8 years later, this Vancouver Olympic legacy gathers weeds

Legacy is a common topic for those evaluating the exorbitant cost of hosting large competitions like the Olympics, especially when it comes to event infrastructure.

City of Vancouver says decision to revive the Olympic Line streetcar rests with TransLink

The Olympic Line was a popular attraction during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. (CBC)

As the Pyeongchang Olympics make way for the beginning of the Paralympics, scholars and critics are already starting to look at what legacy the event will leave.

Legacy is a common topic for those evaluating the exorbitant cost of hosting large competitions like the Olympics, especially when it comes to event infrastructure.

After Brazil, many criticized the cost of the $319 million arena built in the middle of the jungle that only saw four soccer tournaments when the country hosted the World Cup. 

In Vancouver, many touted the lasting legacy of projects like the Richmond Oval and the Canada Line after the 2010 Winter Games.

But eight years later, one Vancouver attraction remains unused and overgrown with blackberry bushes. 

During the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, the Olympic Demonstration Line moved thousands of tourists and locals alike from Science World to Granville Island. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Once a bustling service, the Downtown Historic Railway, also known as the Olympic Demonstration Line, moved tourists and locals alike from Science World to Granville Island.

The 1.8-kilometre track was a $8.5 million partnership between Bombardier, which contributed two streetcars, and the City of Vancouver.

But it only lasted for 60 days, starting at the end of January 2010. Now, most of the track still exists — and so do the former stops — but they are unused and not maintained.

'Not merely transportation'

Peter Finch, founder of the Friends of the Olympic Line group, wants to change that. Finch not only used the Olympic Line — he drove it. And he still drives street cars now.

Finch's thinking is that most of the infrastructure is already in place — so the city should do something with it. 

"We need to show that we have some imagination," Finch said.  

"Not merely transportation but a social venue. Something that is very different from anything that Vancouver has seen before."

Finch's plan includes using replicas of Vancouver street car designs from 100 years ago, but completely modernized on the inside.

"People came to Vancouver all the way from Cloverdale just for that sense of nostalgia," he said.

Peter Finch, founder of the Friends of the Olympic Line group, wants the former Olympic Line to have street cars like these, which served Vancouver decades ago. (CBC)

However, the city isn't keen on resurrecting the project. 

In a written statement, it said the service was a novelty that only marginally contributed to the Granville Island and Vancouver tourism experience.

Granville Island, which is run by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, disagrees.

"The streetcar, when it was running during the 2010 Olympics, was a great service for not only our visitors but for the 3,000 people that work on Granville Island," said Lisa Ono, the island's manager of public affairs and programming. 

"It was really a great service for everyone."

Decision rests with TransLink

The area is already serviced by a bus route and the Aquabus. It's also accessible via a scenic walk along the SeaWall. 

The city said the decision ultimately rests with the regional transit authority, TransLink. The latter didn't respond to CBC requests for comment.

In the meantime, the tracks lie dormant and gathering weeds — with no hint of their Olympic legacy. 

With files from Natasha Frakes

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