It’s a time to take a look at our most recent Olympic extravaganza—and who says it can’t happen twice in one’s life-time? Most of the competitors were just kids when Vancouver first hosted the winter Olympics in 2010. The city never really did get over the post-party let-down and was determined to host a summer games soon after. And now, well, that too has come and gone, and it’s time for reflection.
RG-Vanoc (really green Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee) had set the bar high for these games, proving to themselves and the world that the games can go ahead entirely with the use of public transportation. The city will reap the benefits of the legacy lanes: expansion of bike lanes, road resurfacing. Everyone found these improved cycling, skateboarding, and boosted the business of traditional and bicycle rickshaws. They have proven that the closure of the entire venue area to fossil-fuel vehicle was not only doable, it was a huge success.
Olympic Downhill Skateboard Triumphs: It began in the opening ceremonies when the downhill Canadian Skateboarding team entered the stadium in full white and red leathers, carrying their boards emblazoned with various red leafs. The crowd went wild. They had fought to be able ride them in the ceremonies, but had to settle on carrying them. The IOC couldn’t manage, despite their attempts, to separate one rider from his or her board.
Then the thrill for skateboard enthusiasts was the stunning performance by our local athletes in the downhill skateboard competitions. Eight years ago when these gravity sports were first included in the Olympic games in Rio, they took the word by storm. This year, downhill skateboarding was among the most viewed events in the history of the summer games. The transformation of bucolic Britannia Beach, into a famous down-hill venue was stunning. Bleachers lined the gnarly five hair-pin cornered track to seat the lucky few 1000 spectators. The majority of the spectators viewed the race on 3-D Jumbotrons at the base of the run in order to have the least amount of impact on the surrounding environment. When asked, one viewer said that she preferred watching the race on the big screen as she’d been watching many of these riders since they were kids and they posted their videos on you-tube (a precursor to the poplar 3D-tube). The air was filled with excitement, and the tension was high as the riders navigated the technical run with their eyes set on gold.
The Canadian Downhill team had hoped to get coaching from some of their home-grown greats, but not one rider was willing to step into full retirement to take on coaching; they too were going to compete. The long held tradition with the coastal riders was coaching via peer mentorship, but this time they wanted more. It was a challenge for the team to find a rider of calibre that had officially retired. Luckily, legendary Cliff Coleman, came north of the boarder to take on the coaching position. In the end, team was proud of how they performed, coming away with two gold one silver and a bronze.
This was the first games where the riders were not divided into men’s and women’s categories; they raced in weight divisions to ensure, “the girls don’t get left out like the ski-jumpers in the 2010 games,” one rider explained. At first, the weight divisions caused some controversy, but it wasn’t long until the IGSA and competitors became used to these already familiar categories: Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti. With the rapid growth in downhill racing’s popularity, it is possible that there will be enough young women competing world-wide to re-introduce gender divided races, if at that point, that is what the athletes want.
The Canadian team sponsorship: turned down offers from Starbucks to be their official sponsor, instead going with Uncle Fathi’s Pizza, and Bon’s (a notable Vancouver Breakfast establishment who promised the team endless good deals on all day breakfast…. not sure how that ‘s different than how they treat everyone else, but the team seemed satisfied with the deal), this which stumped media and organizers alike, but popular television Commentator, Bricin Lyons—the Don Cherry of longboarding in his colourful commentary and attire, seemed to understand.
Unwarranted Worries: Olympic organizers first worried about the inclusion of skateboarding when they first were granted the games six years ago, despite the successful integration of the sport in both the Rio and Italian games (Teolo/ Venice). They felt that the publicity of our green city would be misunderstood by the world, especially once the prohibition of marijuana was lifted and no longer considered a performance enhancing substance. But that too did not come to pass as the again minority Conservative government prorogued parliament and killed the bill. When asked why, an anonymous source close to the PEM (Prime Emperor Minister) stated emphatically, “Because it is the thing to do when you’re hosting the Olympics, it’s tradition. And we will not apologize for that or anything for that matter.” Athletes proved themselves to have more restraint that the politicians that govern the country, and put any green desires on hold and went for the gold. “If the snowboarders could do it, then so can we!” a young member of the team responded.
Olympics without hockey: The longboarding community failed in their heartfelt attempt to have longboard hockey included in the games, even as a demonstration sport. Not to be discouraged, outlaw games sprung up all over the city, on bridges and busy thoroughfares, in parkades and on various blacktops throughout the city. But because of the general ban on gas cars in many areas of the city, these spontaneous games did not disrupt traffic, but rather encouraged the visitors and citizens alike to partake in the games themselves. Official sponsors also got into the spirit of things by donating cases of canned beverages to LB hockey tournaments. LB players were fully grateful for the refreshments.
Olympian Housing: Fourteen years ago, Vancouver faced a serious housing problem. Activists launched a red-tent program to raise awareness about homelessness and the lack of a national housing program. Now that the city of Vancouver and the country as a whole have a better handle on homelessness, the need for the red-tent program is over, or so they thought. The longboard community from around the world spoke out and said loud and clear to the IOC and RG Vancoc, that they don’t need some fancy condo to stay in at the Olympic village, no sir, they preferred to camp in the Village plaza in repurposed red-tents. They insisted that they like camping; it’s true! So with the insistence of the Olympic longboarders, urban camping for Olympic athlete was officially made an option. Way to go folks, an inspiration to us all—tread lightly on the earth!
Olympic Green Legacy: When Toronto threw its name back into the hat for the 2024 games, Vancouver was certain to win. When asked why the IOC should pick Vancouver over Toronto yet again, one of the local organizers said. “We have the mountain roads and the hay-bales to make these games a success.” The local organizer, who wished to remain anonymous, went on to say, “Besides we already own the podiums.” This was a fact that couldn’t be argued with, as the Vancouver 2024 games proved to be the greenest ever, even re-using the podiums from the 2010 game and only slightly modifying the street banners. The mascots were even repurposed, as they simply needed a change of clothing. Though many eyes rolled as the as the mascots were rolled out: Quatchi in his weightlifting tights and Miga in her track-and-field strip, Sumi in his green down-hill leathers and aero-lid was an instant success. The surprise new mascots were the Marmotto twins, the half-Marmot-half sea-otter twins (based on now extinct pacific coastal mammals) were featured in street-luge double’s attire for the closing ceremonies. What began as a marketing ploy has taken hold of the public’s imagination and heart. It has just been announced that Street-luge Doubles will be featured as a full Olympic sport at the next games in South Africa, after this year’s debut as a demonstration sport.
The future of downhill skateboarding: An Olympic journey. When asked if they thought that they would ever grace an Olympic podium, the entire Canadian team shook their heads, no-way, but then there they were on our retro-repurposed podiums donning their medals for all to see.
To Host Olympics again; it is unlikely that it will be in the next 16 years, but then again, we have a tendency to surprise ourselves, and we really know how to have a good time. If the world needs a great party, maybe Vancouver will host again in another 16 years, but in the mean time maybe we can host the IGSA World Cup?
(originally posted on Silverfish longboarding)