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One year later, Vancouver plans another Olympic circus

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It is a likely truism that there's a sucker born every minute, but only in Vancouver would those so defined revel in their "sucker-dom." Or worse, even pay to re-brand themselves as such all over again. Yet this is exactly what some Vancouverites will be doing when the city celebrates the one year anniversary of the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games.

Much of the world is focused rightfully on a street revolution in Egypt about human rights, a revolt that could utterly change the status quo in the Middle East. Meanwhile, our politicians and those enamored of last year's Olympic circus obsess about recapturing the golden moment. When not so distracted, the corporate press zero in on the massacre of shed dogs in Whistler.

Clearly one Olympic boondoggle was not enough of a lesson for those too stunned to be let out of the house without their keepers. Hence, on Feb. 12, the province and city are planning to have a huge downtown party -- using piles of tax payer money, of course -- to commemorate the giddy, ethanol-fueled Olympic glow of yesteryear.

Woohoo, we get to party! Outside! With alcohol! We're so rad, we're so cool! We're so world class! Alas, not.

A world class city is built on more than pretty mountains and a so-so seashore...and Games. The term "world class city" denotes a number of characteristics, for example, multiple museums or art galleries, not just one of each. A world class city has numerous public spaces, large and small, even in commercial areas. A world class city has an arts scene and night life that is not solely dependent on faux external stimuli. A world class city is, in large measure, a pedestrian friendly city, not one built around a culture of cars with pedestrian concerns tacked on as a political sop to the greenish vote. A world class city's sense of history extends beyond glorifying a past sports party. Not least, a world class city has a mentality that goes beyond, "Let's party, dude!"

The late Jack Poole, con artist extraordinaire, built Vancouver's Olympic Games on the deeply seated neuroses of the city's inhabitants, particularly the palpably aching need of so many of our fellow citizens to feel that Vancouver had world class stature. Unlike his zealous, if dull, if go-fer, John Furlong (VANOC's official CEO), Poole was actually quite an astute judge of human nature. Poole analyzed his audience and determined just the right measure of snake oil to peddle to get the rubes onside with his vast real estate schemes. No doubt Jack is gloating from whatever place in the hereafter he now inhabits, his landmark crooked smile firmly in place, as he watches Vancouverites once more abandon all rationality. It must be particularly sweet for his spirit that the centre of the Feb. 12 event will be held in the plaza that bears his name.

British Columbia still has the worse child poverty in Canada and the Downtown Eastside still holds title to the worst urban blight. Our fishery and lumber industries remain in crisis and we have virtually nothing novel in the works to replace them. At the provincial and municipal levels we continue to feel the negative economic impacts of the 2010 misadventure. The Olympic Village fiasco threatens to put Vancouverites into hock for the next decade or more.

In spite of all this negativity, why let bad news spoil a party? You can be sure that Gordon Campbell will be out there with his red mittens with all the Liberal leadership (sic) hopefuls in tow. You can be equally certain that Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver acolytes will be there too, already cruising for votes for next fall's civil election.

Maybe one day, when we grow up and stop being the anxious hicks that Poole knew we were, we can aspire to be world class city. Until then, don't be mad when someone calls you a sucker.

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