VANCOUVER, Canada—Each night Granville Street morphs into an Olympic party zone overrun by an army of young people, many of them red-clad, maple-branded, certifiable Canucks.
"Go Canada Go," they shout, or just "Wooooohoooooo."
If you're a reporter working the Olympic venues from dawn till midnight, you could be forgiven for thinking Vancouver is populated by tipsy, ecstatically patriotic twenty-somethings.
The family crowd can be found downtown at night, especially near the Vancouver Convention center and the flaming Olympic cauldron, but Granville is a jungle full of drunken monkeys. That's not so unusual, given it is the epicenter of Vancouver's night life, but during the Olympics the street has been shut down to traffic and the young have taken over.
Overall, it's been a good go for downtown businesses fortunate enough to sell food, alcohol, and all things red and maple, says Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Association.
They are seeing business double or triple compared to last month or this time last year, he said.
"In general, it has been very positive for those that we forecasted would do well," he said.
But for those not in the above categories, Gauthier said business has dropped a bit as regular customers avoid the crush of downtown pedestrians or spend their hard-earned money on Olympic hockey tickets.
Gauthier said downtown has become a bit of a black hole, sucking the cash out of other business districts like historic Gastown, but there at least, some establishments that report a rise in business, just not the explosion seen on Granville.
The real surprise though is how well behaved the revelers are. While there are some whiffs of urine haunting shadowed alleys and the occasional brawl does break out, actual damages are at a minimum.
“On the vandalism front it has been surprisingly low, I think it is because everyone is in a jovial good mood and there are a lot of police downtown," said Gauthier.
The business association was even talking about the shutting down Granville to continue to street parties after the Olympics finish, though the transit folks might not agree, he added. Granville is a public transit hub for bus routes and subways.
It seems all those rambunctious hockey fans running about are more content to frolic than fight, leaving the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) content to hang about watching the party blossom, said Const. Lindsey Houghton with the VPD.
“It's been really good, we are seeing tons of people, record numbers of people, come to enjoy the Olympics," he said.
"Our officers are sharing along in this great experience with everyone.”
He said the Olympic spirit has caught on in metro Vancouver, and with that comes people wanting to drink, but he confirmed that so far fights and vandalism have been relatively rare.
The one concern he did raise, was people wanting to drink in public, and police have handed out a few CA$230 (US$222) tickets for the offense and are trying to avoid handing out more.
"The last thing we want to do is hand out tickets, but we will."
Police on the street have echoed that sentiment, saying the partygoers are festive but relatively well-behaved.
With crowds reaching 200,000 a night, there certainly is potential for trouble, especially in Vancouver, a town known for its hockey passion. In June 1994, after the Vancouver Canucks lost to the New York Rangers in game seven of the Stanley Cup playoff, a riot broke out downtown and caused over CA$1 million (approximately US$963,000) in damages.
Houghton said police are ready to deal with the threat and have experience handling large crowds, like the 400,000 behemoth that comes out for Celebration of Light, an annual pyro-musical fireworks competition that lights the sky over English Bay, one of Vancouver's most popular beaches.
There will be more than enough officers out, should problems arise, he said.
"It is all about our officers getting out there and positively interacting with the crowd … reminding people that we are out there."
And like the crowds they police, Houghton says it will be fun for officers as well.
"It's great, everyone is having a great time."
"Come and party,” he invited.