A couple of weeks before the Olympics began I heard through the Ottawa grapevine that the Manitoba pavilion in Vancouver was the laughing stock of the federal Department of Culture. Apparently some federal Culture bureaucrats thought it was the worst of the pavilions, and was so far from being completed the running joke was Manitoba was going to be demonstrating how to build a pavilion during the Olympics. I was assured by the province things were on track, and they were right. The building opened as scheduled when the Olympics began. It also won a sustainability award from VANOC.
Every province or region got to build a pavilion to showcase itself to the world. They include Alberta House, Ontario House, Maison du Quebec, Saskatchewan Pavilion, Atlantic Canada House and Centreplace Manitoba.
Manitoba spent $2.3 million on a 2,560 square foot building with a 36-screen display on the province’s tourism and business opportunities environmental friendliness and immigration program — which truth be told sounds kind of neat since the screens are mounted on four arms which rotate around a central pillar. It also has an interactive display for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
This is the description from their official website.
"The pavilion features a striking translucent curved outer wall, organically shaped and housed within linear planes of reclaimed elm woodwork. The semi-transparent façade, brought to life through vibrant mural projections, creates immediate interest by offering an intriguing glimpse of the exhibit within. The panels allow a tremendous amount of natural light to enter the building. They are also 100 per cent recyclable, and once dismantled, can be used for future building projects."
A blogger from Slate.com’s description was thus:
The Manitoba pavilion was the saddest — just a pair of small rooms with some murals about Manitoba. The text on one of the murals: "Spring thaws free the waters that power prosperity." No, I don't know what that means. And next to the words were, inexplicably, a photo of a scientist holding a beaker and another photo of a wheelchair-bound basketball player. A lonely computer sat in the corner, offering up Manitoba job listings.
Not being in Vancouver I can’t tell you which description is more apt. The online virtual tour gives a bit of an idea, and I have to admit I like the style with the wood floors.
But what it may come down to is the lack of anything to actually do there. The Centreplace Manitoba blog says they had a goal shooting contest one day and a demonstration of Métis dancing another but comments on another site listing of things to do at the Olympics repeatedly said the Manitoba Pavilion was "boring." I’m guessing pressing buttons to learn about the provincial nominee program and getting asked for donations to a museum aren’t quite high on the Olympic bucket list.
Meanwhile, over at Saskatchewan House, there are beer gardens and bison burgers and perogies. Hence the photo on the Saskatchewan House website showing a lineup of several hundred people trying to get inside.