The wisdom of taking in the Games at face value

Chris Erskine

February 23, 2010

I find that most of the time, people are reluctant to push themselves, particularly me. So I thought I’d push hard toward the finish line here — up early, talking to the scalpers, the cranks, the people who make this beautiful city throb.

"What would you like to get for that?" I ask the gravel-voiced scalper.

"I’d like to get $18 million and retire tomorrow," he says. "What do you want to spend?"

Me, I’d like to spend nothing.

"Then you’re gonna get nothing."

"That’s just what I’m looking for," I say.

The scalper is unfazed.

"I’m finding that people aren’t spending," he growls. "They buy, but only if it’s for their office.

"At Nagano, I was getting $1,500 a ticket for figure skating. Here, you’ll pay $300 for a $50 ticket. But you pay $500 for a $400 ticket. Nobody’s spending nothing."

Earlier, after an hour’s wait, I paid $65 face value at an official Olympics ticket office for an afternoon session of curling.

These days, "face value" might be the two most beautiful words in sports.

To solve L.A.’s mass-transit woes, might I suggest a zip line? What I’d do is run it from the US Bank Tower downtown to Santa Monica Pier. I’d make it free.

Because the zip line here in Vancouver has threatened to overtake the Games themselves. They wait seven hours, these fans, for a 20-second thrill ride.

It’s not for everyone. Some people get atop the tower, five stories up, and just freak, turn around and climb down the scaffold to safety. About 50 people have done that so far.

But the others — 11 hours a day, a zipper a minute — follow through.

"What time did you get up for this?" I ask the first folks in line Monday.

"Get up?" says William Walker. "I haven’t even gone to sleep yet." At 6 a.m., Walker, Paul Cappleman and Susan Hyndes lined up to be first for the zip line, which doesn’t open for four more hours.

"How long you been in town?" I ask Walker.

"Twenty-three years," he says.

Funny guy, this Walker kid. They ought to make him mayor.

Walker finishes by recycling a standard lesson in Vancouver geography.

"If you’re seeing mountains, you’re facing north. If your feet are wet, you’re in the ocean — that’s west. If you’ve just had your car stolen, you’re in Surrey to the east.

"But if you see people without healthcare and waving handguns … "


"You’re in the States," he says.

"You know, this is the most fun I’ve ever had waiting in line," Hyndes says.

Another day, another line.

Even on a Monday, the queue to see the Leonardo da Vinci sketches at the Vancouver Art Gallery runs like a strand of pasta, starting at Hornby Street, around Georgia Street, then around to Howe — as in Howe in the world can people wait so frappin’ long in line?

The rumor is that Da Vinci himself is going to be here this morning, but I haven’t been able to confirm that. He’s been doing all the talk shows, and his availability may be limited, his publicist explains.

You think I’m joking.

After more than a week of observing the most horrendous lines ever, I am convinced that many people don’t even know what they’re lining up for. They just see a line and join in. In fact:

"Hey, is this the line for the Da Vinci sketches?" I ask two young guys at the end of a quarter-mile thread.

"No, this is for the BC Pavilion," one says.

"No, it’s for Da Vinci," someone else adds.

Well, in a few hours — maybe half a day — they’ll know for sure.

Amid the laser lights, the fireworks, the outdoor concerts, is the most beautiful little church you’ve ever seen — Christ Church Cathedral.

All wood, the ceiling is built in the style of an old English hall. It was constructed by shipwrights in the late 19th century. The lumber? From the city’s beloved Stanley Park, back in the days when it was being clear cut. Gasp.

The wood-floored church has become a respite for visitors seeking escape from the cranks and the con artists, the bullhorns and just the bull. The Rev. Patrick Blaney says they’ve had 4,000 visitors so far during the Olympics, including a bronze-medal winner.

If you’re ever in the ‘hood, ask about the controversial stained glass window that was shipped over from Europe, cushioned inside barrels of molasses.

Even here, though, there is an Olympics vibe. In fact, one of Sunday’s hymns goes:

So if Satan, pressing hard,

Soul and body would destroy,

Christ who conquered, be our guard;

Give to us the victor’s joy.

Candles are lit for the evening service at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver.


Tonight’s Photos:

A country asks, ‘Huh, Canada?’

Japan’s Mao Asada

Austria is again hungry for it’s ski empire

USA women beat Sweden 9 to 1.  Undefeated
Swiss win in shootout.  Will face USA
The games are heating up.  The best is yet to come… I hope!


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6 Responses to The wisdom of taking in the Games at face value

  1. Joe says:

    I figure the finals in these events will bring some extraordinary finishes my friend…I sure look forward to it!

  2. Grandma's says:

    Gotta love Chris Erskine. And yeah he is absolutely right about the line-ups. It seems if there is a line….people will join LOLI have yet to make the trek downtown to experience the Olympic vibes first hand…partly because of the line-ups (not just for the pavilions but for washrooms as well) and partly because I do not fare well in large crowds. I get lost in shopping malls….I just can’t imagine myself in those crowds. Might have to suck it up, though, and go otherwise I will regret it but knowing me I’ll probably get lost unless hubby puts a harness on me.That Christ Church Cathedral that Chris wrote about is a real beauty…..stuck in amongst a sea of huge glass office towers.I am enjoying watching the games from the comfort of my home almost sad that the end is almost near. Today they had the first rehearsal for the closing ceremonies already.

  3. Cindy says:

    Hey! I live in Surrey………… Eh…..I can’t argue with the facts…. 🙂

  4. Jade says:

    "Hello Bob!" *waving* 🙂

  5. Sandra says:

    Hi, thanks for the input on The Olymoic Games. The pictures were awsome. Christs church is beautiful.I like Chris Erskin. Have a good rest of the week. How’s the weather where you are? WeHad back2 back snow storms. Now that it’s melting, We’re getting another 3"-6m starting tonite. WHERE’S SPRING. 🙂 anyway.

  6. -Grumps- says:

    Me ‘n line-ups don’t get along too very well at all!!! I’ll be content ta sit at home, watch whatever is on the tube. The only line-up I’ll see, is a line-up of ‘ONE’!!! That’d be ‘ME‘, waitin on the nuclear-wave machine ta do up the pop-corn. Enjoy …Ciao Fer Now

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