On Scene

Crowd control
February 23, 2010
Written by Paul Dixon

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Yet another sunny day in Vancouver and Whistler Monday, though the rains are due to return today. So Team Canada lost and the sun rose the next morning.  Maybe the fate of the nation is not on the line after all. It was interesting to watch the shock sink in when the U.S. scored in the opening minute. There was absolute silence on a street where seconds before it had been Mardi Gras without the nudity. 

I was on my way out of downtown during the first period of the game, working my way back to Chinatown where I had parked. For the past week I had been driving right into the heart of downtown and parking at The Bay, but with Sunday, promising the biggest crowd on the streets yet and the drunken buffoonery of Friday night, I figured discretion was the better part of a new windshield. No comment about the exercise component, especially when I arrived to find the elevator “out of order” when I had parked on the roof just to get the view. That was about the time Canada tied the game at two – what a roar rose from a downtown silhouetted by the setting sun; 100,000 voices as one.

On Friday night, the drunk and stupid element had floated to the top of the bowl in the downtown entertainment strip, just to prove it could be done. This had little to do with the Olympics, it’s just the average Friday night gong show on Granville Street.  Twenty-seven arrested for breaches in etiquette and one stabbing of note. Contrast that with the wrap up of this year’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans which was described as one of the best behaved in years – more than 350 arrests, but “only” two serious shootings (no mention of any minor shootings) this year.

The difference between the Big Easy and Our Town is, of course, the reasons one chooses to go to Mardi Gras or the Olympics. People on the street in Vancouver have been very happy and for the most part sober, proving that the two concepts may not be mutually exclusive. The size of the crowds in the core area is such that if a problem erupts it could go viral very quickly. There are too many people for anyone to get out of the way of anything in a hurry and if a scare were put into the crowd, a lot of people could get hurt very quickly.

I noticed that there was a much more visible police presence Sunday afternoon on the streets before the hockey game. Nothing overt, but police officers of the Integrated Security Unit were out on the street in twos and threes along with Vancouver police, as well as a number of RCMP bike patrol types working with Vancouver PD’s bike unit. 

Vancouver Fire Rescue is running at least one of its small wildland trucks downtown as a quick response.  They appeared to be responding with BC Ambulance to a medical call and both were slowed down as they had to work their way through the crowd, even with police working the intersections to move them through.


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