Burning bridges

Image via BC Gov on Flickr

Why closing public infrastructure for amusement is always a poor idea

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. July 7, 2015

June 21 was a day of many activities. It was Father’s Day, National Aboriginal Day, and of course, International Yoga Day. In Vancouver, the plan was to close off the Burrard Bridge and have one of the biggest outdoor yoga events in the world. Om the Bridge, sponsored by lululemon, YYoga, and AltaGas, received enormous backlash as the big day approached. Celebration turned into hostility and mockery—at one point, Premier Christy Clark posted a photo of herself in front of a Tai Chi centre with a caption calling out “yoga haters.” Not surprisingly, the event collapsed as sponsors bailed.

I don’t have any problems with large gatherings of people doing yoga as long as I’m not required to participate. What tends to bug me is the misuse of public infrastructure and taxpayers’ money. Needless to say I’ve never been a big fan of parades, and the money spent on an event like Om the Bridge could be better used maintaining the bridge itself. It’s not because I’m not flexible or that my Chaturanga pose needs significant work, I just think that if you want peace and harmony, closing off a major artery on a busy day is a bad idea.

That is not to say that all International Yoga Day events are failures; in fact, many large cities with greater congestion than Vancouver pulled them off. Paris hosted their event beneath the Eiffel Tower. New York yoga fanatics joined together in Times Square. It’s a little ridiculous both how chill and how stuck-up our city is. Vancouver is like a spoiled brat. You throw a party for it and it’ll just end up throwing a tantrum back, stating that it deserved more gifts and cakes.

This city just can’t handle large-scale events, because Vancouver always has to create mountains out of molehills. Remember when the Canucks were in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins, and the city decided to build a big outdoor screen so that we could all gather together to cheer for the team? The result was billions of dollars of destruction and four goals in the Canucks’ net.

One of Vancouver’s most annoying traditions is the Celebration of Light. For years, residents of the West End have had to deal with hundreds of thousands of rambunctious people coming into their neighbourhood, taking up parking spaces, blocking off streets, and making a mess. All for what? A few nights of bullshit fireworks, polluting the sky with smoke, and disrupting the peacefulness of summer. It’s true that the Celebration of Light is a great opportunity to get your friends together, spend the day on a crowded beach, and then mosey on home via two hours of transit, but it’s really just a large-scale corporate handshake.

A city functions through organized chaos. Someone is always unhappy with something, be it transit, the weather, or some dumb event. I love this city, it’s full of diverse people, but somehow whenever we try to plan a party, a group has to cry and make it all about themselves. Our events become more polarizing—alienating instead of building the community.

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