Man Proposes, Nature Disposes
So sites like Vancouver, which will host the 2010 Winter Games, haven't too much to contend with, in comparison. After all, Canada is a free country, a liberal democracy, a wealthy and developed country. The worst that Vancouver could be accused of is trying to herd away homeless people from key areas during the Olympics, unlike China which summarily disposed of countless homes located in sites meant to highlight future Olympic installations, leaving residents bereft and homeless.
Olympians must wince viscerally every time they allow themselves to anticipate their performance on the world stage, hampered by dreadful air quality impacting on their lungs' capacity to function. A site like Vancouver, with its backdrop of majestic mountain ranges, its clear and clean atmosphere, in a predictable, free and civil environment, will represent a welcome alternative to Beijing.
But danger lurks everywhere. No need to look for Olympics drama, it's there, for nature will have her way in a setting like British Columbia's famed Whistler, the site of the skiing events.
Hundreds of Millions have been spent on re-engineering the Sea-to-Sky corridor from Vancouver to Whistler in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It's a magnificent setting, a fabulous backdrop. And it's also one of nature's fragile wonders.
Drive the highway and you see countless warnings to be alert to falling rocks. Look up and you'll notice steel-mesh over the rocks as a cautionary measure, protecting the highway below. The area there is subject to rock slides, simple as that. Just as China has stepped up its plans to temporarily close Beijing down to usual traffic and to have industries cut back on their atmospheric spewing of carbon dioxide and particulate matter, so too does B.C. plan to increase their rock-slide mitigation work close to the Olympics.
There's a continual and ongoing need for the B.C. Ministry of Transportation to ameliorate the situation of continuing rock-slides by slide prevention techniques. Which techniques include pre-emptive blasting of the rockface, rock-bolting, and rock-scaling, where specialized crews knock away loose pieces of rock above the highway. But there's just so much that can be done. Natural geological features have their own agendas. Weather also plays an integral part in the deterioration of rock foundations.
And so, despite the close attention given to safety measures and constant action to ensure no disastrous rock slides occur, they will, anyway. And so it was on Tuesday, at 11:00 p.m. when a massive rockslide occurred, sending down boulders as large as a house in a huge deluge over the highway and a nearby railroad track. A bus plying its usual route made it past the slide as it was occurring, with nothing more disastrous occurring than having some of its back windows smashed.
Police dogs were brought to the scene to sniff out whether there were any people under the huge pile of rocks. Tonnes of rock and debris cover 75 metres of road, piled 10 metres high. It's estimated that between 5,000 and 16,000 cubic metres of debris now litters the highway. As one onlooker observed: "You literally had the face of a mountain drop off the bluff". Awe inspiringly dangerous to the nth degree.
The Vancouver Organizing Committee is adamant - shades of Beijing and their atmospheric problems - that a rock slide, should it occur during the Olympics, would not put the games in jeopardy. According to the the vice-president of services and transportation for the committee, should there be a problem "athletes, officials and the majority of personnel required to stage an Olympic of Paralympic event in Whistler will be housed in the Whistler area so events will proceed on schedule".
Huh? What about all the visitors, the tourists, the spectators, the reporters, the camera crews? There will be a whole lot of helicopters, small airplanes, boats and ferries plying the skies and the seas on that memorable occasion, to be sure. Of course, there's another, alternate highway route that can be taken - putting another 7 hours of travel on the agenda.
Well, in the end, we does the best we can, right?