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What a catalyst to honour Canada, the Creek, and community

                                                                                                                     — Heather Conn photos

Last week, on Feb. 4, I temporarily set aside my criticisms of the Olympics and celebrated Roberts Creek spirit and community with several hundred others. As local children waved Canadian flags or tissue-paper torches they had made in school, we greeted torch relay runner Caroline Depatie and her youthful co-torch runner, whose name I don’t know. (I had no idea that Caroline was going to be the torch runner; she just lives a few doors down from us in Roberts Creek and is my work contact at Capilano University in Sechelt.)

                  Roberts Creek resident Caroline Depatie


I saw how touched the young torch runner was, almost in tears, and saw her mother hug her and say: “I’m so proud of you.” How could anyone fault that heartfelt interaction? Seeing the excitement and glee of the children made me realize the positive impact that such a  global event can have on kids when the torch comes  to people’s communities. But they sure don’t need the message of competition, competition, competition and that winning is everything. Besides, where’s the funding for school sports groups that the B.C. government took away?




A poignant encounter wasn’t enough to make me forget about our — taxpayers’ —  impending debt from the Olympics, its exclusive corporate marketing deals and use of sports as a merchandising commodity, surveillance cameras, massive cost overruns, and, in the words of British historian George Monbiot, its “legacy of a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich . . .they have become a licence for land grabs.”


I wanted to wretch at the abrasive canned music of the Coca-Cola “float” that followed the torch runners, especially with its bouncy young dancers and corporate slogan “Open happiness.” I was pleased to see that few people lined on either side of Roberts Creek Road took any of the small freebie bottles of Coke handed out by young, smile-stuck shills. (Coca-Cola, by the way, hopes to sell nine million units of bottled water during the Olympics in Vancouver. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to believe that a Big Mac and Coke are the hearty, healthy breakfast of an Olympic champion — “do you believe?”)


Thankfully, we had some Roberts Creek, gumboot-clad musical talent to offset the corporate melodies of Royal Bank and Coke. Lead singer Mark Lebbell, who chairs the Creek’s Official Community Plan Committee, sang these lyrics, which he wrote himself:

Nero was getting nervous, as he sat there on the throne
People needing bread, filled the streets of Rome
He knew the crash was coming, he knew he had to act
He said: “We need a Circus, 5 Rings that will distract”


Let’s straighten out the highways, build some Coliseums
Folks will fly from miles around just to come and see ’em
Pave the Callahan Valley, clear the rabble from the streets
Invite the Northern Hemisphere, and party for two weeks


He knew from 1936 it was good for the nation
And any other country, that could afford refrigeration
As people lined up for a piece of the apple pie
He stood on stolen land, explained how televisions had rights

He said you’re gonna love it, but we’ll need 12,000 cops
Only going to cost us 4, 5, 6 billion, tops
3 Pokemon for mascots, the eagle’s the one in the middle
And climbed upon an innukshuk, and took out his fiddle



But the people realized, there isn’t any correlation
Between a giant corporate orgy, and participation or paction
We’re all for healthy living, we’re all for chasing dreams
but debt and spandex superheroes aren’t what our kids need

There was a yellow ring for Royal Bank,
One red ring for Coke
One ring for the green wash
That’s all a bit of a joke
Two for wasted time and money,
Black and blue for all
But there’s no . . .gold . . .rings for the kid with a ball


I liked the yellow gumboots that Caroline Depatie was wearing — a nice touch. Donna Shugar, chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (who was left off the invitation list for the Olympic festivities in Sechelt) encouraged Roberts Creek torch relay attendees to wear our community’s trademark gumboots. She, of course, wore hers.


I had expected to see some protest signs at the Creek event and had thought of making one of my own, but my husband Frank encouraged me to keep the community focus on the pleasure of the kids. I took his advice. Donna Shugar had shared the message “Loving kindness to all, loving kindness to all.”

That same afternoon, when my husband and I went to the Langdale ferry terminal to drop off my friend Annie, we had no idea that we could encounter another torch relay. (I confess: we didn’t read the recent media.) When we tried to pull out of the parking lot, a BC Ferries employee stopped us and told us a torch procession would be coming down soon. I was delighted to see the torch relay participant roll past us in a wheelchair.






Gee, even some of the most hardened cynics can stay patriotic to Canada. And people think that we Canadians aren’t nationalists . . .

February 9, 2010 at 8:53 am
1 comment »
  • November 21, 2010 at 8:11 pmFrank L. McElroy

    It’s fitting to look at this wonderful series of photos relating the torch carry through Roberts Creek a little less than a year ago. Last evening I enjoyed sharing a jar with a close friend out here in Marblehead, a sailor of international competitive experience, talking about reviving or finally killing an enterprise we failed at over a decade ago. Failure, at least for me, encourages rethinking and inner search, and so we talked that way. Remembered the madness of the visionary friend (now known to have suffered mini-strokes caused EEE contracted in the 60’s), the greed of some of the key people, and of course the limitless potential. He wore sailing togs. I wore my “Team Tibet” t-shirt Heather brought back to me from San Francisco. My friend asked, as did several other people at this favorite pub sitting on the bank of Marblehead Harbor. So I told this cute little story. In 2008 Heather was on a gig at Sierra Magazine related to her MFA work at Goucher College, Baltimore. It was the 2008 Olympics, and a torch run was scheduled for San Francisco. Like now I was working in Marblehead, and for some reason was at the apartment watching CNN – it’s an Eastern thing, harder to quit than ciggies. Wolf Blitzer was on, and had become completely absorbed in the game, “Where’s the Torch Bearer Now?” Heather was on the ground with the Tibetans and many thousands of other protesters who wanted to confront the torch in symbolic and real support of the Tibetan nation. I called her and suddenly the crowd had a live link to CNN’s unintended investigatory helicopter. Information flowed, and the crowd adjusted location. Heather gave her Tibetan flag to a national who blocked the announced route. For over an hour locations offered by CNN were beamed down to the streets of the great city. Of course the flame got through, but there was good coverage of the protest relating to China’s mistreatment of Tibetans. Wearing the t-shirt reminds me, and now others, of how easy it is to miss so much of the real world in favor of the flash of commercial promotion. And I expected that the Vancouver Olympics would offer much of the same hypocrisy and materialism. Lots of the latter, less of the former. The sight of Creekers carrying the torch down Roberts Creek Road past the assembled and then past the house along Lower Road, was pretty intense, brought back that visceral memory of what I know the Olympics should be. A vector for good works and international communication. Mostly that focus has been lost since I followed my first Olympics just about 50 years ago, at least in the production of the event. The Olympics are a failure, in part, given that the ideals which seemed so real decades ago now are expressed as mere platitudes lacking substance. Still, people with willing and good hearts cull something vital from all the garbage attendant to these grand events. Including the opportunity to examine the failure, consider what it means and holds for all of us in the future. Which is why I’m glad to wear the t-shirt, tell the story, and relate a tiny bit of truth about our team.

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