The Olympics and the City

February 8, 2010
On Friday February 12 the 2010 Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver. Like all host cities, Vancouver had to plan for a sprint and a marathon — it had to develop, finance, design and build a range of sport and residential venues that would not only make the two-week event a big success but also, when the world had gone back home, become a vital and enduring part of the city fabric.

Vancouver planning director Brent Toderian spoke recently with journalist Nate Berg, of Planetizen, about how the city, known for progressive planning and green thinking, was meeting the Olympic challenge.

Nate Berg: Your city is just about to host the Olympics. What’s the mood like there?

Brent Toderian: There's a feeling of the calm before the storm, but saying there’s calm here is probably not particularly accurate. There’s still a huge amount to do. Though the truth is, when you’ve spent years working to get to this moment, if you’re not ready by now, you probably won’t be. So, you know, there are finishing touches to be done, but the mood is ramping up. People are getting really enthusiastic about hosting the world.

Past Olympic cities have talked about the emotional roller coaster that happens before an Olympics, and sometimes you have to go through the troughs to get to the high points. I think our city has had that. Vancouver is a very self-aware city. We can be tough on ourselves and that’s one reason we’ve achieved as much as we have. But it can be a challenge to balance between boosterism and cynicism about our place in the world, and how well we’ve achieved our goals around the Olympics and around sustainability. But as we get closer and closer to the day, it’s just more excitement and less worry. As they say, at this point it’s like the luge: no brakes and limited steering.