With two city venues in Vancouver, my team is only responsible for the curling and sledge hockey athletes. By and large they have been very friendly and a few even came out early to the load zone just to chat with us. They might not be as well known as their Olympic counterparts but their spirit and determination are second to none. Every time they came out to the load zone area, all I saw were a bunch of dedicated athletes and nothing else. Perhaps that’s the way it’s suppose to be – no differentiation between the “able” and the “disabled”.
The way the competition schedule was set up, opposing teams tend to come out and board their respective team buses at the same time. So the morning starts quietly then the pace picks up for about an hour and a half. Then there’s a lull around lunch time before the athletes return for another round of departures in the afternoon. And with the Paralympics being smaller and more relaxed, we get to explore the athlete’s village and take pictures of the area during the aforementioned breaks.
The village has received raved reviews since the start of the games and it’s easy to understand why with its location and the amenities available. VANOC also succeeded in recreating the feeling of “home” for the athletes and the “Salt Building” is a shining example. Built and opened for athletes only, it is basically a giant “living room” and a club all rolled into one. You can have parties, spontaneous guitar jam sessions as well as video game competitions inside. It’s a place for the athletes to unwind and mingle with each other.
The other item that stands out in the village is the food since the volunteer work force share the same kitchen with the athletes. It’s not fine-dinning-quality but the lunches I’ve had were really good and definitely better than the soup and sandwich spread at the Oval. And if you fancy a Quarter Pounder with cheese instead, there’s actually a McDonald’s inside the dining area. Believe it or not, some of the athletes (and volunteers) still have a craving for Big Mac’s.
In some ways it would have been awesome working in the Village during the Olympics but my experience thus far has been great as well. Especially the day our team took a picture with the VANOC CEO under a bright, sunny sky. That’s the kind of memory I’ll cherish forever.