Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay Nanaimo Celebrations

Was The Relay A Big Success In Nanaimo?

At the risk of coming off like an anti-olympics guy (which I am not) I can't help but pondering on all the fuss and bother that is being given the Olympic torch. The debate as to whether the money being spent by government on this event will actually see a long term gain, is well beyond my ability to determine, or anyone else's for that matter. The government had been saying there would be $10.7 billion generated by the Olympics, they now have revised that down to $4 billion. So even all those highly paid bean counters in Victoria are guessing at best.

Just dealing with the actual torch relay and the traveling of some 45,000 kms across Canada has me scratching my head just a little. This torch is probably resulting in more policing and police security than if the Prime Minister or Royals were passing through. It is being reported locally that the RCMP are estimating the extra cost of policing this event to be in the area of $30,000.00. In reality it is probably far more than that as actually figuring out how many countless hours were involved with planning months in advance is nigh on impossible.

In Nanaimo the only crowd reports I have heard are in the order of 5,000 people which is considerably less than what was predicted. I think if the weather is favourable our summer events such as tub races, silly boat races and dragon boat races, draw substantially larger crowds. Do they require the same level of extra policing? Judging by police presence during these events, I would have to guess that they require nowhere near the cost of policing as this torch event did.

In addition to the $30,000 extra for policing, the Olympic committee kicked in another $45,000 or so for the celebrations. What the city staff bill would be for this event is as yet an unknown, but it would likely be considerable.

Did You Attend?

My wife and I chose not to attend and looking back I think there were several contributing factors. Firstly, neither of us are all that excited about viewing the Olympic torch and I must say the symbolism is lost on me. The Olympics are as much about big business as they are about the pureity of amateur athletes doing their best for king and country. I question the promotional value of the whole relay, as I have to wonder if any Nanaimo residents decided to now attend some of the events because they have seen the torch?

The other contributing factor was the idea that taking the bus was the only sensible way to handle the massive traffic which was expected, and being unfamiliar with the bus, figuring out which bus or buses to take, where the stops were etc. etc. just was not appealing. The RDN did provide free bus service that day, and put on extra runs and extra drivers, but I wonder if they found the free service was used very much, and what that cost would have been.

These factors combined with the idea of leaving our home unattended on a Halloween night resulted in us deciding to just stay home. Twenty little kids, were probably glad we did, as they clearly were not attending the torch relay either.

So, was the Torch Relay really worth all the fuss and bother and money? I guess that depends on your perspective.


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