Well, the WC word appeared in the paper again today.
You know what it is. I can barely utter it without snickering.
It’s world-class. And yes, technically, it’s two words. But whether it’s one or two, the one thing I know is that no arena is going to make Edmonton world-class, or “put Edmonton on the map”.
First, Edmonton has been on the map — in fact, all maps — for hundreds of years. See, it’s right there, just north of Red Deer. Always has been on the map, always will be.
But world class? Nope.
We may have a few “world class” buildings around. The Art Gallery of Alberta is kind of a baby world-class building. The Winspear Centre has world-class acoustics and is an outstanding concert hall. West Edmonton Mall is definitely world-class, in that it is the largest mall in North American, and can still make a point of being the largest functioning mall in the world, in that many mega-malls in China are mostly empty. The Fringe Festival is world-class in size if not in quality, and the Folk Fest thinks it’s world-class, but isn’t really.
But after that, the list gets pretty slim. Or ends altogether.
Now that we are about to get our first glimpse at “our” new arena, the “world-class” term has arisen again. John McKinnon in the Edmonton Journal went on today about how the area will move Edmonton to world-class status.
Sorry, Edmonton boosters. It takes more than a flashy new ice palace to make a city world-class. Edmonton just isn’t a world-class city today, and it won’t be a world-class city tomorrow.
Exactly what “world-class” means is difficult to define. Clearly, there are some cities that are world-class — Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc. After a handful of mega-important cities, the list gets more difficult to define. Is Sydney, Australia a world-class city? Sounds like it. But how about Auckland, New Zealand? Is Vancouver world-class (might be if they didn’t have the Canucks)? Is a teeming place like New Delhi world-class?
To some, Toronto ranks as world-class. But the mayor of Toronto, Rob ‘911’ Ford, is putting the big push on to get an NFL franchise for Toronto to make it … yes, world-class. In Ford’s view, all it takes to be world-class is to have an NFL franchise, so welcome to the world-class club, Cleveland and Baltimore!
Here’s my definition of world-class. If you have to ask if you’re a world-class city, and if you think adding new hockey arenas and art galleries will make you a world-class city — then you’re not a world-class city.
Let’s be honest here, folks. Edmonton is too cold to be world-class, not cultured enough to be world-class, not architecturally interesting enough to be world-class, not touristy enough to be world-class, not rich enough to be world-class. We just aren’t, and we never will be.
And frankly, who cares? The world-class definition is dubious at best. I wish the Edmonton media types and politicians would expunge the term world-class from their vocabulary. We’re not going to be a world-class city, so let’s concentrate on being a livable city, a quality city, and a good place to live and work. Please, folks, let’s not pretend or aspire to be something we are not, nor ever will be. Please, let us have a moratorium on the term ‘world-class’.
Edmonton: not world-class, and proud of it.