Sunday, February 28, 2010

Things I've learned about Canada

I'm really quite fond of Canada. I like the people, I like the scenery, I like the polite buses. I could live here easily - it reminds me of Seattle but with more Canadians...

Things I've learned about Canada

- The people are always very sorry. They will apologize for just about anything. Even if you step on their foot, they will immediately tell you they're sorry about that. Even their buses apologize - when a bus is out of service, a sign flashes "Out of Service. Sorry"

- Canadians are very obedient. They will never ever cross against the light. Ever. Even at 7am in the morning when there are no cars on the street. If they have the do not walk sign, you bet your Sorels they won't.

- Only Canadians can make red and black plaid look really, really awesome.

- Canadians are better at displaying their pride then we are. Every single person on the streets of Vancouver has at least SOMEthing that says "Canada" on it. If the Olympics were held in Chicago, I don't think you would see that. Americans are weird about displaying their pride - it's either an obnoxious full out pride (coughredneckcough) or it's a discrete, almost embarrassed pride. I was proud of my family that they seemed to find a perfect level of national pride when they were here - proudly wearing flags, but also embracing Canada and every other country they encountered... especially Ireland... or the Irish pubs anyway....

- The Canadian sense of humor is pretty awesome. Even Donald Sutherland is hilarious.

- It's really, really gorgeous here - and so much scenic variety. The ocean, the bay, the mountains, the green, it's beautiful.

- They've completely lived up to their billing of being the friendliest country. And it's not a fake, forced friendly - it's a genuine, want-to-help-you friendly. The volunteers all wear these bright blue jackets - and kind of look like overgrown Smurfs - but you know when you see a blue jacket, that you're probably going to see a smile.

One of the best things about walking home at night is listening to the crowds yelling "Go Canada!" and the random outbursts of "Oh Canada". And it doesn't JUST happen after games - it happens all the time, every night. I've been getting home at anytime from 10pm-2am and at every hour of the night, you hear the people whooping and hollering. It's constant.

I've taken to opening my window at night as I unwind just so I can listen to the people own below. It's fun. It's easy to get swept up into the Canadian pride.

One of the other things that's been happening is random street hockey games breaking out with the kids. You'll be walking down the street and all of a sudden there's all these kids with sticks and a ball playing in the middle of the street or on the sidewalk and everyone just stops to watch, cheering the kids on. It's awesome. Even the news is constantly reporting on it - the traffic helicopters will zoom in on games instead of traffic.

This place has definitely embraced the games whole-heartedly.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


When people ask me what I'm going to remember most about the Vancouver Olympics, I think my answer is going to be the daily punch-in-the-gut feeling. There have been so many odd/strange/sad things happening throughout these games.

Two days ago, Netherlands speed skater Sven Kramer won the 10,000m event by 4 seconds, setting a new Olympic record in the process. But he was DQ'd immediately following the finish. Why? Because his coach made a mistake and told him to change lanes one lap too early.

Sven Kramer is widely regarded as the best distance speed skater the world has right now - and speed skating is Netherlands equvilant to the NFL in the states. It's that big over there. This incident is a national disaster.

There was an isolated camera on Kramer's coach throughout the event and they put the footage up at - it's 6 minutes of devastation. You have to watch it to believe it. You can see him calling out to Sven to change lanes and then moments later, he realizes his mistake. He continues to encourage Sven to skate hard and finish (Sven had no idea what had happened) but while Sven is on the other side of the rink, the coach is wiping away tears... just unreal

Sven Kramer's coach video

Yesterday, the South Korean short track speed skating relay team was DQ'd for an illegal push which meant China won the gold. During the chinese team celebration, one of the skaters jumped up on the padded boards and kicked her teammate in the face! Her teammate had a giant gash in her cheek and there was blood everywhere.


Russia has just gotten trounced at this Olympics - in everything! They used to absolutely dominate skating. This is the first olympics since - 1960 I think? - that they haven't won a gold medal in skating. For a nation with as much old school pride as those people have, Vancouver is going to be a terrible memory. People are already calling for the minister of sports head.

Wonder if they're re-enact that old "ship 'em to Siberia" thing they used to do...

Watching them lose so spectacularly to Canada in hockey yesterday was just stunning. We were all thrilled for Canada but there was this uneasy vibe in the air. It definitely didn't have that miracle on ice feeling to it - it was dark and kind of sad to see this former powerhouse just play so bad. A NBC commentator actually said - on the air - that they brought their "euro-trash game"


(he, mysteriously, was missing when they came back from commercial... hmmm, wonder why? We speculated that he was in the commentator penalty box)

We were watching bobsleigh yesterday and, as has been the case with every sliding event at this games, there were a lot of crashes. At one point I asked how in the world they stay in the sled when they crash and sure enough, two runs later, a German girl came out of the sled and went flying down the course spread eagled. Scary.

When you come to the games, you just want everyone to do their best - they work so hard for this moment. But Vancouver has been filled with so many odd mistakes and gaffes and - well, a lot of bonking.

It's a bummer..... to put it lightly.

The ladies final gets underway tonight. I'll be holding my breath that the crazy errors and mistakes that have affected the entire Olympics don't creep into that event. The short program was some good stuff - crossing my fingers that trend continues for the free skate.

My prediction?
Gold - Kim Yu-Na (this girl needs to win. She's the most amazing thing to happen to skating since Michelle Kwan)
Silver - Joannie Rochette (oh god please let Joannie skate her best....)
Bronze - Mao Asada (I predict two falls but still a podium finish)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

with glowing hearts

With glowing hearts.

Everywhere you look in Vancouver, there is that sign. “With glowing hearts. Des plus brilliant exploits”. It's the Olympic motto for 2010.

When Joannie Rochette took the ice tonight, the motto Vancouver built their Olympics on was on full display.

I will forever be amazed at the strength Joannie showed. To skate at the Olympics, in your home country with all of the pressure of expectations and just two days after unexpectedly losing your mom – can anyone come to terms with how difficult that is?

She skated a clean, absolutely beautiful short program – and something the press is skirting out of respect for Joannie is the fact that she’s not known as a consistent skater. And she’s had a really rocky season. For her to come out and lay down a clean skate at the Olympics is incredible in and of itself. To do it under these circumstances? Miraculous.

I don’t normally say stuff like this but it was pretty clear she was getting some help from another place.

She was so focused and so in the moment during her skate – so controlled, so steady. But then at the end, with that massive about of emotion being released, it was evident what a heavy heart she was skating with. It was so devastating to watch.

Immediately following the event I built up a narrative slideshow to walk viewers through her program – I had a hard enough time watching the performance, writing the text and relieving the performance was very difficult.

The strength of character she showed will always inspire me. Just to take the ice in the first place had to feel like laying her soul out on the line.

I don’t know how she did it.

But I’m sure her mom would have an answer for that …

With glowing hearts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Canada gets their golden moment

Ice dance is pretty again!!!

It’s been a very long time since ice dance was pretty. In fact – it’s been since Torvill and Dean in 1984 that ice dance was pretty.

If you haven’t watched Virtue and Moir’s free dance yet, stop whatever it is that you are doing and watch this video. I don’t care if you’re doing your taxes, filing your nails or filleting an ahi steak. Your life is not complete until you watch this performance.

And Davis and White were beautiful and incredible as well – but the night belonged to Virtue and Moir… and Canada. This is the gold medal moment this entire country has been waiting for. Watching Tessa and Scott up on the podium proudly (and loudly) singing their national anthem along with the entire coliseum – and country – got me all soppy and sappy.

It was amazing.

In fact – this whole Olympics (skating anyway) has been amazing. For the first time EVER, judges are doing the right thing. They’re judging on performance, not on national bias. This is a huge step forward for the sport of skating. I’m guessing some of it is attributed to the fact that the stodgy, always-judge-national judges are old and have started to kick the bucket, but I’d also like to think that maybe we’re all just becoming better people.

Ok, fine, the crooked ones are probably just dying off.

When I was at the olympic superstore the other night, I had an interesting conversation with the sales lady. She asked where I was from and when I told her, she said, “ohh, America, you guys are really sweeping up the medals.” And I started to talk about how what’s pressure for the Candian team has turned into a bonus for the American athletes – lots of fans, friendliness of crowds, etc. But she cut me off and said “well, yes, but in Canada, we don’t have the kind of support for our athletes that you do.” It took me a second to realize she was talking about money.

I had to laugh at the idea that all the American athletes have these corporate sponsorships and were able to just focus on training all the time. She was really convinced that’s why the American team was doing so well. So we had an interesting conversation about misconceptions.

I mean, sure, we have Shawn White who’s a multi-millionaire - but ONLY because he has a brilliant agent. (And also because he’s wildly popular in skateboarding as well – and kind of crazy talented so that helps.) But that’s not the norm at ALL. I would guess that the amount of debt that most of these athletes are in right now is astronomical.

Figure skaters get money from the USFSA, the national skating federation, but in comparison to what they have to spend on training, traveling, coaching, costumes, etc – that chunk of change is a drop in the bucket. If you look at Meryl Davis and Charlie White, my guess is that they spend upwards of 50k a year on their skating. Easy. And they don’t have any corporate sponsors – mom and dad are paying for that.

You have people like Jeremy Barrett (American pairs skater) who drives the zamboni and works in the snack shop at his rink for extra money. These kids are not rich from sport.

I think there should be some sort of debt relief program for the athletes – with all the money corporate sponsors make off these games, part of that profit should go back to the athletes who make it all happen.

Tonight the ladies short program gets underway. Joannie Rochette, the 6-time Canadian national champion is still planning on competing even though her mom passed away unexpectedly early Sunday morning. I have no idea how she's going to do it. I don't think there will be a dry eye in the house when she finishes skating. She's expected to be a contender for the podium but wow... if I ever lost my mom, grocery shopping would be impossible - much less skating in an Olympics a few days after (I don't think they've even had the funeral yet) ... I'm just hoping she can get to a good place in her head where she does it to honor her mom and has the skate of her life. I think this entire country will be holding their breath for her.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"oh crap"

Man, I love being wrong.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are in first after an amazingly beautiful, difficult, all kinds of gorgeous Original Dance and Meryl Davis and Charlie White are in second are an equally all kinds of gorgeous OD.

Russians are in third.

They should be in fourth, but whatever, I’ll take it.

Seriously – really, really happy to be wrong!

I am just going to be holding my breath until the free dance that the judges continue to do the right thing. If they do, I just might start skating again! Sochi 2014? Totally.

Last night was a crazy night in Olympic land. I was trying to pay attention to the skating but it’s really difficult when the entire room, building and country is watching the Canada-USA hockey game. At first we had two different feeds going on – the host feed and the NBC feed which was about 20 seconds behind the host. When USA scored their first goal, half of the room erupted as the other half looked bewildered. You could see everyone’s heads going back and forth between the two tvs trying to figure out what had happened. Someone quickly flipped the NBC feed to the host feed after that. No one wants to be late to the party – even if it does mean ignoring your own coverage.

Canada is handling the loss to the US much more maturely than I had expected. When the hockey producer came back, we were all hounding her about the game. I asked what the crowd was like and she said they were pretty tame because Canada never really had control of the game – so there was no time the fans could really get behind the team and go crazy.

They played the end of the game during the ice-resurface at ice dancing and the figure skating crowd saw Canadians lose. Apparently there was this weird hush over the crowd – people were just shocked.

Quote of the night went to Canada’s Scott Moir – when asked how he felt about the Canadians losing in hockey, he answered, “the same way I felt after hearing Charlie White’s OD score, ‘oh crap.’”

I left work around 10:30 last night and was planning to pretend to not be American for the walk home. But I step out and wait – where is everyone? The streets have been packed lately - like, Times Square on New Years packed - and it was almost a ghost town last night.

I'm assuming that everyone ran home to nurse a Molson – Canada shut down the liquor stores early last night to try and cut down on the public drunkenness.

It definitely worked! Everyone went home! Doesn't mean there wasn't still public drunken-ness though. I'm a bit disappointed at Canada's ability to hold their liquor.

I took the opportunity to do some shopping at the Olympic Superstore. Because shopping at 11pm is completely reasonable.

The lines at the Superstore have been crazy long. People have been lining up around the block to get into that place – and practically everything is already sold out! I didn’t see anything I even wanted to so I jumped out of the Superstore and went into the regular store part where I picked up a really nice USA jacket.

I also made the decision to return the Team Russia stuff. I just can’t get over what I saw at the Opening Ceremony. It still makes my skin crawl. There’s this huge part of me that will always still love the country because of how influenced I was by it as a kid… but I just can't do the jacket.

So since I can’t get comfortable with the official Team Russia jacket that I've coveted for so long, I decided to go with a Sochi jacket! The winter Olympics head to Sochi, Russia in 2014 and they’re selling some really nice stuff promoting it.

Sochi I can get onboard with.

Plus, the blue color is super duper cute.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

More cow bell!

Canada plays the US in hockey today.

I'm already planning on stopping off and picking up ear plugs so I can sleep tonight. The entire population of Canada has managed to squeeze itself into downtown Vancouver and ya know what? Canadians are really, really loud!

I fall asleep listening to the sounds of cow bell and "GO CANADA!!!"

And I'm on the 15th floor of this hotel.

I know that no matter what happens today in that game - there's going to be a lot of drinking and madness going on tonight. If Canada wins, the place will be off the hook. If they lose, I'm immediately adapting a canadian accent and maybe even dressing up as a mountie so no one will know I'm from the states. It would be a dangerous walk home tonight.

Kidding aside, it's been pretty cool to see all the excitement for the games here. The entire town is decked out in Canada gear, people are wearing Canada flag snuggies (not even kidding on that one) and random street hockey games keep breaking out.

They haven't been "owning the podium" like they had planned - but it's nice to see they're still having a darn good time.

Ice Dancing OR karate?

And oh look who's in first after the compulsory dance... the Russians.

What. A. Shock.

NBC did a really cool simulcam comparison of the Russians to Davis/White and Virtue/Moir. Check out how much more ice the other teams cover during the dance (how they swing out wider and almost travel into the boards in the corners). That's called having a "deeper" pattern. Which is what should be rewarded. And they're also much smoother than the Russians.

BUT - playing devil's advocate here - the Russians also present a more mature, refined style and that's where you could argue they picked more points. Of course, not from me - you'll only hear that from Russians.


And for good measure - I asked the photographer to snap pics of each top team in the exact same spot and we were able to put together this side-by-side comparison of the "roundhouse kick" ... as a former ice skater, I should know better than to call it that, but it's just too hard not to!

Ice dancing - channeling the karate kid since 1976.

I am just so fond of Virtue/Moir and Davis/White - they make dance pretty again. We haven't seen pretty dance since Torvill and Dean. The Russians took ice dance in this aggressive, garish direction and in order to keep up, everyone kind of followed suit.

But ironically - it was a russian coach who ended that trend! Igor Shpilband has been coaching in Detroit for the past ten plus years now and he now coaches Virtue/Moir AND Davis/White. His choreography is always sophisticated and clever, but also fan friendly. It's just hard not to enjoy watching his teams.

It's sometimes hard to actually enjoy watching the russian teams. They're all drama and angst and oh, woe and the feathers and wings and sequins - and that's just the men!

Davis/White skate to a Bollywood medley and it's probably one of the best, most authentic OD's I've ever seen. It's just fun - and incredibly difficult! Virtue and Moir skate a beautiful, subdued program for their free skate - it's just gorgeous in its elegance but it will be interesting to see how it plays in comparison to all of the other completely over the top, fast-paced programs they'll be competing against. The other programs aren't more difficult - they just have more frenetic energy which can sometimes 'look' more difficult.

Tanith and Ben even admitted to adding more movements to their free skate after Nationals in order to make it look "more frenetic" for the Olympics. I don't get it.. I don't understand why it's rewarded. I want to watch dance and feel happy - not itchy.

Because, yes. Frenetic dances make me feel itchy.

Chances are the podium is already set with the Russians on top, Virtue/Moir second and Davis/White third... if the podium is NOT that, I'll be shocked. However, if either team is able to move up and grab gold, I'll be ecstatic.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The new cold war

The mens event is over which makes me really sad – it means I don’t get to say Daisuke Takahashi on a regular basis. (DICE-kay TAHK-ah-hashi). Sigh.

It was a phenomenal night of skating. I’m not the biggest Evan Lysacek fan on the block – I like him and all, but I sometimes don’t get his hype. When people talk about him being so marketable, I genuinely don’t see it. I used to like him a lot more – like back in 2006. He gave that lights out performance in Tornio during the free skate after being hooked up to IVs all day and I was cheering like mad for him. But as he began to win more medals, something started to change. He didn’t have that same unbridled passion and enthusiasm in his performances anymore. It became so much more rehearsed. The man trains like Rocky so it might be understandable but I miss it.

He’s also keenly aware of his image and saying the ‘right thing’ – I want him to just say stupid stuff sometimes. He used to date Tanith and he actually still wears a ring that she gave him. Now Johnny Weir, his arch-nemesis, is rooming with her in the Olympic Village. Surely that’s chapping his hide a bit? Can’t he at least say something borderline raunchy about the whole situation?? I don’t have anything PG I can write down but surely Evan could come with something.

I really didn’t think Evan was going to take this gold medal. Skating is very political and there’s been a lot of talk about how Plushenko was going to get the men’s gold in exchange for a north American team getting the dance gold. (remember the salt lake pairs scandal – they had basically said gold for pairs and in exchange, gold for france in dance – it was the French judge who came forward and admitted to cheating) Yea – it still happens. Or at least, people still whisper about it.

Plus, Plushy’s jumps are typically outstanding. And because his jumps are so strong, and because he’s Russian and the judges favor him, he usually has such a commanding lead after the short that it’s almost impossible to catch him in the free skate. But this time, Lysacek and Takahashi were less than a point behind him so Plushenko was in the strange position of actually having to skate clean. He normally has such a huge margin that if he makes a few mistakes, he can still win. That’s a lot less pressure to handle.

So he comes back to Olympic competition to get the gold medal after 3 years of not competing at all, he heads into the free skate with only a three competitions under his belt this season and all of a sudden HAS to lay down a perfect skate to win. I can’t remember him ever skating under that kind of pressure. I think it unnerved him a bit.

And GOOD! Bout time. Dude is cockier than a hen house. Nice, funny guy - but the complete lack of humility drives me nuts sometimes.

And ironically - he basically lost the gold on his jumps. His strength.

You get points for the difficulty of the jump but then you also get this mark called “grade of execution” and that’s how well you do the jump. So if he does a quad-triple and that’s worth 9 points or something, he’s also getting points added on or subtracted for his execution of that jump. Normally he gets positive grades of execution, meaning he racks up even more points (up to 3 more points) but this time, he didn't manage to grab many additional points. Evan did receive extra points for perfectly executing his jumps – so even though Plush technically did harder stuff, what Even did, he did it better.

I spent most of the day dealing with the fallout of the whole Plushenko vs Lysacek debacle because it somehow turned into the new cold war with even Steven Colbert commenting on it to Bob Costas.

(btw - NBC was looking for their Olympic star? Well, they found it in Colbert! His appearances with Bob Costas have been killing everyone here. The dude is brilliant. Did you catch the video where he climbs into the NBC "fireplace"? Colbert met Johnny Weir in the green room before going and we have some hilarious photos of Johnny and Steven together - hopefully they make a gallery of that stuff soon so I can share it)

Uh - back to skating..... So even Putin chimed in saying that Plushenko had the gold medal winning performance. And because of that, we were scrambling trying to find info from Russian papers all day, scanning the wires frantically for news, having all the russian speaking people in the room checking out russian websites, etc. It was nuts. (It's also crazy to me that my life was directly affected today by something that PUTIN said)

This is the article I spent about 5 hours working on today It explains the breakdown of what happened between Lysacek and Plushenko's marks and why Lysacek had the edge (in what I think is fairly simple to understand logic)

I'm actually really proud of this little piece. I normally just write fun, fluffy stuff for them but this one took actual brain power and gasp - thinking! (how dare they) I can't tell you how many times I had to rewrite portions of this because we just couldn't work out exactly how Lysacek beat Plushenko. I mean - besides the obvious point that Plushenko kind of stank it up. We had research room notes and about 10 pages of compete judges marks - and it still took forever. The judging system is so complicated these days that it takes an actuary to make any sense of it. Even Dick Button was confused. (but that's normal)

It's frustrating to me that here I am, this die hard skating nutjob and it's taking me forever to figure out the exact logic behind the marks. If I'm this confused, how in the world does a causal fan ever make sense of this sport? It makes me sad for our sport - we're totally alienating fans by turning triple salchows into rocket science.

Basically - it was a battle of tricks versus mastery. Plush did tricks but they weren’t perfect. Evan demonstrated perfect technique and mastery and the judges rewarded him for it.

Of course – this IS skating and plush somehow managed to receive almost the same amount of points for all the other stuff he did - spins, footwork, transitions, etc – as Evan. Which, bogus. But whatever. At the end of the day, the judges got it right.

Of course, this is really bad news for ice dance. The Russians lost the pairs gold medal for the first time in 12 Olympics. They have won every men’s gold medal since Brian Boitano. They’re going to be seriously, seriously ticked off right now. And I’m sure very hung-over as they probably were drowning their sorrow with straight vodka last night.

Their Russian ice dance team just plain sucks this year -Domnina and Shabalin. He’s coming off a really bad injury and is only at about half strength right now. Their original dance is set to this aboriginal music and they skate in pseudo-black face along with terrible, terrible, borderline offensive aboriginal costumes. They claim to have spent “hours” researching the theme, music, costume etc so that it would be authentic… yea right – looks more like they googled “Australian aboriginal”, checked out one image and said done and done. The aboriginal people of Australia are outraged and have raised a massive stink about how terrible and offensive the dance is.

And now the Russians are in first place after the compulsory round of ice dance... sniff, sniff, does someone smell a scandal???

On a totally unrelated note - after the men's free last night, I was leaving the IBC and I happened to be walking right behind Plushenko and his posse. They were all gesturing madly and Plushy was speaking in pretty heated tones. I wasn't 'trying' to stalk him but he kept going in the direction I needed to be headed so I ended up walking behind them for a few blocks. The whole way, Plush is still talking like he's all fired up and saying lots of fast russian things.

They stop at a garage to get into what looked like a tinted window Escalade ( but of course, when you're the russian mob, you travel in style) And as I pass I hear some parting philosophical words from Plushenko...


Guess he was just hungry.

Friday, February 19, 2010

sunny day!

I snuck out for a few minutes yesterday to snap some pics right outside the IBC. It's sunny and gorgeous here this week - 50's, sunny, perfect!

Members of Chezch tv doing some tv type stuff.
We have a fantastic view of the torch at the IBC because we have this giant patio thingy attached that overlooks the area the cauldron. The 'regular' folk either have to snap a pic through a chain wire fence or stand in line forever to view it from that walkway you can see in the background.

It's a gorgeous thing... it's also juuust the right size to climb all which, I'm guessing, is why they won't let anyone get anywhere near it. If you were quite monkey-like (or canadian and drunk), you could definitely figure out a way to shimmy up and into the fire. You know, a couple of shards of glass at the base of each leg would have take care of that and then the people could get close! I'm just saying... think outside the box!

The guy who writes "the ringer" blog on the site has been borrowing my camera every once in awhile to snap some pics of the stuff he's going to and as I was dumping pics onto my laptop this morning, I saw these two gems .... I realize that Canada is warmer than usual and all but these dudes are still on a mountain! Standing on snow! Watching snowboarding! God bless Molson.

And my favorite, favorite view at the Olympics

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

gaffe games

Apparently there’s an AP article calling this Olympics the “gaffe games” – a description that’s way too fitting. Every day there’s something new to embarrass the Olympic organizing committee. First it was the torch not going up. Which, ok, right there is bad enough. The symbol of the games? You mess up the symbol of the games? Ten bucks says someone forgot to plug in the power cable on that particular leg of the torch. “Eh there Bob, you got all those cords plugged in der?” “Eh, Molson, maple leaf, you bet!.... Oh wait…. Did I plug in the cords or did I play curling? Hmmmm, oh well.”

(that’s the best Canadian imitation I got)

Did you notice Wayne Gretzky’s lip sweating when he was waiting for the torch? Check the replay ;)

Yesterday we have a curler literally crack the ice. He was trying to keep a stone from going out of bounds, but he accidentally flipped the stone and CRASH! Cracks the ice and ruins the curling course/ice/track – whatever the heck they call that thing. Curling has a lot of terms to learn – so far I know “stone”. Seeing as there are about 443 curling matches a day, I’m sure I’ll learn more. Yay for higher education.

Some other gaffes:
- the mountains are somehow missing snow (Not technically anyone’s fault but hilarious nonetheless)
- the viewing area in Cypress got flooded and they had to shut down their 20,000 standing-room viewing area for the snow sports up there. (returned about 1.5 million in tix revenue – ouch!)
- The zambonis in the speed skating ovals break down (now this one is WAY embarrassing. This country’s first and most popular car is a zamboni! How can they possibly have the countries only 2 broken ones at that Olympic oval??!)
- They have the Olympic torch behind this ridiculous chain wire fence. It looks like they plopped it down in the middle of a construction site. It’s ridiculous.

We were cracking jokes about Canada to try and get a laugh out of our curling producer (who’s Canadian) and nothing, no reaction. She finally turns around and tells us that she’s so used to it, Canadian teasing doesn’t even faze her anymore. She said, “You guys have no idea what it’s like to be Canadian and totally fail at everything!”

We all about died laughing.

Poor Canada.

The one thing about this Olympics is that it has this really laid back, fun vibe to it – which I’m hoping Canada remembers. Most of this country has spent the past week drunkety drunk drunk. I’ve been walking home every night around 1 or 2am and the six block walk to my hotel is spent stepping over passed out Canucks with the Canadian flag drawn on their faces. (and sniffing lots of herb which apparently is totally legal to smoke on the streets here)

Random trivia for the day - did you know that Norway has won the most Olympic medals? Yea, who knew?

No skating event today – hoping to get a good nights sleep tonight. I could really use it! I was washing my running clothes in the sink this morning and about ten minutes later I heard what I thought was the coffee maker bubbling over. Hmm, that’s weird, I thought to myself… such a small machine, such loud gurgling. Walk into the bathroom and omg – I left the water running in the sink! With the drain closed! Thank god the sink had one of those idiot-proofing extra large drain hole thingys. I would have flooded my bathroom – or at least ruined my make-up case.

Gaffe games indeed!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the universe has righted

The universe has righted itself. The stars have aligned, Jupiter is in Mars, the pigs have come home to roast and I wish I was an oscar meyer weiner.

Ok, somewhere along the line I lost my train of thought there...

Shen and Zhao WON!!! They are finally Olympic champions!


I can now relax because that was the number one thing I wanted to happen in Vancouver. I was so superstitious about jinxing them in any way (and I don't normally get like that) I couldn't even bring myself to pre-write the blurb proclaiming them winners for the website. I normally write a few different blurbs for the different potential scenarios so that I have something to put up the second the event ends but with this one, I just couldn't do it.

I probably typed it out 5 or 6 times and only got as far as "Shen and Zhao captured..." and then I'd frantically delete the whole sentence.

They stumbled on a lift of all things - a lift! Something that they can probably do in their sleep... and since they're married, maybe they do. It's just not what anyone would expect them to struggle with. But thankfully, their short program marks (and the fact that they had almost a 6 point lead over Pang/Tong) helped them still win the gold medal. They actually finished second in the free skate - but their overall score made them the winners.


I would have been wrecked otherwise. I will never ever forget their performance at the 2003 World Championships where they brought the house down in DC. I was backstage with ABC at the time and I was watching with tears streaming down my face. It was one of the most beautiful moments in skating. And it turned out that she basically did it on a broken foot. She was on crutches the next day.

And then they should have been the champs in '06 but he had a torn Achilles a few months before the games made that impossible - the fact that they were able to skate, period, was astonishing. Just a testament to the toughness and mental strength of these two. They have given everything to the sport - they deserve that gold medal more than anyone ever has.

Up next - the men's event! Promises to be a real nail biter - no seriously. There's basically ten men who are fairly equal and should be able to challenge for the gold medal. They all just have to get past Poopy Plushenko. Ok, ok, not really poopy, he's actually kind of exciting to watch - but he has ZERO artistry, he just flails around, throwing his head and arms and legs where ever the hell he feels like and he calls it "choreography."

No - that's not choreography. That's what you do when you're drunk.

Watch for Patrick Chan and Jeremy Abbott - what they do is choreography and artistry. Watch for what happens in between the jumps. That's where the skating is. Plushenko can jump - but he can't skate ... he's a phenomenal poser though (you'll see it)

In Beijing, I got annoyed by the overly helpful Chinese who frequently tried to stir my coffee for me (I would reach for the sugar, they would grab it, pour it into my coffee and stir for me). It really crossed the line - the line being the fact that I am an only child and want to do it all my myself, thank you very much.
Well, in Vancouver, I could actually use the help. I managed to dump the lid of the milk pot into my coffee, spilling all of the milk onto the table and dropping the lid into my coffee.
which I then still drank.
hmm... ew? I probably should have asked for a new coffee... I'm sure all I was thinking was "escape scene quickly!"
I've been catching up on my pop culture thanks to Access Hollywood being shown whenever it's airing (seeing Billy Bush in his abnormally puffy blue vest in the hallways all the time is always 'fun') Ok, now really, serious question here - what is up with Heidi Montag's face? Does she really think she looks BETTER?
g'ah... and that's it for pop culture for me for the week. Back to Olympics where things make sense.

Monday, February 15, 2010

winning gold medals

Lester Holt sighting of the day consisted of this conversation: A tired producer walks alongside Lester and says “To even figure out what day it is, you have to read it on the big white board” to which an equally tired Lester nodded and replied “yea, right.”

Ok, that wasn’t the most captivating conversation ever, but inside I’m sure Lester was composing haikus on the meaning of time.

Canada won it’s first gold medal yesterday and while the nbc staff working here is primarily American, we have a pretty big contingent of locals among us. Bilodeau won the slushy moguls with Begg-Smith in second. Begg-Smith was actually born in Vancouver but now skis for Austrailia – he’s not exactly Canada’s favorite guy. I know this because one of our Canadian producers called him a slime-sucking dicknob. I’d never heard that phrase before, but rest assured it will magically work its way into my daily conversations.

When a medal is about to be decided, somehow everyone knows to pay attention to the monitors. I don’t know how it happens, but it’s like everyone’s head somehow all shift together to the right tv in a bizarre magical trance. And that’s no small feat seeing as how there’s a gazillion tvs with 40 different feeds, some of the same sport but being broadcast maybe 30 seconds out of sync.
And THAT leads to some funny stuff because you have a host feed and then the NBC feed. Well, the NBC feed is generally about 30 seconds behind the host feed so you have to decide which one you’re going to focus on. If you pick the host feed, you get the live action. But if you pick the NBC feed, then you get the color commentary. Most people prefer to hear the commentary (since a lot of people in this room are the people who either wrote or compiled all that stuff the announcers say). So you have half the room reacting to the live feed, the other half reacting to the nbc feed – but when something happens on the live feed, everyone turns their head to see what happened. And then sometimes, you’ll hear a huge reaction on something from somewhere and you have absolutely no idea who’s cheering, what they’re watching or where it’s even coming from.

Lots of stimulation around here.

When Canada won their first gold medal, everyone started to applaud. It was a really nice moment. I love that while a medal round is happening, suddenly that sport is everyone’s most favorite sport. I mean, I don’t know squat about moguls, but last night, I was on the edge of my seat watching. Same thing when snowboarding happens – like this afternoon, we all held our breath as Seth Wescott won his second gold medal. (HUGE round of applause after that) So thank you Americans for winning medals and such – you provide nice breaks from nonstop, relentless work. Even if it’s only for 2 minutes.

Because that’s what really makes working the Olympics fun – and special. Being surrounded by a bunch of nuts that love the Olympics as much as you and light up like at a kid on Christmas over gold medals. I worked until 2am last night and was ready to pull out my hair, arms and eyeballs with frustration. But then you come in and amazing moments like that happen and the 2am crankies kind of start to fade away.

(but only kind of – if the same issues we had happen again tonight, the crankies will come back with a vengeance)
Pair’s free skate tonight! I want Shen and Zhao to win so badly that it almost hurts my soul. I was holding my breath during their short program and I’ll probably do the same during the free skate – although 4 minutes is an awfully long time to not breath. Hopefully I’ll find a few places to do that inhale/exhale thing.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adventures in hand washing

The bathrooms at the IBC have automated soap dispensers and the first time you stick your hands under the dispensers, the soap comes foaming out obediently. But in sticking with the “green” games theme, you just get a tiny little dollop. And with signs everywhere reminding you to wash your hands and not spread disease, you automatically go in for another dollop of foam. And that’s where things get tricky.

Because no matter where you place your hands, that soap dispenser just won’t budge. No foam, no nothing. So you end up doing the soap dance shuffle – shake it to the left, shake it to the right, sit down, stand up, fight, fight, fight.

You eventually get your second measly dollop and then you go about your business of washing with the water and swoosh… as your hands are finally getting cleaned and rinsed off, you get doused with another 5 foam blasts.

It’s very difficult to wash your hands in Vancouver.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Opening Ceremony 2-12-10

After what was just a terrible and sad day, I got an amazing gift. Our coordinating producer walked over to me and quietly asked, “do you want to go to the Opening Ceremony?” And so I quietly replied back, “yes, very much, please.” He only had a few tickets and I was one of the (insanely) lucky people that got to go.

Walking into the arena was kind of like walking into a football game – very rowdy crowd with faces painted, Canada stuff everywhere, people drinking beer and stoked to see a great show. I actually bought a Canada hat on my way out of the IBC thinking I would want it for the show since it might be cold (and also, on a night like this, everyone’s Canadian).

Well, duh – the arena was indoors! So really, no need for the hat. But that’s ok. I like the hat (it’s the same one that Team Canada wore when marching in tonight)

So we walk in and they’re going through the audience participation stuff. We had a smock that we wore the whole time, there was a flashlight, a light-up candle and a drum stick to use on the case all the goodies came in. The case doubled as a drum! Those drums came in REALLY handy. My hands would have hurt like heck had I been clapping the entire time. But instead, we were just all banging this make-shift drum over and over.

When the show opened with that dude snowboarding down that ramp, I kind of cringed, thinking, “wow, really Vancouver? You’re following Beijing with that?” And then I immediately scolded myself for thinking that and reminded myself to not compare this show to that show. Because there’s just nothing that will compare.

I had guessed that Canada would go with smart simplicity and woo-hoo! I was right. The show that followed that rather uninspired opening was gorgeous. Simple, elegant, clever and beautiful. And a lot of moments of just plain fun!

During the song with Nelly Furtado and Brian Adams, the entire audience was playing along on the drums. There were people in the aisles showing everyone what to do and when to do it so the entire audience would follow along. It was very cheesy… and VERY fun. The whole place was going nuts banging on these drums and playing along with the song. My neighbor said “I’m totally putting on my resume that I played back-up percussion for Brian Adams.”

That snowstorm was just gorgeous. It looked so real – you almost started to feel cold! I tried catching some flakes on my tongue (luckily I missed, those wouldn’t have been too much to swallow)

During the winter (? Not sure of the real name for the section) there were two constellations that dropped down – oh wow, so gorgeous. Again, totally had no idea how it was happening. When the bear appeared, I fervently hoped it wasn’t there to eat the natives. You could tell something ominous was about to happen and all I could think was holy crap, that bear is going to swoop down and swallow the kids. Luckily the ominous thing that happened was the Northern Lights appearing – not bear homicide.

Without a doubt, the coolest part of the show was the whales that swam across the stage and then had those blowholes puff out air or water. The entire audience gasped – it was SO cool. Everyone’s inner 5 year-old started gleefully applauding. When I watched it back, it had nowhere near the same impact as it did live. Bummer, because it was really, REALLY cool.

The best thing about the stage was that you couldn’t tell where the light was coming from. Was it lit from above or under? Was it projected? I had no idea how it was happening when I was there. (I heard Matt Lauer say on the broadcast that it was projected but I never would have guessed)

There were just so many simple but surprising moments in the show. Like when that tree appeared. It came out of nowhere – all of a sudden it was growing and the lights were morphing and you couldn’t quite tell what it was going to become and then, oh wow! It’s a tree! I loved that as an audience member, you were trusted to be smart and figure it out. It made it very interactive – and more memorable. Because I wasn’t following someone else on their journey – I was taking my own.

In the fall piece, as the fiddle player was battling his shadow, the entire stage was filling up with maple leafs. It was so visually stunning. It was this strange combination of real leafs falling from the ceiling, giant real leafs being brought onto the stage by people and then projected leafs moving all over. And then add in electric dancing and energetic violin playing…. Wow. I was on the edge of my chair. Along with everyone else.

OH! And then, what the heck, they lit their feet on fire!?!? YES!!!!! SO AWESOME!!!

The only thing that was a little sad about the fall piece to me was that the spring/tree/dancing piece had been so beautiful, so elegant and pretty. When the fall piece ended, all I could think was, “well, no one’s going to remember that piece now!”

The prairies piece where the boy flew to the Joni Mitchell song was so simple – and so captivating. When he started to run and the field was moving below him… everyone kind of figured out what was happening at the same time and you could feel the audience do a collective “oooh!” Watching it back on tv it looked a little silly, but live it was gorgeous. There was something very hypnotic about that piece.

You could tell they probably could have used a few more rehearsals on this one though – there were some points where he wasn’t touching down quite where the field was, or the field would be late. Just a few places where the timing was a bit sloppy.

Actually, throughout the entire show there were visible mistakes (besides that tiny little cauldron mishap). But after the crazy stories that came out after Beijing’s Opening Ceremony, it was refreshing to know that Canada probably didn’t lock any people in any boxes for 50 hours wearing adult diapers. I’ll take a few mistakes over that, thanks.

During the KD lang song, we were supposed to light our candles row by row making it look like the light was spreading. Well, the second KD started to sing, everyone grabbed their candle like it was a lighter and put it up in the air. There was a guy in front of me who was REALLY excited about kd lang singing. When she appeared and started to sing, he let out this kind of primal “Yeessssss” – ooohhkay. Big kd lang fan. Noted.

So yea, as an audience, we kind of blew the participation piece during that song. But come on, you played Hallelujah and you gave us candles. What did you think was going to happen?

It was a beautiful performance. Like the prairie piece – captivating.

Ohhh, the cauldron. Are there even words for how embarrassing that was? My Canadian neighbor sort of sighed and said “ugh, that’s just so Canadian of us! We get the attention of the world on us and we blow it. We can never perform under pressure!” Thought that was a rather fascinating character study!

She also told me that Canadians believe that the role of flag bearer is jinxed and that athletes will actually turn it down. She said she thought Clara Hughes, the flag bearer in Vancouver, would be fine because “she’s already been in so many Olympics.”

But of course, the entire ceremony had a dark cloud over it. At the very beginning of the show, after the warm-up acts and right before the countdown, they flashed a sign that said the ceremony was dedicated to the Georgian luger. The entire crowd was worked up – but that really subdued brought everyone and brought them back to earth. And then when Georgia entered, the entire audience jumped to their feet.

Well, almost everyone. There was a group of Russians sitting in front of us and as everyone rose to their feet for Georgia, they remained seated. Didn’t clap, didn’t do anything.

I was really disappointed to see that. I started thinking that I need to return that Tam Russia jacket I just got – I can’t feel good supporting a country whose people do that. They at least redeemed themselves a little bit later on in the night when there was that moment of silence for Nodar when they stood and removed their hats.

There was definitely an underlying sadness to the entire night.

As I was trying to find my way home, there were people just streaming out all over the place – I figured I’d be able to just follow the crowds and find my way back downtown but people were headed in every direction. Scattered around were NBC people shouting directions and apparently guiding us to our buses if we wanted them – or so I thought. I wanted to be smart and figure out my own way home since I knew it was within walking distance. I see a girl with an NBC sign and I stop to ask her which direction downtown is. She says very quickly, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you now.” Wait, what? But you have a sign! You’re supposed to be Canadian and friendly? What the?? I look behind her and ooohhh… that’s why. She’s herding Meredith Viera and other NBC execs. Sorry Meredith! (who, by the way, was looking positively adorable in one of the Team USA white polo sweaters. Super cute!)

Great night, beautiful show. SO happy I got the change to go!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tragic day

This should be Opening Ceremony day. But instead, it will be remembered for something very different.

When I walked into work, every other person was sporting something with “Canada” on it. I passed a coffee shop with a business-man-type meeting going on and half the fancy men were wearing suits, the other half, Team Canada apparel. The entire city is buzzing with the Olympic spirit right now.

They were doing a live stream of the men’s luge training runs this morning online. In our room, we have about 30 different tv monitors with tons of different live feeds going on, everything from news broadcasts to live feeds from the broadcast room to different feeds from venues (so everyone can track and watch their own sport). The luge feed was on one of the big monitors that line one side of the room and then also on one of the smaller tvs over on a research table.

Their were about 6 researchers gathered around that one smaller tv and they all gasped while watching the fall of the Georgian luger. Word got around pretty quickly and everyone started checking the live feed we have in our computer systems (you can rewind, grab clips, etc in there) Within about 5 minutes, the entire room had seen the horrific crash of Nodar Kumaritashvi.

And this is a fairly jaded crowd; it's a group that has seen a lot of Olympics and in that time, a lot of crashes. But, right away, there was something about this one that was different. It wasn’t one that you watched over and over again, cringing. A lot of people watched it once and then backed away saying, “I can’t see that again.” Myself included.

The image of Nodar flying over the wall and slamming into the steel pole isn't an image that will go away for a long time.

I overheard some people say that they're going to show a clip on the news tonight and then we’ll have the whole crash online. ….sometimes it’s hard NOT to watch that kind of thing, but this is something that’s very hard to watch. I’m not looking forward to the endless replays I know it will have on the news.

I also learned that I’m totally not cut out for a breaking news type position. I have a hard time staying neutral and just focused on the task.

One of the other producers here was watching the main page for the updated headline to appear – changing what currently read “luger injured” to stating that he had, in fact, died. She turned and said, “this is really bad” and I nodded my head in agreement thinking she was talking about the accident. I quickly realized she was referring to the headline not updating.

That hit me really hard.

Because in one regard, she was right. It was really bad that the site wasn’t updating quickly enough. It’s a news site. It was a news item. It was important that the correct headline was there.

But oh my god – someone just died! An Olympian just died in a training run. I couldn’t move my head past that sad fact in order to think anything else was as important.

I was trying to write a "Five Fun Facts about Johnny Weir" and it just felt too surreal to be trying to work on anything frivolous.

I definitely am not cut out for breaking news. All I can think about is how this young man was gearing up for the experience of his lifetime – and this is how it ends.

The entire room (we share space with the research room and a bunch of others – it’s basically the hub of info in here) was subdued following the accident. (And very quiet during the press conference where Jacques Roggue appeared to almost start crying.) The hallways are filled with talk about the accident and everyone has a look of shock and sadness on their faces.

There’s an aspect of the Winter Olympics that is all about the crashes and the danger – and that’s part of the draw. But you certainly don’t expect a moment like this to occur. But when you live that close to the edge… There are several quotes flying around that were said by lugers before the games started. One person flat out said that someone was going to die on the course. It’s just … well, it’s chilling.

It’s a hard day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

News - Canadian style

Things I learned from the paper this morning:
  1. There is a new drink called Slow Cow -it's like if Red Bull suddenly went all zen and started to do yoga and buy organic berries. (it's a relaxation drink and the logo is a lumpy cow - which, awesome)
  2. Canadians are into perfecting the art of napping on a toilet
  3. A beach bum will be directing the Opening Ceremony
  4. Mandy Patinkin weighs 175 pounds.
That's it - I'm taking out a subscription to Globe and Mail when I get back to Milwaukee. This is the best paper ever!

Ahh, Lester.....

Ahh, life is complete. My first Lester Holt sighting. He was sporting his fancy nerd glasses, a navy blue puffy vest and an aura of charm, wit and cleverness. And, just like in Beijing, he was just hanging out in a research room at one of the computers doing his own research. No fancy office, no assistants, just Lester.

I think my new mission in Vancouver should be to just stop being a ninny-pants and go say hi.

This is the entrance to the IBC (International Broadcast Center)

I got home "early" from work tonight (if leaving work at 9:30pm is your definition of early. It sure ain't mine typically) and I was able to catch part of American Idol. At first I thought, oh great, I get to watch Idol! But then I thought, what the heck Canada, get your own idol! But then I realized I was actually watching a Seattle station.

I went to two different press conferences today - one for the Canadian men and pairs teams and one for the Japanese men. And today I discovered that my Canadian is much more fluent than my Japanese. Jess and I arrived late to the Japanese presser - at least 2 of the Japanese men speak English so I think we were both thinking part of the conference would be in a language we spoke. Nope! All Japanese. But lots of cute Japanese skater body language, THAT we speak.

I had to run back out to the entrance and grab translation headphones so we could understand what was happening. It's pretty cool, you put on these headphones and then translators, who are sitting in these phone booth type rooms off to the side, translate what they're saying for you. Very U.N.

Each time a reporter would ask a question in English, all three would valiantly try to understand and then sheepishly (adorably) grab the headphones for a translation.

Seriously, there is nothing cuter than the Japanese men's skating team. They are all about 4 feet tall, phenomenal jumpers and incredibly artistic. I would like my very own pocket-sized Nobunari Oda please. He skates to Charlie Chaplin in the free skate and it's one of my very favorite men's programs ever. He's just bubbling over with personality - even when he was sitting there in the presser, he just had this sparkle in his eye. I'd love to hear his brain for a day.

Canada's press conf was - ok, well, not exactly thrilling. Patrick Chan gave us a cute moment when asked about training in Colorado Springs by the Denver Press - he said he loves it "because it's blue skies and sunny. Toronto is grey and depressing." The entire room laughed and then the Canadian moderator/team leader quiped "That gasp you just heard was the Toronto Tourism Board."

One more day to the Opening Ceremony!

(a water fountain inside the Media Center)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Mao dog

Mao Asada, the former world champion from Japan, has not one food item named after her in Vancouver, but TWO! First, a sushi place named a roll after her (they make it in the shape of a heart, aww) But now – the holy grail of food items now bears her name.


Japadog, a popular hot dog vendor here in Vancouver, named a dog after Mao and I headed out to the cart yesterday to sample it and snap some pics for the website. Well – the darn dog is so popular, it was already sold out! The secret to the Mao dog is that it’s a kobe beef dog - topped with whatever you want apparently. Ok, well either that or maybe he said topped with jalepenos… my Japanese is rough and his English wasn’t much better. Someone is headed out today to sample both the sushi and the dog and write a review. We're going to try to get him to judge it skating style - marks for technical components, artistic impression. I said that if it ended up on the ground, that was an automatic 1 point deduction for falling.

Ok, but first of all, let’s come to terms with the fact that japan has their own styles of hot dogs. I saw some topped with seaweed! I tried to be cool about it but inside, my grossed out 5-year-old voice was saying “eeewwww!”

I guess it makes sense that hot dogs are big in japan since they have that Kobayashi guy who can eat like 4300 in 2 minutes or something and he has his own cartoon and probably a clothing line. I just never connected hot dogs and Japan.

Did you know that Red Bull built Shawn White his very own half pipe to train on? And they have to helicopter him in and out each day. I’m assuming because it’s inaccessible to car and he probably wouldn’t want to cross-country ski there – wouldn’t want to ruin his cool snowboarder cred. Can you imagine seeing a bunch of snowboarders cross country skiing in their baggy pants… hold on – that’s really not all that funny… has Olympic-induced insanity started to set in already?

I was updating bios yesterday night and as it got later and later, the first draft of the bio updates got meaner and meaner. I was just trying to add in some info about Vancouver and what’s expected from them here at the games. At first they were all happy and positive, “with a sold skate, he could definitely be a podium party crasher!” but as they progressed, they started to read more like “listen kid, don’t even bother showing up because you ain’t got no shot in hell, seriously. Are you really still here? Ok, and why are you wearing THAT?” Might need to look back over a few of those today…

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Vancouver - Day 1

Ahh, finally. Off to Vancouver day! I arrived at the airport nice and early after getting a ride form a friend. I walk up to the Delta counter and there’s no line – fantastic! Enter my confirmation number and wait a, what?? My confirmation number doesn’t work! Crap! Look at my ticket again and then try and creep away from Delta as quietly as possible…. Because I’m actually flying on United. D’oh!

Well, that’s a nice way to start a trip! I decided to take it as a learning lesson. Lesson of the day: Try and be less dumb.

I made it to Vancouver with no further incident (well, unless you count sprinting through the Denver airport as an “incident” – I just barely made my connecting flight but that’s ok. I’m totally counting it as a speedwork day in my training log - and yes, Dave, that DOES totally count!)

Patrick Chan was sitting a couple of rows in front of me on the plane. I just adore that guy – he’s a skater from Canada, fairly young still and talented beyond belief. He’s had some turbulence in his coaching life in the past month and he takes a really different approach to his training. Most skaters hunker down with their one coach and train with them for years, but Patrick kind of floats from coach to coach. I like to think he does it because he likes to take wisdom from different people and patch it together like a quilt for himself… but I kind of think right now he’s just restless. I’m crossing my fingers, toes and eyes for him in Vancouver. I just want him to have a beautiful skate.

Article on Patrick arriving

The Vancouver airport is gorgeous! After the extravagance of everything in Beijing, I really had no expectations for anything in Vancouver. It’s hard to top China and what they did for ’08. But wow – the airport kind of surprised me! Right off the plane, you walk through this aborigine display complete with water, music and dinosaur sounds (?) They also had this really cool waterfall thing right as you come off the escalators into customs.

So I landed in the Vancouver airport at 1:30. At 3, I was in the Olympic Super Store trying on Team Russia jackets. I chucked my bags in the hotel and ran down the street to the holy land of team Russia jackets. I ended up picking out this white and red tracksuit that all of the athletes will be wearing. I feel very fancy. And Russian. And suddenly I have a strange penchant for wearing fur coats?

But here’s the thing. The second I saw that giant display of Team Russia stuff, it totally lost its magic. I finally have to admit to myself that part of the fun of the Russia stuff was simply the HUNT. The fact that it was so dang hard to get a hold of that stuff is what made it so magical. And then to walk into a giant store and have someone just hand it to me… sigh. It just wasn’t right.

I ended up heading back there later that night after working and got a different jacket instead. One that I’ll actually wear – the white tracksuit is so fancy and gorgeous (and expensive!!) that it would probably just sit in my closet forever.

(I have this thing about buying white tops and then never wearing them because I think I’m going to get them dirty – you’d think I’d either a) stop buying the white tops or b) invest in one of those Tide stain sticks)

As I left the Olympic Super Store, I see Jamie Sale and David Pelletier clowning around in the store windows (the Canadian pair team involved in the ’02 pair scandal in Salt Lake.) Awww, they’re so adorable. Jamie was plastering herself against the window and David was standing still mixing himself in with the model dummies. The people watching were clapping and awww’ing – you can tell Jamie and David are two very treasured people in Canada.

I ended up heading into work yesterday around 4 and my very first order of business. Write down the directions to the starbucks.

The IBC (international broadcast center) is HUGE. It almost feels bigger than the one in Beijing and that one felt like 14 football fields. I must have walked around the IBC for a good 25 minutes before finally finding the NBC area. Which – takes up about a third of one of the floors so the fact that I couldn’t find it shows how big it is (or my terrible sense of direction, but let’s go with the “IBC is big!” theory.)

As I was driving in, I was commenting to our driver that in Beijing, you could tell that they had basically bulldozed half the city in order to re-build it for the games. But driving into Vancouver, you can tell right away that they built around what they already had in order to make room for the games. I like that. I feel like we’re seeing the real Vancouver which is a huge relief after Beijing which was just one giant show.

And the real Vancouver is gorgeous! Can’t wait to explore the city more. I went for a run before the sunrise this morning and I found a path that runs along the water. Tons of runners and bikers out – I have a feeling I’ll be hitting that path quite frequently in the next three weeks. As I was running back, the sun was starting to come up over the mountains and oh wow…. I love the mountains, I love the water, I love the Olympics. All three in one place? I had to stop for a minute and just take it in.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Operation 'Get Russian Jacket'

If you grew up in the 80's and loved skating and gymnastics then you might know what I'm talking about. If you rooted for Ecaterina Szabo instead of Mary Lou in '84, then you definitely know what I'm talking about. And if you're intensely familiar with the town of Olomouc, then this may make you drool a bit. Grab a washcloth, you've been warned.

It appears that by this time tomorrow night, I may be the proud owner of an authentic, true, swear to god, honest Team Russia jacket. My partner in crime, Jess, arrived today and I just got an email from her saying that SHE GOT THE TEAM RUSSIA JACKET!


Apparently, it's right down the street from the hotel. So tomorrow afternoon, I arrive to Vancouver around 2pm. By 3pm, I fully expect to be standing in front of a mirror, deciding which jacket I will be making my very, very special, most-treasured souvenir from the 2010 Olympics.

When I was young, I was completely obsessed with all things Soviet Union. I still have vivid memories of sitting on my mom's bed during the 1988 Olympics, watching Katia and Sergei win the Olympic gold medal in their baby blue costumes. I would sit for hours at the library reading the book on the Bolshoi Ballet school. And I would watch my gymnastics tapes over and over again, totally transfixed by all the athletes from the soviet union.

There was something mysterious and magical about all those girls. They were so calm, so confident, so... it wasn't arrogance, but there was a royal quality about them that made them appear so self-assured. I was fascinated.

I wanted to be them.

And I would guess that just about every girl who watched gymnastics and skating in the 80's felt the same way.

The absolute worst thing to happen to skating and gymnastics was the fall of communism. The level of excellence disappeared. The facilities disappeared and the talent pool just wasn't there anymore. But worse, the intrigue and mystery was gone. Sigh.... dam peace makers.

Ok, well, it wasn't all that bad. The former greats from the soviet union started defecting to America and Europe (right after their vodka haze cleared up and allowed them focus on packing.) And then the whole world benefited from the training. Tons of skaters including America's 2 top ice dance teams are trained by Russians. And America's last 2 olympic champions in gymnastics were both the product of russian coaching (and russian blood in Nastia Liukin's case)

So I guess there's just more Russia to go around now.

And darnit, I want a piece of it!


stay tuned.... tomorrow could be epic.

(btw - Olomouc is the town where the 1984 Friendship Games were held - the Soviet Bloc alternative to the Olympic games. True gymnastic fans know that the REAL olympic champion that summer was Olga Mostepanova.... ok, all right, enough gymnastics nerdiness... it's the winter olympics after all!)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

T-Minus how many days?

I head to Vancouver in two days. Well, one and a half days to be nerdy and precise. Although, when have I ever worried about being precise? Ok, we'll just go with two days. It is now Saturday afternoon and I'm leaving Monday. Or - is that technically mean I'm leaving in one day?

Math sucks. forget it.

I've been kind of (very) busy for the past month so I haven't had a chance to mentally prepare myself for Vancouver yet. But this morning, I was thinking about the ways that this Olympics is probably going to be different than the Beijing Olympics ... in no particular order. Except the one I put them in.

1. There will likely be less Chinese people.

2. Instead of unwinding with a TsingTao, it'll be a Labatt Blue. Or Molson. Whichever bottle has the funny little sayings on it. (oh Canada, one of the many, many ways you're just too adorable for words)

3. Instead of working on a sport that features glitter, scandal and slippery surfaces, I'll be working on a sport that .... oh wait....

4. My mom will be there! (staying with her sister Julie in a hotel downtown for a week. Also joining the fun, cousin Lynda and mom's friend Laura - oh lordy... that is a group of VERY loud laughers. Hope they don't offend any demure Brits or cranky Russians)

5. I WILL get a Team Russia jacket this time. No more of this "nyet nyet" crap when I flash my visa and say "I want to buy you!" (referring to their overcoat, of course. Best not to joke about buying russians, since, well, people do that)

6. It'll be way colder. Which is good since they do that whole skiing thing.

7. Less communism.

8. (which, unfortunately, will lead to a less spectacular opening ceremony. There's just no way anyone will be able to compete with China and what they did for years. I'm hoping for some humor, ingenuity and elements of surprise)

9. I'll be trying to get runs in while I'm there. I was a lazy sack of potatoes in China and that
suited me just fine. But now I have a marathon looming in May and I'll need to keep training if I want to make it across the finish line. I'm guessing that most of my Vancouver exploring will be done via running shoes and that's just fine with me. It's a beautiful way to see the world. Or Vancouver. .. or at least the ten square miles around our hotel.

10. ???? Who knows?!?! And I love that I have no idea. I had zero idea around what to expect in Beijing and it was fantastic because every day was something new and random. Now I know the drill and what to expect (loooooong hours) but I'm keeping my expectations at bay. I'm just going to enjoy the ride, enjoy the skating and enjoy the Olympic spirit. .... and buying all the Olympic crap.

Game(s) On!