Archive for February, 2010
One year, when I was still a young child, our family went on a long summer vacation and returned home the night before the first day of school. I remember crying myself to sleep because I didn’t have time to adjust mentally and the fact that I didn’t want the vacation to end.
I think some of that same feeling re-appeared tonight, without the crying part.
6 and a half years in the making. 17 days of thrilling and compelling athletic competition. A city engulfed in Olympic fever and national pride, the 2010 Winter Games brought to Vancouver an experience of a lifetime. And I’m humbled and grateful to be 1 of 25,000 volunteering “Smurfs” who donned the blue jacket and contributed to these games.
What I’ll remember most are the people I’ve met along the way, be it my team members, fellow volunteers, drivers, media types, athletes or spectators. The conversations and camaraderie we shared as parts of an Olympic network shall be remembered fondly. I wished there was a way for me to bottle this whole experience up and share it with others. But then it just wouldn’t be the same, would it?
I salute VANOC, my fellow blue jacket volunteers and the fine people of Vancouver-Whistler for being such welcoming host to the world. Thank you all for making these games as successful and memorable as they can be. It wasn’t perfect and we had our challenges. But in the end, our true spirit and determination came through with flying colours. Canadians all around the world should be proud of the legacy of Vancouver 2010.
I don’t know what the Paralympics will be liked but I’m looking forward to be surprised and moved by a different group of inspired athletes and a dedicated volunteer work force.
Until then, I shall take this time to cherish, reflect and savor all the memories etched in my mind.
“We’ve been through some things together, with trucks of memories still to come. We found things to do in stormy weather. Long may you run.”
- Neil Young
Some quick thoughts from the weekend that was:
- I’ve been so awestruck by what I saw and experienced in the past 10 days that I wished this could go on forever. The beautiful weather helped as well. So little time when there is still so much that I haven’t seen. I think I’m gonna be sad when I go to bed on the 28th.
- It actually cost me less to watch Olympic hockey than the Canucks and I got to see all the major stars to boot. That’s value, my friends!
- It may be too late now but I’m starting to appreciate the art of pin trading.
- Picked up my Paralympic accreditation this afternoon and found out my role maybe a bit more expansive than I originally thought. It should be quite interesting working in the Athletes Village in March.
Hockey Day in Canada is a country wide celebration of our beloved game. To fill over 12 hours of programming on a Saturday, CBC usually show a triple header of games featuring all 6 Canadian teams. Through a stroke of luck in the June Olympic ticket lottery, I managed to create my own version of Hockey Day in ……. Vancouver.
Act I – USA v Norway
It felt kind of odd going to a hockey game at high noon but the Americans were involved so I’m not too surprised given a lot of NHL clubs down south play quite a few matinees. The Norwegians were well represented, which was nice to see, but there was no question who were the most vocal. As much as we non-Americans tried to start chants of “Let’s go Norway! Let’s go!”, shouts of “USA! USA! USA!” would eventually prevail. Cdn Gooner & I sat beside a family from Minnesota and they shared stories about their Olympic experiences thus far. Like many we spoke to before, it’s been very positive even though they were staying over on Vancouver Island! The Americans won the game, as expected, and I was impressed with the American support. How I’d love to be there on Sunday when Canada and the U.S. square off for the much anticipated showdown.
Act II – Canada v Switzerland
WOW! What can I say?!
Words cannot describe what an experience it was. The arena was filled with a sea of red. The crowd was passionate and the atmosphere was electric. I think all hockey fans should watch at least one Team Canada game in their lifetime. As for the game itself, the boys wearing the red maple leaf didn’t play particularly well and the citizens got a bit restless when the Swiss managed to tie the game at 2-2. It was a bit too close for comfort but Canada managed to grind out a result in the shootout where Marty Brodeur was outstanding in stopping all Swiss shooters. Pie Pie Lo & I were thoroughly entertained.
Act III – Russia v Slovakia
If game 1 was the expected; game 2 the somewhat unexpected then game 3 would definitely fall under the totally unexpected category. Right from the opening face-off, the Slovaks were very competitive and showed no fear while the Russians, with a star studded collection of forwards such as Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Semin & Datsyuk, can’t seem to get the offence going. Once Marian Hossa tied the game for Slovakia, you can sense their belief and confidence in winning the game. And that they did after an extraordinary shoot out where Alex Ovechkin converted only 1 of 3 chances he had. An incredible ending to an incredible day of hockey! As we walked out of Canada Hockey Place, Jumping French teacher and I were grinning from ear to ear.
12 hours. 3 hockey games. 1 exhausted fan. But it was a day I shall remember for the rest of my life.
Tuesday I had a 1:30pm shift at the Oval so I decided to go downtown that morning to explore some of the free venues that opened early. First stop. The Royal Canadian Mint Exhibit on Granville Street. Having been to the Ottawa Mint in 2008, the only reason I lined up for the exhibit was to see and feel the Olympic medals. I was told this is the first time EVER that Olympic medals were allowed to be view by the general public.
It was about 8:10am when I got to exhibit and at least 10 people were already in front of me. While waiting I chatted with this couple from Surrey and they told me they were all excited to go to the Women’s snowboard cross that morning after receiving free tickets to the event. Needless to say they were quite bummed out when VANOC announced the cancellation so they decided to spend the day to soak in the Olympic atmosphere.
Once the exhibit opened we made our way upstairs to the medal room where one of the designers was on hand to explain the entire process from conception to production. Suffice to say quite a bit of information was presented so I won’t bore you with all the details but here are a couple of quick facts:
- 1,014 medals were produced: 615 for the Olympic games and 399 for the Paralympic games.
- With total unique designs, no two medals are alike.
All of us in the medal room were given a white glove as we were not allowed to handle the medals with our bare hands. We can take photos with the them but due to IOC regulations, no one is allowed to wear the medals nor show a victory pose with the them.
After my time with the medals I made my way to the Olympic Superstore around 9:30am only to find a line up that stretched for a block and a half. It was hopeless to get in so I went to the International pavilion on the 5th floor instead to look at the merchandise there. It was interesting to see all these Americans buying a whole bunch of the Canadian Olympic gear with the red mittens being front and center. I struck up a conversation with some folks from Dallas and they shared with me their experiences here in Vancouver and had nothing but good things to say. As we parted ways I actually thank them for spending money here.
The Russian presence is another thing you cannot miss. They’ve taken over Science World and renamed it Sochi House for these games. I saw a lot of them roamed the streets and two large kiosks were set up inside The Bay selling Team Russia gear. Judging from the lack of customers and the rather high prices, I think they might have to ship everything back to Russia.
The morning ended with brief stops at the Aboriginal pavilion, the B.C. pavilion, and the Art galley since they either open late or have long line-ups.
My shift at the Oval coincided with the women’s 500m race so I walked towards the venue with a lot of spectators. Along the way some Koreans were handing out flags and vests and I got myself a pair of Oranje gloves and some temporary tattoos from Speed Skating Canada.
It was my first time working in the athletes load zone so I got to see a lot of the skaters and coaches up close, including the 500m gold medal winner Lee Sang Hwa and American skater Shani Davis, who came by in the afternoon for training.
I was told before hand that some of the European skaters can be quite high maintenance due to the treatment they get back home but overall everything went smoothly and without incident.
6 shifts done with a free Quatchi in tow, I left the Oval Tuesday night hoping this experience will never end because it’s been fun.
Item du jour
Making of the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic medals
Today we were blessed with such nice weather, it prompted Scott Morrison of Hockey Night In Canada to post this tweet:
“Have arrived in Vancouver for the Summer Olympics. It is sunny and at least 60 degrees. Patios are all open. Nice.”
Since it was Chinese New Year, Pie Pie Lo and I went to visit our parents just before lunch. And because it was also Valentines Day, we decide to spend the afternoon in downtown hoping to catch some of the sights and sounds of the city in the midst of the Olympics.
The moment we got off the Canada Line and reached street level, I thought we were in Asia because I have not seen this many people in Vancouver, like, EVER! The energy and excitement were palpable and it got me excited about the days ahead.
We spent some time at the super-packed Olympic Superstore and then made our way to the Olympic Cauldron right next to the convention center. Along the way we passed by the Royal Canadian Mint exhibit but the queue was so long we decided to pass. On our way back to Richmond, we bumped into J&J on the Canada Line train and chatted for a bit before they got off. In all, it was a great afternoon.
While we waited for Little Drumstick and his dad at Aberdeen, we watched the latter half of the Men’s moguls competition live. Little did we know that a curse was about to be broken. And when Guilbault Colas of France could only mustered a 25.74 score as the last skier, Alex Bilodeau became the first Canadian to win Gold in home soil! Sadly, the crowd at Aberdeen was oblivious and didn’t even cheer. I suppose it’s hard to understand what’s going on when there’s no sound from the T.V. (Btw, D & T, if you guys had finished your dinner earlier, I’m sure we would have ROCKED the entire Aberdeen Center with our cheer!)
After I got home I caught this montage CTV did on Bilodeau’s Gold medal winner performance and shots of his brother Frederic, who has celebral palsy. Later, during the interview with Brian Williams, Alex was joined by his entire family in an impromptu visit to the broadcast center. When asked about the closeness of the family, the senior Bilodeau pointed to Frederic as the bond that binds the family. And for Alex Bilodeau, he summed up his feelings with this shortly after winning the Gold medal:
“It’s really getting me right now….My brother is my inspiration.”
Set aside the politics and commercialism of the Olympics and you’ll find human stories of love, encouragement and support. I had never paid attention to that before but thanks to the Bilodeau family tonight, I think I’ve gained a better appreciation.
Item du jour
Separated at birth?
Sven Kramer – Dutch speedskater who won the 5000 km Gold