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Episode 170 Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010

The city sparkles. Colorful banners wave along the streets. Mountains dominate the horizon on one side and salt water on the other. Cars have been banned from many streets and people flow over sidewalk and streets from building edge to building edge. They play hockey in the street. People stand in groups and chat in the street. Warm weather and bright sunshine have dominated the games. They bring difficulty to the skiing but pure pleasure to the spectators who want to enjoy themselves.

We purchased our condo in Vancouver the very summer that Canada was awarded the bid for these games. It was like a retirement get away, only instead of in the woods this was in the heart of a city.

Little did we think seven years ahead that we would be living right on a street that was blocked to automobile traffic and filled with pedestrians during the games. The bands playing, the screams from enthusiastic fans and the general atmosphere was exciting - at the beginning. But the intensity of the activity slowly became a bit tiring. We longed for a little quiet and solitude. Eight days of activities have left us exhausted. We jumped on 5 a.m. train and returned to our home on Bellingham Bay. After a few days of quiet time we will return for the final four days of the games. That's the plan.

If there is one complain that I heard over and over it was the cost of tickets to the events. "Who can afford that", was a common refrain. Attending the events was expensive by the average wage earner's standards. Tickets were sold via the Internet or at a few limited locations. The brick and mortar locations always drew long lines of anxious buyers not opposed to spending hours waiting in line.

The Internet was the place I went to inquiry about tickets. It wasn't easy. I tried several times and was always thwarted by the system. I just could not reach an event and location in time to score a ticket. Frustration shadowed my every effort. I was always a bit hesitant to commit to the price of admission but was never really able to actually have a choice. Tickets were gone. My timing was poor.

A little aside here about the expensive tickets: the expense of putting on the games is high. Canada spent over 8 billion dollars on the deal. That's a lot. They have to try to recoup part of the expense through ticket sales. I don't think cities ever make money doing this sort of thing. And it isn't like they charge so much for tickets that they go unsold. The scalpers are having a hay day. One article I read said the highest prices paid for after market sales was fifty thousand dollars for two seats for the hockey finals.

Fortunately there are many free activities that one can attend at an Olympic celebration. There are 600 cultural and arts events scheduled over a 60 day period that included both the Olympic Games and the Para-Olympic Games. There are dances, plays, concerts, art displays and all sorts of other types of events scheduled. Some cost, but many are free. Most do require standing in line to obtain a ticket.

There has been thought and effort given to making sure the tax payers can indeed enjoy the games for free. The party is in the streets. People are constantly moving. Sidewalk restaurants and coffee shops are plentiful. Beer gardens or pavilions are plentiful. Buskers are plentiful. Various music fades in and out as one moves along. Then there are the circles that constantly form and then dissolve around a street performance of magic, juggling, skipping rope, riding a unicycle and performing various tricks. The chatter from the buskers ebb and flow.  Fireworks and light shows light up the sky. This part of the Olympics is free. It is a wonderful example of government trying to make sure everyone regardless of social/economic level can participate in the party.

It is a young persons party. Some times we see people our age but not often. The young people can stand the day long. Walking, standing, yelling, laughing and carrying on seems to be standard practice. This is a little more difficult for the retired community. Older people are at the games, but they don't seem to spend a lot of time in the streets. Perhaps they are the only ones who can afford the price of seats at the actual sporting events. Those and people who are relatives of the participants who either get free seats or go into debt to afford  the price of a trip, lodging and ticket.

It is an exciting place to be but is exhausting. That's the way it is when one travels and wants to get in as much as possible in an exotic location. I told my son this and attributed our exhaustion to old age. He reminded me that it is the same when one is younger. We just tend to forget. Traveling is demanding no matter the age.

This is Retirement Talk.