Even though the absence of the home team in the 102nd Grey Cup may disappoint fans in Vancouver, the city's mayor is still upbeat about the CFL championship game that takes place this weekend. It's an event that will entertain residents and visitors alike, mayor Gregor Robertson promised during a press conference on Wednesday.
Robertson underscored the appeal of the tangential events that take place off the gridiron and have nothing to do with who's actually playing on Sunday.
"It's become a lot more than just a football game. The Grey Cup is part of Canadian culture and it's exciting to be involved with that," said the recently re-elected Robertson. "There's a lot of arts and culture to enjoy. There are great bands to entertain us in the days leading up to the game."
Grey Cup Festival Takes Over Vancouver Streets
Those bands include 54-40 and Hey Ocean!, who will be among the 10 acts that comprise the Red Truck Tailgate Concert Series that will keep fans grooving at the Vancouver Convention Centre from Thursday to Saturday.
On Grey Cup Sunday, the Hamilton Tiger-cats take on the Calgary Stampeders for the CFL title. Imagine Dragons will be the halftime entertainers inside BC Place. More than 50,000 fans are expected to attend and Robertson said the event will deliver "tens of millions of dollars" in economic impact for the host city. Roughly 4,000 tickets remain unsold with four days to go until kickoff.
The Grey Cup was last contested in Vancouver in 2011, when the hometown BC Lions defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in front of 54,313 fans. The city was in a celebratory mood all week leading up to that game. This time, it will likely be up to the visitors to the west coast to liven up the atmosphere. Fans of the Stampeders and Ti-cats are expected to descend on British Columbia's largest city to cheer on their teams -- and enjoy the annual Grey Cup Fesitval, which, as Robertson mentioned, has turned the game into a days-long party.
Vancouver will mark the occasion with orange, changing the lights on prominent buildings to the colour that matches the Lions, the host franchise. The festival will include daily pancake breakfasts, the CFL Awards on Thursday, the Hall of Fame Party on Friday night and the annual Grey Cup Parade on Saturday. Free activities abound on Robson Street and at Canada Place as football takes over the city for the weekend.
As for the game itself, Calgary is favoured, but the upstart Ti-cats have shown plenty of ability in their surprising run to the Eastern Conference championship. CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said he expects the talent of the game's leading offensive players -- including quarterbacks Bo Levi Mitchell of Calgary and Zach Collaros of Hamilton -- to keep fans riveted to the action once the game begins.
"You have two young quarterbacks who are already stars in the game and you have players in Jon Cornish and Brandon Banks who are among the most exciting to watch in the sport," Cohon said.
Banks is Hamilton's dynamic kick returner and wide receiver while Cornish is the three-time CFL rushing leader. Their performances on Sunday will likely determine the outcome of the game. By the time the final score is recorded, however, Vancouver is quite likely to be revelling in a week of fun thanks to the big game.