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February 25, 2010
By Paul Dixon

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Thursday, Feb. 25

Downtown Vancouver erupted for joy at the conclusion of the Russia-Canada hockey game.  A wall of sound washed across English Bay and over a solitary photographer (me) setting up on Kits Point for some shots of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Vectorial Elevation light show. People yelling from apartment windows, banging pots, blowing horns and whistles, sounding car horns.



Yes, the
hockey fans are stoked, for sure, with sugar plum fairies and visions of a gold
medal rematch with the Americans on Sunday. The women’s gold medal game today
can only ratchet the tension up another couple of notches.

Police,
fire and ambulance personnel will be following the hockey schedule with as
closely as Captain
Canada and Johnny Canuck (I noticed them
wobbling over the
Burrard Bridge on foot after the game), with
last Friday’s shenanigans fresh in their memories. The $1.49 beauty show came
back to town to unfavourable reviews. The Friday night regulars put on a show
for the visitors, with a resultant spike in emergency room visits. 

Talking
with some front-liners who were there on Friday, it was ever so close to going
over the edge. The Granville entertainment strip is a zoo on most Friday and
Saturday nights, as with every large city around the world. The difference here
is that any other time of the year there are not too many “innocent victims” on
the street at closing time. Now, we have several tens of thousands of Olympic
visitors out and about, which creates a very volatile situation, no matter how
happy the tourists are. When the hometown drunks start performing and a couple
of fights start, there is nowhere for people to go when they try to move away. It’s
an instant crush situation. When it gets ugly, police have limited options in
responding. Bringing tactical teams or crowd control units in can cause problems
when tourists get caught with nowhere to go.

Saturday
and Sunday night saw liquor off-sales curtailed in downtown at dinner time and
police, fire and ambulance went to a unified command. Saturday and Sunday were
much quieter, even after the Team Canada loss to the Americans on Sunday.

Not the
time or place to open debate on the correlation between alcohol and “good
times”, but gee whiz. Even my very own MLA was nicked for impaired driving on
Monday evening, on her way home from some Olympic social event. It’s OK,
because she’s accepted full responsibility for her actions (like, who else is
there?) and apologized to her constituents (my phone has yet to ring).

Sobering
end to my Wednesday evening (no pun) was watching the approaching strobes of
the BC Ambulance air ambulance as it transited
English Bay in the dark and headed into
Vancouver General. That’s the route from Whistler.

 


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