay inukshuk, the statue of Robbie Burns overlooking the rowing club, the bronze sculpture of track star Harry Jerome, whose mittens are gigantic red boxing gloves emblazoned with the maple leaf, and the mermaid girl at Lumberman’s Arch.

As well, the huge lions on either side of Lions Gate Bridge have big red mittens on their paws, as well as necklaces of world flags. As the days pass, more and more flags adorn the windows and balconies of downtown Vancouver’s condo forest, mostly Canadian but from many other countries as well. Cars, too, are festooned with flags – I saw one the other day with six large flags and a small flag garland flapping in the breeze as it raced by with horn honking.

Friday night I met Ty downtown at Waterfront Station – I was going to walk down, but as I came out of our front door, a pedi-cab was passing by; I flagged it down and rode in style down Seymour in the height of the 4 pm rush hour, with annoyed bus drivers honking at us along the way. Waterfront Station was a packed zoo of people swarming everywhere and, as usual, the German Fan Fest Beer Garden had an enormous lineup. Apparently, they’ve now just about run out of beer and are having to fly in a special additional order from Germany to keep up with the Olympic beer-drinking hordes. Not wanting to wait in line to drink beer, Ty and I headed down further into Gastown to Chill Winston’s, one of our favorite patio stops, where the crowds were less dense, and sampled a few glasses of Grey Monk.

From there, it was a walk down the block to the newly refurbished Blarney Stone for one or two, then a zip through Tinseltown, along the BC Place perimeter fence to Concord Place on the old Expo lands to see the pavilions there and marvel at the proliferation of tiny inukshuk sculptures that continue to expand and populate the waterfront of False Creek. After admiring these, we walked on through the Edgewater Casino plaza, with its stage and vendors booths, along the Seawall opposite the Olympic Athletes Village, and ended up at the Yaletown Brewing Company watching curling and nibbling on a tuna roll. Outside the crowds were thick with people, jugglers, fire twirlers, stilt walkers, and a sea of red and white parapernalia.

Every night at about 10:45 fireworks explode from Live City at David Lam Park, much to the chagrin of our cat and dog, especially the dog, who spends his evenings under the bed shaking, and the crowds party hearty all night long. It’s loud.

Saturday noon saw us lined up for the aquabus at the foot of Hornby and off to Granville Island, where the lineups for ferries, food and drinks conintued to be lonnnnnnnnnng. Once again, we decided to pass on spending 2 hours in line for a drink at the Bridges Pub, now the Swiss House for the duration of the Games. Instead, we caught some interactive art, visited New Leaf Editions, and lined up for half an hour at the Granville Island Bewing Company tasting room for one beer and some alpine events on the tube, after which we made our way back home on foot over the Granville Street Bridge with the rest of the hordes too impatient to wait for motorised transport. The city looks beautiful, the crowds are happy, and the Olympic experience is proving to be a positive one – hoorah!

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