Looking back at ‘17 heady days’ in 2010

Effects of Vancouver-Whistler Games still being felt across the Lower Mainland

Ten years ago, Surrey and many other parts of B.C. took a two-week hiatus from the challenges of the day-to-day world to celebrate the 2010 Winter Olympics.

It was a remarkable time – enjoyable, unique, entertaining and for the most part, uplifting. In Surrey, more than 250,000 people visited the official Winter Olympics Surrey venue at Holland Park. There were concerts, family activities and the RCMP Musical Ride. People lined up to take part.

The same thing happened in Vancouver, Richmond, Whistler and other areas. It was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity.

It’s worth taking a look at how the event changed B.C. and, in particular, the Lower Mainland. Certainly, infrastructure improvements built for the Games have been a huge boost, in particular the Canada Line, which has been busy from the day it opened. Many South Surrey and White Rock residents use this line regularly, as buses from those areas connect directly with the line in Richmond.

The Canada Line has also been a boon to people trying to get to the airport. No longer is it necessary to take a cab or ask someone to drive you there.

The Canada Line goes right into the airport, and connects directly with other SkyTrain lines and the overall transit system. Many Surrey residents use this service daily.

The transit service recorded all-time highs in daily usage during the Winter Olympics, and gave a glimpse of what life could be like with greatly-expanded service. This included day-long and weekend service on West Coast Express in both directions, a streetcar between the Olympic Village and Granville Island in Vancouver and much more frequent bus service.

The employment picture was also pretty rosy at that time. There were short-term, well-paying jobs directly or indirectly connected to the Games. The many visitors from all over the world enjoyed coming here and people here enjoyed interacting with them.

There was also a chance to learn more about B.C.’s rich aboriginal heritage at the First Nations pavilion in downtown Vancouver, operated by the four host First Nations. This experience also involved First Nations from across the country who were invited to share aspects of their culture.

The influx of visitors definitely had some effect on the housing market, although some elements of a boom were already in place. Housing prices rose drastically after the Games and the lack of affordable housing, demolitions of affordable rental units and rise in homelessness can be at least partly attributed to the international movement of money into the regional housing market. This has now spread across the Lower Mainland, as far east as Chilliwack and Hope.

A few other elements of the B.C. economy also enjoyed investment and better times during and after the Olympics – most notably, tourism, which continues to be strong. The Winter Olympics did showcase the entire province, not just Vancouver and Whistler.

If the event was to be held again, most B.C. residents would want it to go ahead, according to a recent poll. Interestingly, younger people were more enthused than older people.

Those who remember those 17 heady days in February, 2010 are mostly glad they had that experience. Overall, it was good for Surrey and the rest of the province, but some of the challenges that arose from such a major event remain with us.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News, as well as at frankbucholtz.blogspot.ca – email frank.bucholtz@gmail.com

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