Edmonton: not world-class and proud of it.

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.

2 thoughts on “Edmonton: not world-class and proud of it.

  1. I’ve been reading your blog off and on for a while and this is the first time I’ve ever agreed with you!

    I like the fact Edmontonians are humble about our city. We know we’re a burb, and we’re all right with it. Most of us came here for work, not glamor. I’ve lived in some of the cities you mention – and while they are all great (I love to travel) I like it better here, thank you very much.

    Our understanding that we’re not ‘world class’ makes Edmontonians friendly, unpretentious, and generally open. It’s a good thing.

    Mandel, the Journal and others who want to compete should give it up. I’m proud to live in a city that doesn’t have a stick up it’s ass.

  2. I’m sorry, but this article is complete garbage. Edmonton alberta was ranked #1 worlds most livable city in the world, and we attract over 4.4 million tourist year round. We have a close proximity to the mountains, and our winters aren’t very cold, with the exception of a few cold days. We are also ranked as the sunniest city in canada, and we get beautiful hot summer days. Edmonton is a gem and will be known for it someday. Infact, if you do research, dubai has a very similar history to edmonton alberta, since it hit it big in the oil industry. Edmonton is also one of the newest cities in the world, and we just simply haven’t had enough time to grow.

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