edmonton -- canada's podiumdreams weren't the only washout at the World Championships In Athletics.Edmonton pumped $8 million in cash and services into the games without expecting direct returns, only future tourism and spending spin-offs. But thanks to a playboy British columnist's resonating gripes about "Deadmonton" -- and with local cabbies, restaurants and bars complaining that big chain hotels saw the only windfalls -- the city would have been wiser to invest in non-tech mutuals.
Once the numbers are crunched by year's end, local organizers predict a $5- to $7.5-million surplus (ticket sales generated $12.6 million, despite the thousands of empty seats that prompted international track and field officials to issue an unheeded call for giveaways). That nebulous sum will go toward an even more nebulous "legacy" fund to prop up athletics programs across Canada. It won't do much for Edmontonians -- a fact Torontonians, their municipal budget saved by Beijing, should appreciate.
And then there were all those episodes that demonstrated what cities do to dazzle visitors and uninterested locals when the world is watching.
While the sun scorched the concrete in downtown Edmonton, security guards in the square in front of city hall were telling everybody to get out of the pool. Most of the free wading pool, you see, had been covered by a temporary, half-empty outdoor café, but the corners were left undefended.
Pragmatic kids hopped in. Parents were promptly told to yank them out. To cool down, they were instructed to use the Coca-Cola-sponsored chilled mist contraption over by the Imperial Oil performance art tent.
Closing a free pool that's jammed by kids on hot days to build a café hawking cocktails and gelato may sound absurd, but the swap symbolized an even greater public betrayal. From a beefed-up police presence and inner-city zero tolerance to a plague of promo outlets that are now empty storefronts again, it was one superficial aesthetic gesture after another.
Many of the image-driven eggs hatched around the Worlds, in North America for the first time, were exactly the type of corporate constructs the folks in Toronto's Bread Not Circuses coalition warned you about.
The first order of business for the International Amateur Athletics Federation mandarins when they arrived was changing the 90-year-old name of track and field's governing body. Henceforth it's the International Association of Athletics Federations, a belated acknowledgement that the sponsor-soaked event is no longer amateur.
Then the press conferences began. The first major Q&A wasn't called to introduce athletes from one particular country, or to showcase a sport. It was hosted by Global Sports Communications, a Dutch marketing agency trying to drum up press for the stars it represents.
That ploy was less disconcerting than a presser at newly baptized Nike Park, where Nike unveiled its stable of potential medallists and a PR flak chastised a reporter for asking an innocuous question about steroids.
The pole vaulting and hammer throwing happened from August 3 to 12 at Commonwealth Stadium, which rises at the junction of several low-income neighbourhoods. But instead of getting new flowerpots, free tickets or, god forbid, affordable housing, residents of McCauley -- home to the majority of Edmonton's prostitutes and soup kitchens -- had to band together to prevent their biggest park from being transformed into a media parking lot.
"A lot of people," says Heidi Veluw, president of the McCauley Community League, "have told me they'd like us to disappear."
Homeless people who receive food and shelter from the string of social agencies in McCauley were worried about disappearing. Outside the omnibus Bissell Centre, about 10 blocks from the stadium, support worker Mike Smith saw dozens of street people ticketed and even arrested for infractions like having open bottles or jaywalking. "It's stuff police usually overlook," says Smith, "but everybody knows why they're cracking down."
The police patrols were so frequent and uncommonly vigilant outside the centre that Smith started chasing away front-stoop drinkers so they wouldn't get busted.
While police dismissed talk about Worlds-motivated street sweeps as "ludicrous," three guys drinking out of a paper bag in the shade of the main public library, across the street from the Coca-Cola Cool Zone, told me otherwise. "There's a lot of extra heat," confirmed Ray, "but in a few days it'll get back to abnormal."
Meanwhile, across the river on Edmonton's main bar strip, 27 police officers congregated to arrest a particularly uncooperative jaywalker, keeping the streets safe for the Worlds.