I am pleased to report that the world population of maniacs has increased over the years.
This new batch of velocity enthusiasts have been rocketing themselves down a rollercoaster of ice, during the Red Bull Ice Cross Downhill World Championship in Ottawa. Last night thousands of people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and our Mayor Jim Watson, watched as the competitors braved the track and bitterly cold weather.
Canadians Jacqueline Legere won the women’s championship and Scott Croxall came in second overall for the men’s, behind American champion Cameron Naasz.
The racetrack starting point is high up beside the Chateau Laurier hotel terrace, where it drops and loops sharply, then follows the Rideau Canal locks between Major’s Hill Park and Parliament Hill to its endpoint by the Ottawa River. It is a beautiful and dramatic route.
The major challenge of the event seems to have been planning permission: Because the Rideau Canal is designated a World Heritage site, managed by Parks Canada, next to privately-owned Chateau Laurier, and near Federally-owned Parliament Hill, on land managed by the National Capital Commission, approval took three years to wind through the byzantine bureaucracies. Kudos to the organizers, politicians, and public officials who made this happen!
Ottawa is no stranger to international tourist events. Every year we host the Blues Festival, Winterlude, the Tulip Festival, Race Weekend, and Canada Day, to name just some of the bigger events. What is different about Crashed Ice is the vibe. It’s much younger and edgier than we are used to.
I hope it’s a sign that Ottawa is becoming a bigger, brasher city. Last night the Byward Market bars were jam-packed, and many had a special permission to stay open until 4 am.
Yes, in Ottawa that is a Big Deal.
It’s impossible to imagine, but at the height of the lumber boom in the late 1800s, what is now downtown Ottawa was lively around-the-clock. Nobody wants to return to the violence and noise of that bygone age, but injecting some more night-life into our sleepy city is a great thing.
Crashed Ice is part of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations, and it’s a welcome boost of adrenaline to our beautiful hometown.