Ever since Vancouver won the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, there has been a strong effort to market the event as “Canada’s Games.” It’s only natural, of course: the federal government wants to use the Olympics to enhance our national identity, and VANOC wants to gain a national scope to raise the commercial value of Olympic sponsorships.
But still, when international visitors get their first glimpses of Vancouver as they pass the stunning Haida and Coast Salish art at YVR’s international terminal, when they catch their first whiff of ocean air outside the arrivals doors, when the SkyTrain crests that first ridge on the trip downtown, revealing the dramatic cut of the North Shore mountains, is it really Canada our guests will see?
The centre of Canada, after all – not just geographically but also in terms of culture, commerce, industry and politics – is far from here. Vancouver has much more in common, on all those fronts, with our neighbours in Seattle and Portland than we do with our counterparts in Calgary and Montreal. And there’s little doubt that, as far as the Olympics is concerned, Seattle has much more to gain than Saskatoon – or even Kelowna.
That is why there’s an equally strong effort, on the part of many people in the Pacific northwest, to claim these 2010 Games as their own and to use the 16-day event as a springboard for advancing what has, to this point, been a rather abstract notion of cross-border regional unity. That notion is called Cascadia.