Closing Ceremonies!

So going to the closing ceremonies was not on the original plan, but when the opportunity for tickets at face value came up (still enough $$) how could I resist!  It had been a great time in Vancouver at the Games and this seemed like the only way to cap it off properly.  It would be a once in a lifetime experience and who better to go with than my good buddy Duncan who was coming to Vancouver for the weekend to check out a snowboard event.  I bought the tickets Friday afternoon as Mom and I were on the way back from Whistler.  As Duncan was not aware of the tickets I promptly called him just as he had landed to say, “Sunday we’re going to the closing ceremonies!!”

The Sunday afternoon first began with Canada winning gold in men’s hockey (and Paul trying beer)!  I then took the sky train with a lot of rowdy people into the city where the party was just getting started.  The scene outside BC Place was crazy with flags, screaming and hockey games starting in the street.

It was time to leave the streets for a bit and enter the stadium.  Our seats were quite high, but they allowed for a full view of the show.  On each seat was a case that contained coloured placard cards, moose antlers, a flashing light as well as a flashing globe.  These were for crowd participation during the ceremony. When motioned by one of the volunteers we would have to hold up cards, put on antlers etc.  Mostly everyone got into this and taking part was pretty cool!

Making light (no pun intended) of the one arm of the cauldron not raising in the opening ceremonies and having to raise it manually was a good little laugh and very Canadian!  The athletes then entered and their smiles and flags emitted such good energy and an overall feeling of pride!  I was happy we were there.

I was impressed with the graphics and reflective imaging that was done during the show, as well as the ‘I am Canadian’ speeches and Russia’s presentation.

Now prior to the musical acts they started bringing out large inflatable moose, mounties, beavers etc; I thought this was a bit of a lark and lasted too long.  Interesting concept but for international viewers I’m not sure if they got it, instead it probably just reiterated that the stereotypes of our country are true.  Then the musical selections are another story and won’t get into a rant here, lets simply say that they could have been much better and representative of the talent Canada has.

All said this was an excellent way to round off a great trip!

Bobsleigh!!

The day of the 4 person bobsleigh qualifying runs (#1 and #2) started very overcast and with light rain in North Vancouver.  This was an unfortunate change to the fantastic spring conditions we had been experiencing; yet Mom and I were not discouraged and headed for the bus to Whistler in hopes that the rain would be snow in the mountains!

Once we got up to the village, the rain had stopped and it was simply overcast, a positive sign!  We stopped at a little cafe for a hot drink and AMAZING cinnamon buns (umm I wish the internet could share taste and smell) before taking the gondola up to the Sliding Centre.

The conditions were wet up there, so the warming tents were a nice plus to get a bit of warmth and the cold out of our bones.  For this event we had bleacher seats at the final turns.  The weather it seemed had deterred a number of people, but the show went on and those that were there cheered the athletes on.  Including a Swiss (I believe) man whom came up into the bleachers with a huge instrument case, I thought maybe he was playing a show later in town and didn’t feel comfortable letting it out of his sight.  Not the case though, inside was a huge horn like used in the alps (think Ricola commercial).  I was stoked by this, but became disappointed as he began to put it together and was told for whatever reason he was not allowed to play it from there and forced to go now to the general viewing area.  As the afternoon progressed a cross of rain/snow began coming down, huge flakes fell that turned to water once landing.  Much more fitting for a winter event!

Wow were these guys and ladies moving fast and it was unbelievable how many sleds we saw crashing coming off turn 16 and 17 and finishing the course with their heads smacking against the ice.  I think it may  now be clear to me why these athletes continue to do the crazy sport they do, you smack your head enough times at those high speeds and you’re sure to loose some brain cells and venture back to the top for more!

All and all a great day!

Speed Skating (Feb 27) – GOLD!

Let me start off by saying WOW!

I went to this event with Chris and it was so awesome to experience it with him. We had fantastic seats once again, mere feet from the track. This venue, the Richmond Olympic Oval, is truly a beautiful structure!

This day was the Finals for the Team Pursuit in both Men’s and Women’s. First off were the ladies.  Unfortunately, the Canadians weren’t in contention for a medal, but raced their hearts out to place 5th out of 8 teams. The Germans won gold over the Japanese by 2/100ths of a second!

The Canadian men had the crowd on their feet this day! The men were favoured to win this event, and that’s just what they did! As the men got ready and began to warmup for the race of their lives, the energy from the spectators grew, you could feel it. As they took to the starting line for the final race of the day against the Americans to determine who would emerge victorious, the crowd went crazy. From start to finish, chants of “Canada!” and “Let’s Go Canada!” could be heard to give our boys the strength and energy to bring home the gold!

To see our flag raised above the rest, with O’ Canada playing, brought this great feeling of national pride over me (along with chills, and I’ll admit it, a tear or two). At this exact moment, I think I found the feeling I’d been searching for for the entire Games, that feeling that words won’t do justice too, a feeling where inside you’re so overwhelmed with pride and happiness that you feel you’ll explode. I found it. What I didn’t know was that I’d have the same feeling the very next day.

Aerials @ Cypress

Thursday, Feb 25th was the start of an event packed weekend.  Thursday Dad and I went to Cypress to see the men’s aerials.  Are those guys ever amazing, off the jumps, 50 feet in the air doing 4 backflips with twists etc!  There were 12 competitors who each did 2 jumps.  One of the Canadians was 1st after the first run, but unfortunately his last run did not cut it and he finished 5th.

Ice Hockey – CAN-USA (Feb 21)

Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect and come down off the natural high I experienced on Sunday, I can fill you in on the magic. As soon as my dad and I were dropped off about a block away from Canada Hockey Place, you could instantly feel the energy. There were Canada jerseys in every direction you looked. It was a beautiful day in downtown Vancouver with the sun shining and not a cloud in sight. Walking to the venue, there were chants of “CAN-A-DA” and people spontaneously singing O’ Canada. The feeling that I had is nearly impossible to explain.

Once inside, we made our way to our seats. Our seats were in the USA zone for the 1st and 3rd periods, in the first row of the upper level. We watched the Canadians and Americans warm up. The energy only began to build at this point.

The time we had been so eagerly awaiting had finally arrived! As the Canadians came out of the tunnel and stepped on the ice, the sea of red and white erupted. Wow!

Unfortunately, the Americans scored in the first minute and from then on, the Canadians never got the lead. For me and my dad it was about the experience more than anything (not to say a win wouldn’t have been appreciated). For the entire duration of the game the crowd was electric and it just intensified. The Canadians did end up losing 5-3, but it was a hell of a game that I’ll never forget. It was such a pleasure to be able to experience this event with my dad.

After the crowds cleared a bit, we made our way to the SkyTrain to get back to Coquitlam.

What a day!

Speed Skating (Feb 20)

My dad and I experienced the Men’s 1500m Speed Skating event on Saturday at the Richmond Oval. What a beautiful venue! For such a large and cavernous building, there is remarkably no echo. The roof is made from the wood salvaged from the Pine Beetle infestation.

Unfortunately, we didn’t witness a Canadian win a medal. Nonetheless, Speed Skating is quite interesting and VERY fast. During the ice resurfacing a traditional Dutch band played, called Kleintje Pils.

There were 19 races with the Netherlands capturing the gold. Even though Canada didn’t win a medal, whenever they raced the crowd went nuts.

Skeleton GOLD!

So after a bit of disappointment with not being able to go to Cypress Thursday for halfpipe we were in Whistler Friday for the skeleton medal races!  Unfortunately as a result of all this WICKED spring weather we have been having the standing room at Cypress for 8 of the events has become unsafe and tickets were canceled.

Friday started with a 2 hour bus ride from Vancouver to Whistler with blue sky and sunshine.  We then had a short time to wander around the village, where people were sitting out on patios enjoying lunch and the day.  It was from there onto a gondola and up the mountain to the sliding centre.  After a security check, where i neglected to remove all metal objects and was subjected to a full pat down which held us up slightly, Mom and I trekked to the top of the track and from there saw the final run of the woman’s skeleton.  From the grandstands up there we were able to see the sliders push off and watch the rest of the run on a big screen.  The vibe at the top was loud and great!!

We stayed up at the top for the men’s 3rd runs which ended with our Canadian, Montgomery, sitting in second!  We then  made our way down the mountain to find some food before parking ourselves at the last turn, number 16, for the final runs!

The men were quick and hugged tight to the walls, which seems to be at 90 degrees, doing 145km/hr!  The 3rd last slider from Latvia posted a very good time and moved into first.  Montgomery then went, beginning the run behind but picking up speed on the way, at the last time check he was only 7/100ths of a second behind.  The crowd cheered in anticipation and then erupted when hearing that he had taken the lead by 8/100ths of a second!  This left the final slider, from Latvia as well, whom had a good run but not enough to take the top spot.  At this point everything went crazy and what a moment it was to be part of!  Nothing like we have ever felt before!

That energy was then carried into the village where we watched the Fire and Ice show in the square, which had a DJ spinning, dancers with fire sticks and skiers and boarders doing jumps through rings of fire.  Pretty good way to end the night.

My 1st Event – Short Track

I just got home from the Pacific Coliseum from watching Short Track Speed Skating with my dad, our first event at the Olympics. I think only one word can explain what I just experienced: AWESOME! The crowd was alive and energetic the entire time. I truly felt a sense of passion and patriotism. Whenever a Canadian was announced and raced, the crowd was deafening. We were fortunate enough to witness a Canadian, Marianne St-Gelais, win a Silver medal this evening in the Ladies’ 500m. I can’t wait for more!

Torch Relay

The Olympic torch was lit in Athens, Greece on October 22 and made its way into Toronto on December 17th! The final destination in the city was at Nathan Phillips Square and I was fortunate enough to be there for it! I arrived just before 6pm where there was live music, skating on the rink, vendors, free activities for the children and of course the large Christmas tree and lights that go with the season. The ceremony was officially opened by an Aboriginal Blessing at about 6:30, then followed by First Nations hoop dancers and other acts which were a good way to defer our attention from how cold it was and that warm feet were going to be so nice once it was through.

Despite a couple of protests along the route, which resulted in a slight detour, the flame was still able to make the scheduled stop at Sick Kids hospital where there were 80 children eagerly awaiting it! It was about 8pm when Vicky Sunohara, former two-time gold medalist for Canada’s women’s Olympic hockey team, and the brigade carried the flame into a crowd of excited Canadians, like myself, who cheered as loud as we could. What a feeling as people clapped and banged the free tambourines that had been handed out! After she lit the cauldron (that will remain lit until after the Games), my highlight of the evening was the singing of O’ Canada! A chill and smile were had by all at the same time, as a few thousand people joined in the anthem, what a great feeling! The unity and peace that the Games stand for was evident that evening and I was proud to be a part of it!