As the media and community frenzy of the Olympics torch passed through the Kootenays this weekend, I recognized the ambitions of recognition surrounding this corporatized event. The cynic in me sees the throwing of a party, or multiple parties along a carefully planned route, as co-opting support for the debt we are expected to incur as residents of British Columbia, or Canada as a whole. “Hey kids, see this torch? It represents billions of dollars of debt, that, if we are lucky, will take decades to pay off”.
All of this at the same time that provincial funding for almost all other services is drying up. Around here it can be felt in the funding for school districts and health services, and less obviously on the highways as levels of service expectations continue to increase with less money rolling out to regional managers to make it all happen. Looking around Rossland as the festivities ramped up, there were only a few signs of dissent, a lone placard bearer on Columbia Ave and some strategically placed signs on a residence overlooking the highway. The money being spent is obscene considering where the Federal and Provincial economies stand, but the Olympics seems to be a party that soothes the population, it must be something about the dreams of gold medals that we all had as kids, imagining the world watching as the national anthem starts up and the medal is placed around your neck. I had imagined that there would be more angst, given the level of community discussion around the school district proposed plans to close facilities.
Anyway, I enjoyed the hype that a couple of minutes running the torch through downtown Rossland built, and am grateful for all the effort put in from local volunteers and the organizers at various levels, even if I have misgivings about the whole package – locally it was fantastic. And it was a great idea to combine the annual fun of the Winter Carnival with the Olympic Torch Relay, the number of people out and about in Rossland made both events rock. I would have loved to see the Torch in Nelson and Castlegar (where we live), but there’s only so much you can do in one weekend with two young girls.