Friday, February 12, 2010

Welcome World !

Vancouver is ready. I am ready. Only hours to go before the Opening Ceremonies and the Olympic Torch Relay is winding it's way towards the stadium through cheering crowds on Vancouver's streets.

Last night, I joined thousands of people at one of the LiveCity public plazas to see the torch finally arrive in Vancouver. And incidentally, the runner who passed us with a huge, happy grin on his face was Vancouver's own, Michael Buble. It was Day 105 on the longest torch run in Olympic history. Over 45,000 kms. from sea to sea to sea. The torch has been passed through the loving and excited hands of more than 12,000 runners. I actually got to hold one in my own hands.

Wandering the streets afterwards, it was impossible not to be thrilled at the international flavor of the crowds - the athletes are from over 80 nations - and the sounds of celebration everywhere. New and dramatic art installations literally light the night sky. Twenty 10,000 watt searchlights, mounted along several downtown shorelines, are controlled by people logging onto the internet at Vectorial Vancouver and suggesting where the lights should shine.

We came to a stone inukshuk that originally stood before the Northwest Territories Pavilion at Vancouver's other world party, Expo '86. Despite considerable local controversy, a stylized inukshuk was chosen almost seven years ago as the logo for Vancouver's Oympic Games. Some people didn't think that it was West Coast enough. The organizers replied that the Inuit people stack rocks in human form as a symbol of hope and friendship. The organizers said that they wanted these to be Canada's Games.
Along the way, millions of Canadians embraced the Olympic torch and fell in love with one piece of Olympic merchandising - red mittens - like your grandma might have knitted. Well, last night, we saw that someone unofficial has added grandma's mittens to a stone creature that used to look kind of forbidding.

The Vancouver Olympics have coined several successful catchphrases. They have used "with glowing hearts", some evocative words from our national anthem. TV ads have been asking Canadians for months "Do you believe?" My own feeling is Yes, maybe belatedly, we do believe.
The newest slogan features celebrity British Columbians like Michael J. Fox, Sarah McLaughlin and Ryan Reynolds telling the world - "You just gotta be here."
I hope you will be - maybe now on your living room TV and someday soon on your next vacation. You really should see this beautiful place for yourself.
Welcome World !

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