Safety & Training
Dixon: Countdown to 2010
July 28, 2009 By Paul Dixon
Query “black hole” and “Vancouver 2010” on Google and stand back. You
may be as surprised as I was to see how often that term is used in
reference to the 2010 Games in Vancouver, from mainstream media to the
outer fringes, though the responses “black hole more massive than
imagined” do refer to an actual celestial object and not the 2010 Games
Query “black hole” and “Vancouver 2010” on Google and stand back. You may be as surprised as I was to see how often that term is used in reference to the 2010 Games in Vancouver, from mainstream media to the outer fringes, though the responses “black hole more massive than imagined” do refer to an actual celestial object and not the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
When the Games were awarded to Vancouver in 2004, boosters hailed it as the economic engine that would drive Vancouver and much of British Columbia well into the 21st century. Given the economic situation of the world in general over the past 18 months and its impact on Vancouver and British Columbia in particular, that enthusiasm has waned. As with past Olympic Games, the true costs are difficult to quantify. The province of B.C. is on the hook for billions of dollars in infrastructure and the City of Vancouver is not far behind, having been forced to take over responsibility for the Olympic Village project. The impact of the global recession coupled with the Olympics is becoming apparent in the cutbacks in the 2009 budgets to a wide range of government services.
In the private sector, the Vancouver media is rife with stories of Olympic sponsors severely curtailing their social plans for 2010. Upscale restaurants in Whistler and Vancouver that had been booked for the duration have seen bookings slashed or cancelled outright. While 80 per cent of the hotel rooms in Whistler and Vancouver have been reserved by VANOC for the Olympic “family” of competitors and functionaries based on forecast need, it remains to be seen how many will actually be used.
What is becoming clear to many people is that while the Games will be here, life will go on as well. There will be thousands of police and security personnel in evidence, a significant portion of downtown Vancouver will be turned into a walled city and major transportation routes will be affected between the downtown core and the various venues all the way to Whistler. The reality is that the vast majority of greater Vancouver will be untouched by the Olympic presence and people will simply carry on with their lives. For all the thousands of people caught up in the Olympic frenzy, there will be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of locals who won’t be part of it.
For commercial aviation operators, there will undoubtedly be some reward of business solely related to the Olympics. Otherwise, we know that security concerns will largely close the airspace with the exception of pre-authorized flights. There won’t be any sightseeing flights, but the need will exist for the same operations that are carried on every day in that region: air ambulance, search and rescue, avalanche control, priority utility repairs and maintenance, to name but a few.
The Canadian Forces (CF) may be headed towards its own black hole in meeting its aviation commitment to the Games. While the number of Griffons, Sea Kings, Cormorants and other assets the CF is reportedly committed to providing is certainly within its inventory, the reality is that it far exceeds the number of aircraft that are operational at any one time given ongoing maintenance requirements and crew staffing, training and certification. There is also the existing commitment to supporting operations in Afghanistan and the expanding NATO anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa.
A constant theme from Olympic boosters has been about the “legacies” that result from hosting the Games. While many people looked at “legacies” as meaning a potential financial windfall for themselves and their companies, it is becoming readily apparent that this will not be the case. There were hopes for a permanent IFR rotary-wing facility that could serve Whistler and the Callaghan Valley, coupled with improved navigation aids through the Sea To Sky corridor, but that appears unlikely.
If there is a potential benefit to be derived from the Olympics, it will be the opportunity for law enforcement and the military to work closely with commercial operators, drawing on their unique skill sets and local knowledge to create a concept of operations that can be used in any large-scale operation in the future. The security restrictions imposed during the Olympics, with public access to many areas barred and road closures severely curtailing transportation will create situations not unlike the aftermath of a disaster such as an earthquake. This is an opportunity to create a true legacy.
Paul Dixon is a freelance photojournalist living in North Vancouver.