Clean Up, Vancouver! 141-Page Pre-Olympics Protocol Guide Pisses Everyone Off

2010 Winter Olympics logo
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It’s the latest challenge facing Vancouver in its pre-Olympic run-up. First, no snow, being trucked in from wherever they can get it, to the snowboarding venue. Now a 141-page protocol guide has pissed off locals, who found its tone and content deeply condescending — CBC’s website shut down its comments page after 161 people sounded off:

Staff at Vancouver City Hall are being told to make sure their socks match their pants, avoid gossiping about their personal lives and to remember to smile, but not too much, as part of their protocol training for handling Olympic dignitaries.

About 600 city staff have been reassigned to Olympic duties during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and the protocol guide was recently issued as part of their training on how to conduct themselves while dealing with the world’s elite politicians, royalty and business leaders.

The 141-page booklet was posted online by the popular civic issues blog and offers tips on a wide range of protocol issues, including seating arrangements, proper conversation topics and personal grooming.

City employees are urged to keep hair tidy, yet stylish, cautioned not to wear socks that are too short for fear of showing off bare leg, and advised to carry extra clothes because dress shirts stain easily. They are also advised that tight clothes make slim people look gaunt and a large person look heavier.

One blogger had fun with it:

Of course, it’s the kind of thing that’s distributed all the time at international events, intended for those who have to deal with the deputy emperor of Limpopo or the viscount of Lilliput and the like. I append the city link here for those of you who feel you may be called upon to interact with people of this caliber.

But while I think it’s much fuss about nothing, here’s a game for all of us: How about if we make up rules for real and likely interactions between Vancouverites and visitors? Like: When passing a joint to an international visitor who is not familiar with the open use of illegal drugs in Vancouver, the proper etiquette is to ask if the visitor would prefer to smoke in a more private place than the BC Place opening ceremonies.

Writes Ian Brown in The Globe and Mail:

The tone is hectoring and demands complete submission: Faced with a helpless visitor, “there is nothing too demeaning, too demanding or just plain beneath you.”

The binder offers instructions on how to listen (“Lean forward slightly and look directly at the person who is speaking”), how to smile (“‘gently’ and with sincerity”), and how to point politely (section 7.3, Using Proper Hand Signals: “Use an open hand”).

“Try not to be too chatty,” the guide suggests, lest one be confronted with (section 5.8) Embarrassing Situations. “Try to move the individual out of hearing range of others, and quietly let them know ‘Your trousers zipper is open.’”

No wonder an online Vancouverite dryly responded, “So … I guess farting is out of the question.”

4 thoughts on “Clean Up, Vancouver! 141-Page Pre-Olympics Protocol Guide Pisses Everyone Off

    1. James Finn Garner

      It sounds like an employee manual for a restaurant, and in some restaurants, waiters and waitresses exact revenge by, well, personalizing the orders in this way.

      If I remember correctly, the people of Beijing were given many, many lessons in how to deal with visitors, including warnings not to spit on the sidewalk. I’m sure the upright people of Vancouver do not need to be reminded of such things.

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