Victoria, BC. We were all standing out on Government St. yesterday to welcome the Olympic flame to Canada. Copelanders were dressed as zombies for Halloween. The women were without heavy zombie overcoats, so they were freezing.
We waited. Way off towards the Legislature we could see the occasional spontaneous waving of red flags. We knew that someone speaking on the rostrum was winding up the crowd for the start of the Torch Relay.
There were police everywhere. They tossed flinty looks at the zombies.
Then someone came by to hand out Canadian flags for us to wave. But wait. These weren’t Canadian flags. They were Coca Cola flags. Oh there was an Olympic logo on there somewhere, but we had to hunt for it. We’re ads guys and this sickened us.
Moments later the party seemed to kick into gear. A huge roar in front of us announced the long awaited arrival of….the Coca Cola truck. Music blaring, volunteers waving the Coke flag. The crowd went wild. Coke! Coke! Coke!
Then things grew quiet. We shivered a bit more. A light rain started to fall. About 15 minutes later, a dozen police on horses went by. Some girl followed them, walking with the Olympic torch. The crowd stared at her, many flags hanging limply.
The horses halted. She stopped. The crowd was silent. “WOOHOO!” she shouted several times, in a vain attempt to get the bystanders going.
It’s never a good sign when the main act is louder than the crowd. But the opening act simply stole the show. The horses began to canter again and the girl carried on, smiling and waving to the occasional clapper. The crowd immediately dispersed, perplexed and chattering away.
We know that corporate sponsorship is necessary to make these things happen, but this historic moment was ruined by it. If only the organizers had brought the two a bit closer together. Some of the energy generated by the corporate sponsor truck might have carried over to the torchbearer. We felt bad for her. We felt worse for the Games.
We love the Olympics and our athletes. But there should be no doubt who the real winners will be. Woo hoo.