Idea of The Week: It was ‘so’ un-Canadian…

> The Situation:

What was it like? The end of a war? Ten thousand weddings held at the same time and place? St. Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday? Halloween in Halifax? (Now ‘that’ is a street party!) People hugging people they’ve never met. Police high-fiving partiers. Everyone screaming, “We’re Number One,” and “Go, Canada, Go,” and breaking out in song – singing Canada’s national anthem, of course – again and again. How totally, and completely, un-Canadian!

> The Idea:

The scene: Robson Square in OurTown (Vancouver, BC). The occasion: Canada had just defeated the USA to win Men’s Olympic Hockey Gold. And Ground Zero for the celebration was Robson Street – where crowds estimated at more than 200,000 flowed from all directions. I had heard that Robson Street and Robson Square – closed to traffic during the Olympics – had been transformed, but this was more than I expected. Perched just above the crowd, watching a sea of red and white Canadian flags – waved, worn, face-painted, belly-painted – I thought about the marketing of these games…how the organizers had fought to overcome apathy and negativity…and tried to foster enthusiasm. And it struck me that this event had a life of its own. After an opening ceremony that made us all proud, I think it struck Vancouverites that this is a time to transcend our usual, mild complacency – and actually get excited.

> The Risk:

As the games went on, there was more and more for Canadians to get excited about (as everyone knows, after a quiet start, we ended the contest with 14 Gold Medals – more than any other country has won in the history of the Winter Games – while we ranked third in the entire world. But. We risked our reputation (as a modest people not given to bravado) in doing so – because we invested millions in our ‘Own The Podium’ campaign – an utterly un-Canadian push to be Number One overall.

> The Reward:

This would have been a good time to be in the flag-making and flag-selling business. Or in any business associated with the games. But Vancouver the City probably benefited most from the extravaganza. All of the world’s media were here – shooting and describing our scenery – under bright blue skies most of the time. While Expo ’86 left a legacy of recognition and goodwill for Vancouver, I think the impact of these games will be far greater.

> The Call to Action:

In the past, we Vancouverites have watched Winter Olympic Games from afar. In Turin. In Salt Lake City. In Nagano. And I don’t recall ever seeing a local reaction like the one we’ve witnessed here. Perhaps there were similar huge flowing crowds, and the cameras simply missed them? Or? Could this kind of electric, impassioned response be uniquely our own? If so. What else could we do with it? Food for thought…on a quiet Canadian Tuesday…

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