Protesters Please Step Aside for Just a Moment. . .

17 02 2010

             I love the Olympics.  I feel that it is two weeks of great feel-good entertainment, inspiring stories, and motivation.  I was involved in the world of competitive figure skating for the majority of my youth; hence, I have a good idea of the crap (politics + money) that comes along with these events.  Nonetheless, from my perspective the games generate more good than bad.  The official 2010 website has a link for “sustainability” which explores several ways that VANOC has built sustainability into the games, as well addition to information on how people can do their part to help the games be as green as possible.  Even David Suzuki admitted that although they can always do more (of course) the VANOC sustainability committee did a good job in creating the most environmentally friendly Olympic Games in history.  Some of their initiatives include sustainable infrastructure, partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, broadening accessibility, sustainable purchasing, and integrating green standards into their operations and venues.  I won’t even begin to argue that the carbon footprint of the Olympic Games must be expansive; however, any event that brings together a large and diverse group of individuals (+media) is a great opportunity to display and demonstrate what sustainability is all about.         

                To support my opinion in the realm of sustainability and the Olympics is a story I heard on the news tonight.  Apparently, the amount of Vancouver residents using public transit to go about their regular lives during the games has broken records in the city.   A woman who worked for CTV was filmed driving her car to work (West Vancouver to downtown) and they timed her commute for the purpose of the story.  It took her less time than usual to commute, because the streets were “bare” in comparison to the regular pre-game traffic.  Residents are utilising public transit systems, in addition to walking and riding their bikes to get to work, run errands, and get to Olympic venues. 

                So it is possible!  Olympic crowds, traffic diversion, and the fear of (even worse) traffic jams, in addition to a more accessible and rapid public transit system has been enough to encourage a huge number of people to leave their cars at home.  It may not last, but if anything, a lot of Vancouver residents have proven to themselves that it is very possible that they can go about their regular lives using alternative ways of transportation.  Public transit also encourages people to connect with society.  Why is it that people never want anyone to sit next to them on the bus or subway?  I always notice how people put their bags down on the seat next to them, only removing it if the bus or subway is full and newcomers are looking for seats.  Perhaps basking in the Olympic spirit, people will develop a greater fondness for public transit: not only because it saves money and emissions, but because we feel a greater connection to our fellow community members.  We all share the same land, and essentially we are all trying to move in the same direction.  Single occupancy drivers may sit in traffic for hours each day─ stressed out─ all the while idling away their own money and compromising the health of the environment and human health.  Perhaps the Olympics-fuelled transportation blitz will create a bit of a ripple by helping residents realise that public transit, biking, and walking is not that bad!

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