Joe’s Olympic Adventure: Day 2

February 27, 2010

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Joe continues to bring us coverage from Vancouver.

Today was Canada’s day.  I went deeper into the sea of red found out how much these people truly love their country.

I was able to sleep in a little today, not having any events in the morning.  Since we are close to the Richmond Oval, we walked down a block to check it out.  We were surprised to find a chrome statue of Stalin’s head nearby.  The building was beautiful, having wood joists and paneling with traditional glass, steel, and siding.  From there it was a long walk to the train station to make it down to town.  We decided to get off at the Olympic Village and snap a few photos of where the athletes live.  It wasn’t much, just a few apartment buildings with flags hanging out the windows based on which country was staying there.  We then walked over one of the main bridges to the city center.

The package of tickets I bought included a hospitality center pass, so we spent the afternoon watching the USA vs. Finland hockey game while getting tipsy and fed for free.  The Sheraton hosted it, and there were spectacular dishes.  King crab legs, leg of lamb, sea bass kabobs, crème brule, and so much more.

After the good guys shellacked the Fins, we decided to get out before the Canadian curling and hockey crowd showed up.  From there we walked to the Olympic Cauldron to take some pictures.  We bought some pins along the way from a few of the many vendors on the street.  As the day went on, the crowds increased, it seemed, exponentially.  We quickly got on the train to the east part of the city where the Pacific Coliseum was hosting the short track speed skating finals.  We got there early and had no real problem getting in.

Once inside, I realized how small it was.  It probably held 9,000 guests when bulging, and it was not this evening.  Despite it being a final and lots of the home country skating, there were a few open seats.  It was a disappointing night for the USA, as Apolo was DQed in the 500m and had to come from behind to get the bronze in the 5000m relay.  Katherine Reutter did well in winning the silver in the 1000m and was ecstatic with her result.

The building was quite electric though, probably one of the most energetic crowds I have ever been a part of.  The Canadians took the gold and bronze in 500m and the gold in 5000m, sending the crowd into a frenzy.  It was very interesting watching the event in person, because you got to see a lot of things you don’t on TV.

There was a camera man in the middle of the ice for all the regular races, but not the relay.  The judges in suits wear track skates as well.  The gun they use is actually a red toy gun with a cord connected to it, like something you’d plug into your Wii.  The track is always the same length, but they can move the cones toward or away from the center based on how the judges think the ice condition is.  There are cone attendants, much like ball boys in tennis, who set each cone when knocked off or when the judges say.  They also go out with a bucket of water and pour it on liberally along the inside of the two corners.  There is often standing water along the cones during the race.

So much stuff you don’t pick up on when watching on TV.  Also, all during the event there is an announcer for not only the event you’re watching, but keeps you informed of other events going on, even putting it live on the jumbotron during breaks.  Very cool, considering the Canada vs. Slovakia game was on.

Leaving the venue we ran into our first travel delay.  Getting back to the train meant getting on a shuttle bus, and the line was about 20 min long.  We opted to take a regular bus route back to downtown.  I should mention that during the games, any event ticket holder can use any form of public transportation for free.  It took quite a while to get back, and when we got there, we found the place to be flooded with leaf-wearing loonies.

The hockey game had ended about 30 minutes before we got there, and people were already literally drunk with happiness that they’d be playing the USA on Sunday for a gold medal.  We got lots of dirty looks and “Go Canada!” chants in our face due to our American hockey jerseys and hats.  We decided to let them have it, since we are currently owning their podiums.  We ventured over to a Thai restaurant, and were promptly seated.  However, the service was incredibly slow due to just 2 or 3 servers.  We ended up spending over an hour there for just dinner.  We hurried over to the rail station, only to find another 20 minute line waiting to board.  We were able to return home, a little soaked by the day’s constant drizzle.

I picked up some interesting tidbits today.  Sochi, the next Winter Games host city, has their own building (“house”) and you can go inside and watch events and meet athletes.  It looks like Epcot Center from the outside.  They are expecting over 150,000 people to be downtown during the USA-Canada game on Sunday, not including the crowd attending.  This is a VERY conservative estimate.  There are over 39,000 people booked on flights leaving on Monday, and they expect the departure process to take about 4 hours for most people.  I also learned that Canada fans are very annoying when it comes to hockey.  However, unlike most fans, they are very emphatic only about their country, and still wish the best to whomever they’re playing next.

A truly spectacular day was had, and tomorrow I will be making the trip to Whistler to take on the Bobsleigh final.  Until then, Go USA!

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