I’ve been experiencing a severe amount of cognitive dissonance regarding the Olympics. As a Vancouverite, for the last seven years I’ve dealt with the 2010 Winter Olympics by simply ignoring the situation, but then last Friday, it arrived on my doorstep like a an e-Bay purchase you forgot you made. Since then, I’ve just let it wash over me, while struggling to comprehend what is actually going on. It reminds me of a similar predicament I’ve borne witness to over the last year or so. A family friend is getting married in Disneyland in May, and while I care about her in the way you sorta care about people who are nearly relatives, I am sick to death with the drama and expense of her impending wedding. A crisis occurs, money is thrown at the crisis, words are said, protests are made, protesters are forced into silence. Repeat. Repeat again. Over and over again, until you just can’t take it anymore.
To further draw parallels to the olympics, if this Bridezilla is VANOC, her parents would be the IOC, while the rest of us drawn along are the poor residents and taxpayers of Vancouver forced to put up with the noise, construction, expense, and general hoopla all for the promise of a party and a photograph taken with Mickey Mouse. It’s somewhat fitting that visiting downtown Vancouver during the Olympics is like visiting a Disneyland version of Vancouver. It’s strange. It’s like seeing an elaborate simulacra of Vancouver: a combination of stereotypes and blatant facades. And a lot of people taking photographs… of everything. Fences. Street corners. Concrete. Everything.
Without delving into the details here of every pro and con about the Olympics, all I can add to the overwhelming amount of literature on that topic is that I am experiencing multiple conflicting emotional and intellectual responses. A small part of me feels a cliched pride at being Canadian. That’s the part of me that nearly wept at the opening ceremonies. Another part of me is fed up with everything. That’s the part that just wants to walk into a store downtown and not have to stare at multiple images of Miga and Quatchi, and whatever the hell the rest of their names are. Another part of me is excited and frantically checking the Official Vancouver 2010 website for updates and medal standings. That’s the part that spent the better half of yesterday learning everything I could about curling (quite the strategy game when you really get into it). Another part of me – the subversive side – relishes a little bit of “we told you so” every time something goes wrong. That’s the part that wants to violently choke Gordon Campbell to death every time I see him on screen in a red sweater waving a flag and grinning like a over-medicated mule. And the last little bit of me is feeling patriotic – in spite of myself – and really just wants to stick it to the Americans. That’s the part of me that is happy to be Canadian… despite however many times I’ve read Althusser. It’s mind-boggling, I know.
This last part of me, despite my love of things going wrong, is really quite angry with all the negative international press, especially in Britain. I consider The Guardian *my* paper, but I can’t yet forgive them for their “worst games ever” comment. As much as we here in Vancouver complain, it’s exactly the same as when you complain about your parents to your friends. You’re allowed to complain about your parents, but heaven forbid anyone else should. That’s just taboo. We Vancouverites can complain all we want about the Olympics. We can criticize the tackiness, the cost, the disrespect to BC residents and taxpayers, the lack of organization, and so on, and we are justified. Yet, as soon as anyone outside of BC or Canada does, then it’s personal. You insult our games, you insult us. As Canadians I just don’t think we’re used to that yet.
But we do love weddings, don’t we?