This afternoon my dad pulled out his digital camera and showed me a photo of a nice man that sort of looks like he could be one of my mom’s cousins in Germany. Turns out my dad visited with one of the most successful race car drivers of all time, Mario Andretti, while he was making a public appearance at Route 99 Tire Shop in Surrey last week.
This got us talking about some of the larger, more world-class events that Vancouver used to host before it became dubbed the “no fun city“, from which it’s still trying to bounce back.
The Molson Indy Vancouver used to run along Pacific and Expo Blvd, around BC Place, over to the other side of False Creek and back. After the Indy weekend I would drive to work catching the smell of burnt rubber and noting the high speed skid marks along Quebec Street. The Indy was won several times by Mario’s son, Michael Andretti and ran from 1990 to 2004 and in 2002 Dario Franchitti dedicated his win to local Vancouver racing hero Greg Moore.
The Greater Vancouver Open aka the Air Canada Championship was held at Northview Golf and Country Club in Surrey from 1996 until 2002. My friend’s little brother was a caddie one year and drooled over the chance to assist Mike Weir’s clubs.
In 1995 Vancouver got its own NBA franchise. They ended up being so eager to fill the seats at the shiny new GM Place that our high school basketball team would get a pack of tickets almost every week. That’s right, West Whalley kids filed into the stands and I ended up going to far more basketball in my youth than I did hockey games. Watching “Big Country” Reeves walk at a snail’s pace up and down the court and perhaps lift a finger to sink a basket or 20 definitely wasn’t the most exciting. However, the experience of watching the famous opposing teams kick our butts 90% of the time was pretty entertaining. In 2001 the team moved to Memphis, after disappointing seasons and players who pulled “Duchovny”s, complaining about the weather in Vancouver.
I’m not sure if I miss any of these events really, although having Surrey on the world’s stage for the gold tournament was pretty sweet. Vancouver’s personality has changed over the years and during my lifetime Expo was probably the catalyst for a lot of things. I look forward to different festivals and events every year and am simply glad that the city is still mixing things up, although don’t even ask me to predict what this place will be like after 2010.