By Paul Dixon
Monday, Feb. 15
Got Canada? Check out downtown Vancouver on Sunday. After Saturday’s rain was succeeded by an overnight monsoon and windstorm, the sun made a glorious appearance on Sunday, drawing a crowd that would have made the Pied Piper envious. We started the day in Chinatown with the annual Chinese New Year’s parade. There was some doubt that the parade would have to be cancelled due to the Olympics, given that a number of the Olympic-related sites and GM Place are only a block or two away. Fortunately there was no hockey scheduled, the parade started two hours earlier than in other years and all was right. Firecrackers, dragon dancers and more than 50,000 people packed into a few short blocks. Red is the dominant colour of any Chinese celebration, signifying good luck, but this year saw even more red than usual with a proliferation of Canada clothing and chants of “Go Canada Go”.
By Paul Dixon
parade was done, we set out to check out the downtown area and the many
pavilions and celebration zones. Most of the pavilions and celebration zones
have security screening along the lines of most concert venues and there were
long lineups to get in even at noon. People were happy and the
streets were packed. Several downtown streets have been turned into pedestrian
malls between noon and midnight, with Robson Street and Granville being the two key
thoroughfares. At 1 p.m. on Sunday the intersection of Robson and Granville
was wall to wall people in all four directions as far as the eye could see.
pedestrian/vehicle interface is a challenge with so many people out on foot.
Vancouver has a number of special constables for traffic control duties and has
augmented them with city engineering traffic control people but at some points
where there were no control personnel pedestrians were just simply spilling out
into traffic and, in a couple of places, had shut down intersections simply through
their sheer volume.
interesting when a VIP mega-motorcade under police escort came along Burrard
through Robson. Robson is a packed pedestrian mall at that point, and while
everyone stood back and waited as the cavalcade of limousines and SUVs
(including two very heavily GM products) worked their way down the block to the
Hotel Vancouver, within five minutes there were 3,000 or 4,000 people backed up
on each side of the street. It’s easy to see what a mess it would be if
something went wrong with that motorcade and that many people that close.
the tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people out and about, I didn’t
observe any problems. Everybody was happy. Apart from the motorcade, I only
heard sirens twice – once for an ambulance responding to the Vancouver Art Gallery and the second was an ambulance
running Code 3 into St. Pauls. I did notice that BC Ambulance had a one-man
supervisor unit responding to the art gallery call in an ATV Mule set up with
Canada Day in Vancouver, with a sea of red and white.
What really surprised me was how few supporters there were for other countries,