Blink and you’ll miss golden month of Olympic freebies

Go early and go often.

That may be the best advice for anyone who wants to take in the unprecedented array of free Olympic concerts, celebrations and spectacles coming to Metro Vancouver.

Daniel Fontaine, co-editor of the Vancouver-based urban issues blog, says there’s so much to see and do without paying a dime, locals will kick themselves if they miss it.

Fontaine and fellow blogger Mike Klassen have compiled a comprehensive “Where 2 Be for Free” online guide to what you can see or do for little or no cash outlay. (Find it at

Nobody capable of having fun should write off the Olympics as a playground only for the wealthy, corporate elites and Olympic insiders.

“There will be no excuse and no reason why people can’t in some way have an Olympic experience without having a ticket,” Fontaine said.

More than 50 pavilions, celebration sites and other destinations will be free.

Most boast big video screens to watch Olympic events, interactive games, art exhibits and other fun things to see and do, all washed down with plenty of food and drink.

And then there’s the music.

Bedouin Soundclash, Sam Roberts, Blue Rodeo are just a few of the outstanding Canadian bands that will rock out for free at multiple venues.

Fontaine thinks many locals won’t clue in to just how much is on offer for free and how good it is until mid-way through the Games, especially if they fret about congestion and traffic in the early going.

“Seventeen days is going to come and go before you know it,” he said.

That means crowds may get much worse in the second week of the Olympics.

The best approach: start early and see pavilions that open before the Feb. 12 start of the Olympics.

Canada’s Northern House pavilion is one of those already open and the Italian and Swiss pavilions will both be open by Saturday. Skating is already open at Robson Square.

For videos, information links and a Google Map of all the free site locations, see our online story. For updates and posts on each free site see or follow them on Twitter at

Check the competition schedule at:

Live Sites in Vancouver

The two big downtown Vancouver concerts and party zones are the Vancouver Yaletown and Vancouver Downtown LiveCity sites.

Wilco and Matisyahu are among the international performers who will be on stage for free, along with many Canadian acts ranging from Alexisonfire and Colin James to Malajube and Mother Mother.

Robson Square will be B.C.’s signature celebration site, featuring aboriginal culture and other live performers, including children’s entertainers, a nightly fireworks/laser light show and free entrance to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibits.

Richmond and Surrey

Richmond’s O-Zone and Surrey’s Holland Park celebration sites will be among the best venues for free music during the Olympics, according to Citycaucus.

Headliners in Surrey include Blue Rodeo, Sam Roberts, 54-40 and Corb Lund.

The O-Zone has Bedouin Soundclash, Our Lady Peace, Hawksley Workman and Wintersleep.

Many more bands are scheduled at both sites – some like Tokyo Police Club, Sam Roberts and Bedouin Soundclash – play multiple venues around the region.

Other Live Sites

There are several places to go on the North Shore – West Vancouver’s Spirit Square, Park Royal’s Winter Carnival, Winterfest at Lower Lonsdale and Valley Fest in Lynn Valley.

There’s also a celebration site in New Westminster at Queensborough Community Centre and another in Abbotsford.

Canadian pavilions

Virtually every province or territory has a site somewhere.

Want to party with your cod-kissing fellow expats from the east coast? Head to Atlantic Canada House, where you can also catch bands like Sloan or the Trews.

Reconnect with Prairie-minded folk at Manitoba House or Alberta House.

Fontaine said the Ontario pavilion and the Quebec pavilion are both impressive, boasting theatres and live music halls.

Aboriginal performances, art and cuisine will be showcased at the Four Host First Nations pavilion at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Ontario’s pavilion has an impressive lineup of live acts, including the Great Lake Swimmers, Elliott Brood, Molly Johnson, Bedouin Soundclash and a “surprise performer” Feb. 20. Visitors can also use their brain waves to control the lights on the CN Tower and Parliament buildings.

International pavilions

If you want Dutch beer or to root for the Italian downhill team, look for pavilions like Heineken Holland House or Casa Italia.

Heineken Holland House, at Richmond’s O-Zone, promises DJ-spun music in a hall that houses 4,000 and 400 free Dutch bikes that can be taken out for a spin.

The Irish Pavilion and the House of Switzerland (at Bridges restaurant on Granville Island) are also expected to be big draws.

Others include German Saxony House at the Vancouver


Moving around

Ridie the Canada Line or the SeaBus to events on the North Shore, and the new Bombardier Olympic streetcar that goes from the Athletes Village to Granville Island.

There’s also a Ziptrek zip line that will whiz participants over Robson Square. It’s free, too, but expect huge lines.

A Russian tall ship moored at the Burrard docks just east of Lonsdale Quay is also expected to be a major draw.

False Creek water taxis also offer an easy and memorable way to get from Granville Island to Yaletown.

Look up and around

There’s plenty more to see downtown, just by looking up in the air in some cases.

Vectorial Elevation, a high-tech remote-controlled light show, will be beamed above English Bay.

A laser waterworks show is also to be projected onto an immense stream of water in False Creek.

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