COMMENT: contrasting events show Rossland’s true values - protest goes to the dogs

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
January 29th, 2010

As the first massive truck rumbled down Columbia Avenue, part of a massive convoy on its 40,000 plus kilometre crawl across our country, the first inkling that this so-called celebration of sport might not exactly be a natural fit for our little mountain town crept into my head. Minutes earlier, I had been taking in some outstanding outdoor hockey action at the Emcon lot, laughing and chatting with friends before bopping along to the infectious sounds of The Touques. Rossland’s Winter Carnival, more than any other event in town, sums up beautifully the personality of this city.

The addition of the outdoor stage to the ice bar on Queen Street was a beautiful merging of events between the Carnival and Blizzard Fest. It showed off Rossland’s extroverted, celebratory side. Smiling faces warmed by various types of grog, kids, families, and tourists alike danced happily in the street to some topnotch, unpretentious music. Rossland truly is a town that dances like no one is watching just as our musicians play more for the love of the music and the continuation of the party than for financial gain.

As the second exhaust-spewing truck, this time branded with RBC decals, drove by with corporate-clothed young women dancing, the stark contrast between the corporate Olympic fare and the genuineness of Rossland’s lifestyle became apparent. Next came the Coke truck and its grimacing dancers, ‘rapping’ into microphones some patter about ‘that’s Canadian spirit’ or ‘Canada rocks’–or something equally and sinisterly banal. Down in Trail, it’s said, Ronald McDonald himself dropped by to perform a benediction upon the proceedings there. As we all know, George Grey wouldn’t be the man he is today if not for the steady ingestion of Chicken McNuggets and Coke Slurpees. Then, almost incidentally, came the torch.

I’d woken up Sunday morning to the sounds of a homemade bobsled rocketing past my front door. I quickly suited up and took a front row seat on the 5th Avenue bend in the course. On this morning , Rossland’s adventure seeking, thrills-on-a-shoestring personality came shining through. As grassroots as it gets, the Spokane Street bobsled race is sport the way it should be: fun and simple, free of corporate logos and put on simply for the love of a good rush and quality, if hilarious at times, outdoor entertainment. The victorious sled this year reached an unimaginable 87 kilometres an hour down the iced-up city street with lower than normal snow banks protecting contestants from houses and lampposts. Our icy city street arguably provides more fun than any $150 million track and state of the art fomula one style sleds. The fortunate rescheduling of the Pond Hockey tournament to carnival weekend was another great example of sport with fun at its core.

That’s sport, Rossland style.

After the ninth large vehicle crawled up Columbia Avenue, the actual torch bearer finally walked (isn’t it supposed to be a torch run?) past, surrounded by beefy fellows in grey track suits, and it was all over as quickly as it began. Surrounded by a weekend of outdoor sporting celebrations I struggled to see much of any connection to sport during the torch relay. A parade of vehicles driving past, several big trucks carrying dancers, free Coke being handed out, and a person walking an oversized flaming plastic doobie up our main street to celebrate a so-called amateur sporting event? If I hadn’t known what the ‘celebration’ was about I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it was related to sports or active lifestyles in any way. To all appearances, the real message of the day seemed to be ‘drink Coke while you drive your GM vehicle to the Royal Bank’.

BC’s Minister of Education, Margaret MacDiarmid, the woman responsible for funding policies that threaten to close our schools, was on hand but wisely, perhaps, remained silent. A speech from her, in such a context, might have been too much to handle.

The defining moment of the day, for me, happened in front of Cafe Books as the convoy chugged up Washington Street. An anxious and excited soon-to-be torch bearer waited in the middle of the road for the flame to reach her and send her on her 200 metres of glory. As security and police cleared folks back from the street, Gary Camozzi emerged from the crowd in his legendary green snowsuit. Cameras came out and people began snapping pictures left and right as the dirtier-than-usual Camozzi, face almost black with grime, stood mere inches away from the gleaming white of the torch bearer’s Olympic track-suit. That image, taken however you will, seemed to sum up the shocking disparity between the people of Rossland, our values and the corporate mandate of the Olympics.

I have to say I was somewhat surprised to not see more people protesting the gross misuse of public money to promote and market the biggest corporate brand on earth under the guise of an ‘amateur’ sports competition. There was just one brave protestor, sign in hand outside of the post office.

On my walk back home, I chuckled at the sight of one huge protest that went on under the radar during the torch parade. Arriving downtown en masse, dozens if not a hundred dogs began to happily strut up and down Columbia Avenue in brazen defiance of anti-dog bylaws. While most Canadian seem unable to see past the corporate marketing blitz that is the Olympics, at least our dogs took the opportunity for a display of public disobedience.

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