Mittens, mascots, handmade canoe? Best of Canadiana kitsch on offer at Olympic superstore
VANCOUVER (CP) — It’s telling that the official retailer of the Vancouver Winter Games gear stocks plenty of umbrellas, rain gear and even waterproof jackets for the family dog.
It’s not your typical Olympic wear, but welcome to the Wet Coast of Canada.
With days left before the Games begin, shoppers are already zigzagging through the Olympic superstore that has nearly taken over the first floor of The Bay in downtown Vancouver.
In addition to Team Canada wear and the plush Olympic mascots, there is no shortage of Canadiana kitsch among the official Games gear.
Although visitors to Vancouver are more likely to slip on flower blossoms than snow, there are the requisite mittens, moose sweaters and the ear-saving trapper hat. And why not? It’s Canada, eh. Some 10,000 Olympic visitors are expected to cram the store come Feb. 12, the day of the opening ceremonies.
Cashiers at 24 terminals aim to make one transaction per minute, daily, until the closing ceremonies Feb. 28. A multilingual army of upwards of 400 will staff the flagship store during peak days.
“It’s weird seeing (the Bay) as a tourist location,” says Kelsey Regan, 25, as he tries to help his girlfriend find a red Team Canada hoodie, only to be told the day’s shipment was snapped up in 20 minutes earlier in the morning.
Diogo De Oliveira, 27, who just arrived in town with an entourage from Switzerland, mugs amidst towers of plush Olympic mascots, including sasquatch Quatchi.
“It’s for my sister and my girlfriend,” he says. “Maybe even me too!”
So far the hottest selling item has been the red knit mittens, sold in HBC stores across Canada for $10 a pair.
“It’s a good time to shop now, to do last-minute shopping,” says Maria Drugoveiko, waving two pairs of the mittens — for her and her hubby.
More than two million of the mittens — embossed with a Maple Leaf in the palm and the Olympic rings on the front — have already flown off the shelves nationwide.
A final shipment of the item, marketed as the Games ’it’ souvenir, are to arrive at stores across Canada this week.
There are thousands of other items for sale, the cheapest a 56cent postcard and one of the most expensive a hand-crafted, $7,500 canoe suspended overhead from the store’s rafters.
There are red-and-white Team Canada clothes, blue, green, and white 2010 clothes, and the an Olympic medal-influenced aboriginal line on offer.
In one corner of the 1,890square metre store hang the controversial knit sweaters produced as part of HBC’s official line of Olympic clothing. HBC paid Olympic organizers millions for exclusive rights to stock bona fide Games swag.
Yet in another corner, the authentic Cowichan sweaters hand-knit by aboriginal knitters on Vancouver Island lie neatly folded on shelves. Despite the exclusive Olympic deal the retailer has capitulated and included the unlicensed Cowichan sweaters after the aboriginal knitters angrily suggested that HBC’s own line of sweaters were made to look like the tribe’s hand-knit version.
A Bay spokeswoman says that wasn’t the case, though they both feature West Coast animal silhouettes.
Another entire store section has also been devoted to selling team uniforms from other participating Games countries, including Germany, Great Britain, France, Russia and the U.S.
“This has never ever happened in the history of the Olympics,” says spokeswoman Dana Hall.
Beside the plethora of official Olympic keychains, watches and lunchbox coolers, Olympic pin collectors, who trade their souvenirs from Games present and past, can be found in their own designated area.