Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 Vancouver House: Opening Reception

On Thursday night, I was Suzanne Anton's escort at the opening of Vancouver's 'pavilion' at the Olympics...Vancouver House, which forms part of the Yaletown LiveCity site. There I witnessed the arrival of the Olympic Torch, and the opening celebration. It was a most impressive evening, with a lot of surprises .

En route to the opening I passed 'The Erickson'. If ever there was a building in Vancouver that warranted more height, this is it. I would be most interested to know why this particular building was not approved with greater height....so many others have been!I also noticed the new childcare facility designed by Walter Frankl. If I ever had any doubts as to why new childcare facilities in Vancouver cost so much, this building offers some answers. The children may never live in such a beautiful building again....But back to the matter at hand. The opening of Vancouver House was a very appropriate and surprisingly low key event. While I expected to see many Vancouver 'media types' and civic boosters, the majority of the people I met were there to promote the economic development opportunities in Vancouver and Metro. There were no native dancers, no musicians; instead a few well chosen words by deputy City Manager Sadhu Aufochs Johnston, and some well designed displays which featured a variety of people who have contributed to the life of the city.My good friend Milton Wong was there in sepia tones, along with other entrepreneurs who support 'green capital' initiatives, the dominant theme of the pavilion. I was also interested to see who else was featured in the black and white photos and slightly over stylized video clips...

There was Larry Beasley...no big surprise, but also on display were Avtar Bains, a very successful realtor with Colliers, Ian Gillespie of Westbank who developed Woodwards, the Shangri-la, The new Fairmont Hotel and many other major projects around the city, and Robert Fung whose company has been involved with the renovation of buildings in Gastown and the nearby DTES. I mean, how many cities celebrate their developers and realtors? The fact is, these are the people who have had a significant impact of the look and shape of our downtown. (Well, maybe not my friend Avtar...he's just made money from the buildings designed and built by others!)A very tired John Furlong, who I have known since his days as GM of the Arbutus Club, was there (in person), and as always very gracious and willing to be photographed with whoever asked...After an hour or two of mingling with a few glasses of wine and assorted canapes, we all went outside to watch the arrival of the Olympic torch. I must confess I was not as surprised as Bill Good and others at the great public interest in the carrying of the torch, since I had happened to witness it in Newport California in the run-up to the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. It was an impression that has always stayed with me.

In the spirit of Vancouver, the torch was not brought into the Live Site not by a prominent businessman or politician, but rather by the DTES' United We Can founder Ken Lyotier.The large screen TV's are probably going to be a good place to watch Olympic Events...it was certainly easy to see a very pumped Gordon Campbell and Gregor Robertson, sporting a hockey sweater...
(Somehow I have never thought of the Mayor as a backstopper before!).

After Ken brought the torch up to the stage and the cauldron was lit, the backdrop was removed offering a very nice view of City Hall, framed by the stage. We then got to see a display by the Salt Water Pumping System, something the city has installed in the event of an earthquake, at the expense of all the False Creek and Coal Harbour developers. (As one of the contributors, I was delighted to see that it works.) The spray from the pumps served as a screen upon which images were projected, including of course, the Olympic Rings. Some fireworks concluded that portion of the evening, and the younger members of the group headed off to other parties around the city.Before heading off, Suzanne and I went back to Vancouver House where we met up with Ken Lytolier. As I listened to him describe his experience, I couldn't help but think this was not something he expected to be doing when he first heard that Vancouver had been selected to host the Olympics. (I wondered if he voted...and if so, whether for or against?)All in all, a great evening, and another Olympic Torch event I will not soon forget.

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