Riding my bike along Tatlow Trail in the cathedral quiet of Stanley Park last fall, I saw something approaching on the path. It was an SUV. “Can you tell us how to find a road?” the driver asked. “We seem to have taken a wrong turn.”
There it is, I thought – an Olympic preview. When the world comes to visit, there’s no telling what folks will do, from driving through the heart of Stanley Park to lighting up a Marlboro at the next table. And that, I figured, could be my ticket to Olympic riches. I can set myself up as a local guide for perplexed visitors who might otherwise make mistakes such as carrying concealed semi-automatic weapons or using cellphones while driving. I’ll be there to explain why it is taking so long to get that RV onto the Seabus. I can explain to foreigners how to differentiate the West End from the West Side and West Vancouver, and Daniel from Henrik. For a hefty hourly rate.
One way or another, I’ve got to do something. The Countdown Clock is nearing single digits, and I am still waiting for my personal Olympic windfall. Voting Yes in the referendum was – let’s be frank – partly a vote for opportunism. We all cherished vague hopes that with the Games in place, the winter of 2010 would bring snow to higher elevations while making it rain for the rest of us. So far my bobsled has been stuck on gravel. Financially, I’ve been a big luger.
At least I’m not alone. Economically, the Olympics have been like a money tornado, striking one house and leaving the neighbour’s untouched. Hotels and restaurants expect booming business. But florists will struggle to fill Valentine’s Day orders while daytime deliveries are prohibited for security reasons. In fact, what with the lack of flowers and the difficulty of getting dinner reservations, the big winners of the 2010 Games could be divorce lawyers.
So how to benefit from the Games? If hiring myself out as a local Yoda doesn’t fly, I’m thinking about gumshoe work. Not looking for terrorists so much – too dangerous to justify the returns. My plan is to rat out the brand rebels.
As Vancouver city councillor Geoff Meggs put it in one interview, carrying an Olympics Suck sign inside the security zone might not get you in trouble. But a Pepsi-Cola sign? Probably a different story. Thus the money-making opportunity: corporate surveillance. Mixing among the crowds outside public venues, I can keep a sharp eye out for sponsor-busting behaviour.
Coffee drinking, for example. Far Coast Coffee, a division of Coca-Cola, won the right to be the official supplier to the 2010 Games. Unless you’re inside an Olympic venue, finding their brand around town will not be easy; Fifth Avenue Cinemas has one of their espresso machines in the lobby concession stand, if you like your popcorn with some kick, but that’s about it. Needless to say, though, plenty of people will be milling about near Olympic events carrying takeout cups from hundreds of other cafés, many emblazoned with logos from those corporate non-sponsors. Each takeout cup is one small violation of IOC sponsorship. At a bounty of, say, three dollars per latte, I could do well.
There might also be toddlers toddling around with non-compliant toys, such as Barbies and off-brand bears. I will issue them Quatchis and Migas on the spot and bill their little credit cards. A quick frisk of their parents’ pockets will likely uncover sets of keys being held together with non-Olympic ring devices. Mandatory replacements will be given, again at full price. Plus my service fee.
I’ll be providing a real service and helping the local economy. Perhaps I should ask VANOC for permission, but they’ll understand. Time is short and so am I. Bring on that Olympic gold!