Destination: Canada

From Beijing to Vancouver: A Very Different Olympics

From Beijing to Vancouver: A Very Different Olympics REUTERS/Shaun Best
Fans cheer on the Canadian hockey team at the Vancouver Olympics. (REUTERS/Shaun Best)

It’s been nearly two years since I blogged from the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, and—as I thought I might—I now find myself on the Olympic travel trail again, in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games. I’ll be honest: The two host cities couldn’t feel more different.

I stepped off the train from the airport and surfaced in downtown Vancouver this weekend, expecting, perhaps, to feel some uniquely Olympic vibe in the air, familiar to me from my brief time in Beijing. But the scene on Vancouver’s streets has almost nothing in common with the one I encountered two years ago. My memories of Beijing are all broad boulevards, empty except for uniformed Chinese volunteers offering directions to clusters of wandering foreigners, and subdued subway cars full of commuters. Vancouver, in contrast, is a non-stop maple-leaf-painted street party—flag-draped young people careen through the streets, impromptu break dancing circles pop up on corners, and buskers work the crowds. The brightly-dressed foreigners that I remember from Beijing are here, too, but they’re wildly outnumbered by the revelers in red and white.

I suppose there are plenty of economic reasons for the contrast. The 2008 Games probably weren’t as accessible to the average Chinese citizen as these Games are to most Vancouverites, while the expense and difficulty of visiting China could explain why the many young Olympics visitors here were absent in Beijing. (The local high school students I rode the bus home with last night, for instance, weren’t likely to make a transcontinental Olympic trek.) But economics aside, I still feel like there’s a fundamental difference at work: Beijing’s Games, to me, were clearly aimed outward, at the world, while Vancouver’s, so far, feel more like an essentially Canadian party to which everyone else has also been invited.

Photo You Must See: Shaun White Flying Over Vancouver

Photo You Must See: Shaun White Flying Over Vancouver REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Before winning the gold, Shaun White competes in the men's halfpipe qualifying on Cypress Mountain at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

See the full photo »

Video You Must See: Vancouver City Lights

Video You Must See: Vancouver City Lights Photo by Brandon Godfrey via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Time-lapse scenes of the Olympic host city

Watch the Video »

11 Things You Must Know About Canada

canada maple leaf Photo by Яick Harris, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Frank Bures offers a primer for anyone headed to Vancouver for the Olympics. It's mordant!

Read More »

The Elusiveness of the Northern Lights

Kenai Alaska Photo by Dario DiBattista

After returning from the war in Iraq, Dario DiBattista road-tripped from Alaska to Maryland in search of peace -- and a way back into the civilian world

Read More »

World Travel Watch: Violence in Cartagena, Evacuations in Peru and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

Read More »

Video: ‘Please Arrive Three Days Prior to Your Flight’

A message from Transport Canada:

(Via @Gadling)

Slate Goes to Vancouver

With the Vancouver Olympics just three weeks away, the latest “Well-Traveled” series sees World Hum contributor Elisabeth Eaves returning to the city of her youth. It’s a good read.

Video You Must See: Summer Solstice on the Arctic Ocean

Photo You Must See: Catching Air in Calgary

Photo You Must See: Catching Air in Calgary REUTERS/Todd Korol
REUTERS/Todd Korol

Skier Nina Li of China soars above the Canadian flag while preparing for the women’s aerials portion of the Freestyle World Cup in Calgary, Canada.

World Travel Watch: Smog in Hong Kong, Heavy UK Snowfall and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

Read More »

World Travel Watch: Air Travel Woes in Canada, Volcano Tourists in the Philippines and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

Read More »

Interview With Loreena McKennitt: Musical Travel Writing

Jim Benning asks the singer-songwriter about her most powerful travel experiences

Read More »

The Challenge of Curating a ‘Museum of Ideas’

The Globe and Mail has a thoughtful, in-depth look at the process of creating Canada’s still-in-progress Human Rights Museum—a museum, as James Bradshaw, writes, “whose mandate is to grapple almost entirely with the world’s touchiest subjects.” He goes on:

“It is a museum of ideas. And ideas, of course, are never static,” says Yude Henteleff, the chair of the museum’s Content Advisory Committee.

If human rights are a human construction, a set of collective ideas, then the public view of them will be forever shifting, amorphous and vulnerable to attack. And a museum that tries to document that process on its walls promises to have its combustible moments.

Video You Must See: Iceberg Collapse in Newfoundland