Winter, Summer, Past and Future – What Happens When the Olympics Come to Town?

And what do they leave behind…?

At the age of 9, I attended my first Olympic Games in Sydney. Being quite young at the time, there’s a couple of things that have stuck in my memory about the event:

  • my parents having an absolute stress that I was going to get lost in the sea of thousands of people walking around the arena
  • my flashing wristband (that I still have, and even more miraculously so, still has battery)
  • the drunk guys in front of me asking to borrow my stuffed teddy for a photo (yes, I took my teddy to the Olympics)
  • the utter disappointment I felt upon realising that the evening was over by 10pm

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It’s over that quick…?!Timmy the Tiger has a front row seat.

 

Like any sporting event, seeing the live ”real deal“ was incredibly different to seeing it on TV. First and fore mostly, I thought the Olympics went for 24 hours when I was a kid, simply because the coverage was 24 hours a day. On TV you get the close ups, the replays and the commentary. At the live event you take part in endless mexican waves and cheer when you think something’s happening (or more so, when everyone else starts yelling) because the athletes are so far away, you can’t really see what’s happening. 

 

At least, that’s what I feel like I do every time I find myself at an event… 

 

Having lived in Whistler during the 2010 Winter Olympics and for a few years afterwards, seeing the changes that stretched well above and beyond the games themselves were incredible. The implementation of the 1.34 billion dollar upgrade of the Sea to Sky highway between Whistler and Vancouver was just the beginning. Signs sprouted up in the local aboriginal language, emphasising the Squamish Lil’wat native culture – which up until then had been arguably ignored. Bus fares increased by 25%, pay parking was introduced to all of the previously free parking lots and community funding was drastically cut to make way for the massive event.

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The Sea to Sky Highway upgrade was "necessary” but had many negative environmental impacts on the Sea to Sky Corridor.

 

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Many Squamish and Whistler locals argued that introducing the native language to signs for the Olympics “to appear more cultural was tasteless and insulting".

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The Olympics bought more than aesthetic changes to the community.

 

However despite all this, when the torch was lit and the event kicked off, the negativity stopped and the community celebrated in unity.

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Celebrations were not few and far between.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Winter Olympics and when all was said and done, no one regretted having hosted them. Yet it’s fair to say that the impacts were well underestimated.  

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Whistler’s Olympic Rings standing proud in Olympic Plaza three years after the games (perhaps being overtaken by a zoo..)

 

In this day and age there’s no denying that sporting entertainment is absolutely ginormous. Even if the Olympics themselves are becoming smaller as specific genres of sporting events grow around them, one needs to look no further than how many channels Fox Sports or ESPN now control through cable television to recognise how much we as consumers rely on the industry.

In 2009, the US alone aired over 43 000 hours of sport in the space of one year.

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That’s 1792 days

or almost 5 years of content. 

When you consider that, it’s not really so weird that I thought the Olympics were 24 hours. 

After all, in the future they very well could be.