Vancouver
by Jeff Lewis

In July 2004, my wife and I spent four cloudless days in Vancouver.  I can’t vouch for the city on the many days of grayness and rain that reportedly afflict it, but we experienced a super-city, surrounded by beautiful islands and peninsulas, with Riviera weather, magnificent city-scapes, and alpine slopes to boot.

The Olympic selection committee shares my opinion of Vancouver, which will host the 2010 Winter Olympics.  The same goes for real estate developers.  All around, high-rise apartments pop up almost overnight, like mushrooms.  Within the last five years, the downtown has gained 75 million square feet of new apartment and hotel space.  I totally made up that figure because I can’t remember what our tour guide told us, but it does stress the point that I’m making--namely, that money is pouring into Vancouver.

The city resembles San Francisco in many ways—stunning port cities with diverse populations, long suspension bridges and large urban parks—and it’s not far-fetched to imagine Vancouver making the list of “great cities.”  It made a grand attempt to breach this list during the 1986 World’s Fair, but World’s Fairs tend to be a little busy, with a few too many fun facts cluttering up the mind.  When Vancouver receded from the American consciousness by the 1990s, all that remained was a box full of collectible pins and a notion that Vancouver was quite pleasant, much like Portland, but farther north.

Olympic games generally are more memorable than World’s Fairs (unless you are a sociologist), so the 2010 Olympics will put Vancouver back on the map for at least a decade.  The Games’ impact will be even greater if the organizers set up the ski jump so that the TV viewers can see downtown from the take-off ramp, a la Barcelona and the diving venue.

I might as well forward an excellent idea for the 2010 Olympics:  ice basketball.  Dr. Naismith designed basketball as a winter sport, so it doesn’t really belong in the Summer Olympics anyway.  The Canadian team would be great to watch, because we’d get a chance to see Mike Smrek—a great skater—return to the national team and finally compete in his element.  I’d shell out top pay-per-view dollar to see Iverson, Duncan and a bunch of Finns strap on their skates and face off on the ice.  Imagine watching Reggie Miller—no doubt also a great skater—hoist up a three and then brace for the cross-check.  Also, a separate slam dunk contest for the figure skaters would be a sure-fire hit.  Anyone who saw the Prince sketch last season on Chappelle’s Show certainly agrees with me.  Speaking of figure skating, Bennie Wallace and his rough grace would be a welcome addition to ice dancing, which has suffered after a spate of Russian retirements in 2002.

While I’m spouting nonsense about the Olympics, I might as well add a point about the Athens Olympics.  When visiting Greeks ruins, one becomes impressed with the ingenuity of Ancient Greek sewage (if one is so inclined to consider historically significant sewage).  On the other hand, when one visits Athens, one cannot help but notice the boldly displayed signs in the restrooms that implore you:  “Please Do Not Flush Paper Down Toilets.”  This does not refer solely to feminine hygiene products, newspapers or paper towels.  You see, the Greek plumbing system was not designed to handle the most convenient modern convenience.  That is a special interest story that NBC should avoid.

Copyright Jeff Lewis, 2004