The UFC came to Vancouver on Saturday, flooding the International Village with drunk fans most of that sunny afternoon and long into the night.
Their cries from the street were audible from our apartment from noon onward. Roving gangs of intoxicated young men menaced residents and created an atmosphere of drunken lawlessness in our streets.
I know of four separate incidents involving confrontations between drunk fans and residents of the area – people pushed off sidewalks, confronted, anger when someone refused a high-five, a mother and baby hassled, etc., in addition to the horrific gay-bashing of our good friends that night.
We’re used to the boisterous noise of passionate hockey fans and other sports, win and lose, and we’ve enjoyed and celebrated right along with them. And we’ve seen far larger crowds throughout the Olympics.
But the UFC atmosphere of drunken menace on our streets Saturday was clearly palpable and something very different.
Making matters worse, we didn’t have the visible police presence normal for large major sporting events, and that lack of visible uniforms on the street proved provocative to alcohol-addled, violence-prone males freely using our public streets as urinals and intent on trouble.
That menace metastasized Saturday night into a violent, hate-filled gay-bashing against two residents of our community, who were left beaten, bruised, and suffering from concussions, one with staples in his skull to bind together the wounds he suffered.
This horrific attack occurred two blocks from the UFC event at 10:45 pm after a day of the same kinds of drunken behaviour, evidence enough of the violent atmosphere the UFC created in our neighbourhood.
Mayor Robertson lobbied very hard and publicly for this event, and attended the fight, yet unfortunately did not provide the necessary police presence or security for the residents of the area who warned of just this kind of violence in opposing the license.
According to The Province:
In Robertson, the UFC has an unlikely champion. And if you doubted that for a moment, you just had to listen to its president, Dana White, as he cheerfully lauded hizzoner for his work in securing Saturday’s card for GM Place.
“There were a lot of people who were instrumental in bringing this here,” said White, during a wildly entertaining presser at the Canucks’ home on Thursday.
“But there was one man who — when it came to the last minute and looked like it wasn’t going to happen — pulled the trigger, killed it and made it happen.”
Which, given the UFC’s image in some sectors, was an interesting choice of words. But even if Robertson might have expressed it differently, he wasn’t exactly trying to distance himself from White or his organization.
“My sense is they’re interested in doing more events in Vancouver,” Robertson said afterwards.
“We’re certainly interested in hosting more events. It’s likely we’re going to see more events in the next two years.”
Today on CKNW and in The Vancouver Sun, our Mayor stated that the event went smoothly and incredibly stated he’s looking forward to the next fight. He also mentioned the fighting got a little rough, neglecting to mention it sent five fighers to the hospital – but he was glad it was in a safe environment and not on the streets …
But it did spill out onto the streets.
So the Mayor has a special responsibility to answer for the abdication of his prime responsibility to maintain public order after approving the most violent spectactor event in the city’s recent history.
The Mayor had plenty of security inside the stadium protecting him. We understand the place was flooded with plainclothed anti-gang officers. Yet where were the provisions to protect the residents forced to play host to the gangs of intoxicated “fans?”
Not making sure there was a strong, visible presence was a mistake. And because of that mistake, there will not be another UFC event in this neighbourhood again.
I’m not casting any blame on the police, who did an extraordinary job under far harder circumstances throughout the Olympics and for the many other large events we’ve hosted over the past two years. Those that promoted this event had the responsibility for ensuring a safe environment not just for their guests but for their neighbours.