Joe’s Olympic Adventure: Day 1

February 26, 2010

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Guest reporter Joe Neumann continues his adventures in Vancouver.

Vancouver Olympics – Day 1:
Wow, what a day.  I woke up in the Mile High City with the weather on the verge of snow, and ended the day in comfortable Vancouver after a very full day.  Upon arriving, I could tell this city was ready for a big party.  The airport had lots and lots of room for arrivals and customs checks.  Getting into the country was fairly simple.  I just filled out a declaration in Seattle before boarding our plane, and gave it to the agent at customs before getting my bag.  They had about 30 agents ready for us, and maybe 5 had visitors at them.  No wait at all.  The airport had been recently renovated, and was very ample for all arriving and departing passengers today.  I’d imagine it will be a zoo on Saturday and Sunday, though.

We checked into our rented apartment, and it is much better than anticipated.  Very close to the light rail, restaurants, the Richmond Oval, and the airport.  Very secure building and accessible owner.  We walked to the market and grabbed a Cranberry Turkey sandwich, which was pretty good and only C$4.  We got situated and headed downtown to pick up our tickets.  I was worried it would be very tough to find the ticket will call, and in fact it was pretty easy with knowing the vicinity of where it was supposed to be.  There were visitor booths all along the light rail and downtown area to help.  In addition, lots of tents and vendors were along all streets downtown, and two main streets were closed off, which made it easy to walk around.

Another thing I was initially concerned with was the security and general hospitality of the people in the city.  They were more than warming, welcoming “With Glowing Hearts” everywhere we went.  They were willing to help point us in the right direction, make small talk, and make us feel welcome.  Cops and security were plentiful on each street and venue, even in restaurants and shops.

After picking up our tickets, we checked out the city center around Robson street, which is fanfare central.  Not only were there lots of street performers and booths, but the city had entertainment venues set up around town.  They had hourly free shows at two stages, a zipline across the city center, and TV monitors all over the place showing live events.  Every spectator with a maple leaf on their shirt or sweater had their eyes glued to them during the Canada-USA Womens’ Hockey Final.

We migrated to the BC Place for our “Victory Ceremony” after wandering the city four a couple hours.  We were told to get there early, as it would take a while to get in.  There were over 20 security tents to handle the burden.  They did a full screen on each visitor just as if boarding a flight.  It didn’t take long since we were almost an hour early, and were able to make it to our seats about 30 minutes ahead of time.  Man, what a building!  This is the same venue where the opening ceremonies took place, and they only used 1/3 of it for the ceremony.

They had videos playing while people found their seats, then two emcees played trivia with the crowd.  They had a few live bands from Manitoba (it was Manitoba Celebration Night) perform before the official festivities.  Then the real production started.  There was a simulcast with the Victory Ceremony in Whistler.  They showed a presentation at Whistler, followed by one at our venue in Vancouver.  It was very exciting to have the American National Anthem played first, as we had a gold and silver medalist in Nordic Combined.  The final presentation was for Womens’ Two-man Bobsleigh, and of course the building went crazy because Canada won gold and silver in that event.

After all medals were presented, a total of 5 presentations, they had a full-fledged concert by yet another musician from Manitoba, former member of the Guess Who, Burton Cummings.  It was just like a regular rock concert, with fancy lasers and light choreography.  He played some good songs, but most were unheard of by my father and I.  We left a little early, and grabbed dinner at a local sports bar.  The food was more than decent for the price, around C$12-30 for most dishes.  Beer on tap was cold and local.  It was a nice refresher.

The day wasn’t without some interesting tidbits though.  I sort of got the vibe before arriving, but at the moment, Canada doesn’t like hearing USA cheers.  We are slaughtering them in the medal count after they spent lots of money on a program called “Own the Podium.”  Walking by some people, you could hear “so glad we kept Americans off the podium in Womens Figure Skating” and people chanting “USA sucks” during the Womens’ Hockey Final.  Talking with a local, he said it is interesting that Canadians often complained that USA was loud and boisterous in winning, and now Canada is doing it since the games are on their turf.  He went on to mention that it seems forced and they aren’t very good at the role.

We also searched all over for USA Olympic Gear, and the only thing we found was Ralph Lauren Polo gear at a department store that was way over priced.  We also waited 30 minutes to get in the store because it is the official Olympic store.  If you were a Canadian at these games, you would have plenty of cool designs to chose from to represent your country.  If not, you better hope you brought something from home.

My first impression of the city and games was very, very good.  This town seems incredibly prepared, and there weren’t any hang ups getting from airport to event, or anything imbetween.  I am so ready for bed now.  I can’t wait to enjoy our hospitality center pass tomorrow and see Apolo Ohno’s performance in Short Track!

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