The Soap Boxers was able to send beat reporter Joe Neumann to Vancouver to cover the Olympics. Well, either that, or we found out that Joe was headed to Vancouver and asked if we could hitch our wagon to his trip.  We are happy to announce that Joe will be sending us several installments of his Olympic journal to share with our readers.

Joe is an engineer in his mid 20s who works at a remote mine in Northwest Alaska and spends time off in Denver, CO. He was born and raised in Denver, migrated to Rolla, Missouri for four years of school and spent time in rural Arkansas and Salt Lake City doing summer work. He enjoys skiing, golfing, bowling, and traveling/road trips. You can follow Joe on Twitter.

Without further ado, I turn to floor over to Joe.


Vancouver Olympics – Day 0
Today I spent preparing for my trip to see the 21st Winter Olympiad. This is my first trip to Canada, and my first time out of the country since before 2001. I fly quite frequently (about every other week), so I am curious to see how much longer the process will be going out and coming back into our country. This is also my first Olympic Games, and although I’ve been to some other big sporting events (MLB All-Star Game, World Series, College World Series), I am very excited to be in that new atmosphere.

Preparation for these games has been a lot harder than I expected. For one, all tickets are attached to a name and require photo ID for pick-up, and their email claims holders are subject to a photo ID check at the games. I guess this is to restrict scalping, but it makes it tough for travelers like me. They don’t assign seats until pick-up, and although I’m in the “A” group seating for both my events and the medal ceremony, I am a little worried they will not be as close as we would like.

Finding a place to stay was a chore in itself. When I first decided I wanted to go, I read lots of advice on the Olympic websites, and it all said the toughest thing to get was tickets to events, so make sure to get those first. Then get lodging, airfare, and other accommodations. I followed their advice and bought tickets as soon as possible in Feb 2009.

Then I started looking for lodging, and found most places wouldn’t take reservations until 9 months before the games (June 2009). The reason is because they allow the IOC and officials to make reservations in the time leading up to June. Of course, when I called in June, everything was completely booked in Vancouver. Whistler was a different story. Not only were there lots of rooms available, they weren’t that expensive. So I went another route and found a condo in Richmond, close to the Vancouver airport, that was being rented by the owner for the entire games. At a reasonable $550 a night (!), I decide it would be best to limit the time we are in Vancouver.

I found a place in Whistler for about $300 a night during the games and $250 after that. Considering I love to ski and have never skied outside my home state of Colorado, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I decided to stay an extra 3 nights and do some skiing. And I should mention that this isn’t just any lodge in the vicinity, it is a 4 star ski-in/ski-out resort at the bottom of the Alpine course (Creekside). That just shows you how expensive things are in Vancouver.

Some might be thinking, why would you chose to go to these games? Well, I sort of have a business connection. I work for Teck Resources, which some of you might recognize because we are the company that is supplying the metals for all the medals in these games and the Paralympics. Not only are we providing the medals, but we held the contest for the design, so you can blame us for the big metal potato chips. We have also been under some scrutiny because it is the first time a portion of the medals has come from recycled scrap metals, specifically those from electronics. While I am proud of that fact, some “traditionalists” think they should be specially mined from ore deposits just for Olympic medals.

Our company has done a great job of using their status as “Official Supplier” to generate lots of interest in its workforce. We first learned of the agreement in 2007, and immediately Teck announced that we would be able to nominate co-workers in different areas of excellence to win trips to both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Vancouver Games. In addition, they’ve held raffle-style contests to win trips to both games, and even be a torch bearer.

The mine I work at in Alaska produces mostly zinc, about 20% lead, and less than 1% silver. A portion of that silver went into the gold (because gold metals are 98% silver with a pure gold coating) and silver medals. We produce way more than is needed for the medals, so it was no big deal for us. I should say, we don’t have any operating tin mines, so that metal was purchased on the open market and blended with copper from another one of our mines to make the bronze. Overall, I am very proud to be associated with these games, and be an employee of Teck.

So as I write this, my father and I are about 14 hours from landing in Vancouver. I will have another entry about my first impression of the city, how busy it is, how easy to find food, and how entertaining a medal ceremony really is tomorrow. Have a good evening, and go USA!