Granville Island visitors got a fleeting glimpse of laid-back royal pomp late this afternoon when Michaëlle Jean made at surprise appearance at La Place de La Francophonie, a must-go destination for anyone taking in the Cultural Olympiad. Even the mimes lined up out front stopped trying to break out of their imagined boxes when Jean’s limo and four-car security entourage slowed down in front of the building. The crowd who’d stopped to gawk at the procession burst into a spontaneous cheer as a radiant GG appeared in a HBC black Canada hoodie with her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, (who eschewed any obvious national branding) and daughter Marie-Eden. They toured the agritourism pavilion right along with the hoi polloi. Outside, her security seemed amazingly laid back. One took the picture of another alongside a mime, like any other tourist. I tried to capture it here with a Flip camera.
Branding backlash. “Is that an official Olympic sponsor?” has become a joking response to product malfunction—and a reaction to the numbing ubiquity of corporate branding that envelops the city. I heard a man make the comment to his companion after her ratty, old umbrella collapsed while they were waiting for the Granville Island train. Earlier, Theo Simms, the mastermind behind the wonderful Candahar Belfast-style pub/art installation, posed the question playfully when my (non-official-sponsor brand) tape recorder wouldn’t cooperate while I was setting up to interview him.
The irony of Gretzky’s Olympic ride: It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Wayne Gretzky’s triumphant ride through the city to light the Olympic Cauldron took place in the back of a pick-up truck, the very kind of vehicle Rick Hansen fell from when he sustained the injuries that left him wheel-chair bound.