Tag Archives: 2010

Afterthoughts: Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games

My Olympic Fever has faded, and my Paralympic Hangover has passed. The city has more or less returned to normal. No more concerts or crowded streets. No more flag waving and fireworks. No more singing “Oh Canada, we stand in line for thee!” All in all, it was an amazing thing, being in an Olympic city.

I got more information about the protests and riots from Twitter than from CTV News. Yes, there was a mild riot in which some masked hoodlums busted display windows at the Hudson Bay store downtown. This act of vandalism did nothing to further the concerns or causes of those who protested peacefully. With the amount of money thrown at prettying up the city, trucking in snow, and installing temporary attractions (among other things), somebody is going to have to pay in the end. And it will likely fall on current taxpayers and their offspring to share the load. All that money could have been spent on social programs, schools, hospitals, any number of long term beneficial things. Oh, and they’ve raised bus ticket prices again to boot. Thanks so much, not really.

A number of restaurants around the city had a spike in prosperity, partly due to the practice of adding a 20% Olympic surcharge to each bill (see article at Spiffle). That was pretty sneaky . . . but people complained, especially the locals. During the Olympics, we went to Society in Yaletown with some friends, and yes there was a 20% addition to the bill. When we went to Earls downtown during the Paralympics, we asked our waitress before ordering if the surcharge was still being applied. She said they stopped doing it after getting backlash from unhappy customers (not surprising). We did have a fantastic lunch at Earls, by the way: Orchid martini and grilled chicken sandwich with melted brie, roasted apples, and fig jam. And dessert was ridiculous! Rich chocolate cake with caramel sauce and ice cream. If you’re going to go out for food, go all the way out.

The Paralympics were like Olmpics Lite. Fewer events, less uproar, shorter lines (the Zipline wait was only two hours instead of 7), and significantly cheaper tickets. We actually managed to snag seats for the USA vs Japan sledge hockey prelim and the wheelchair curling semifinals (US v Korea and Canada v Sweden).

The sledge hockey match was a lot of fun to watch, and very fast and physical. Athletes sit in a sort of single-track sled and use a short hockey stick in each hand  like ski poles to push off down the ice. Their arm and upper body strength must be amazing. It was fun being a fan in the stands that day. The US trounced Japan in the prelim (6-0), but the Japanese team fought their way back through the final games to meet the Americans again in the Gold Medal match (US won 2-0). Norway defeated the Canadian sledge hockey team in the Bronze Medal game (2-1).

Read more about Paralympic Ice Sledge Hockey.

Wheelchair curling was quite different than regular curling, as there are no sweepers. The Paralympic teams are co-ed, and the play was a bit like shuffleboard. It was my first opportunity to see a live curling match, and it wasn’t boring in the least. I suppose people are expected to be quiet during a match, but there were some great fans in the Korean corner, complete with a drum and a catchy cheer. I was really surprised to see both matches end in forfeit (which I don’t quite understand), but it was fun to sing Oh Canada with the crowd. The Canadian team went on to win Gold. Korea took Silver, and the Bronze medal went to Sweden.

Read more about Paralympic Wheelchair Curling.

It will take a while to see how hosting the Olympic Games will affect Metro Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia in the long term. It was all very exciting and dynamic from my perspective. I met some amazing random people and had a few rare experiences, and I’m glad for it. It’s time to retire my red-striped Olympic socks and put Quatchi on the shelf until the next Canucks game (which is tonight, by the way. Quatchi loves hockey!). Now I suppose I should get back to writing about food and go buy some peeps for Easter. Smeeps ahoy!

Olympic Speed Skating: Men’s 500m

This is the Richmond Olympic Oval. During the 2010 Winter Games, 12 medal events will take place on the 400-metre speed skating track in front of up to 8,000 fans from around the globe. I watched the Men’s 500m on CTV yesterday, and the races were fantastic! Man, are they ever fast!

Flickr Creative Commons photo by adriana8_8

Mika Poutala of Finland burned up the ice in the first race (I like how he uses a down start). He had the fastest time of the night at 34.863, but after his second race he landed in 5th overall. Korea and Japan dominated, and for a moment it looked like Japan would be taking the top two spots on the podium. Keiichiro Nagashima had the fastest time in the second race at 34.876, but a medal in this event comes down to the combined times, and the Gold went to Tae-Bum Mo of South Korea. Nagashima took Silver, and the Bronze went to his teammate Joji Kato.

Visit the Vancouver 2010 Speed Skating website!

Side Note: Japan’s speed skaters wear superhero-style uniforms that make them look like golden Transformers. Awesome design.

Flikr Creative Commons
adrian8_8

The Olympic Flame: Bring it on!

On October 22nd, months before the Olympic games begin, a group of eleven women representing Vestal virgins (Vesta is the goddess of the hearthfire) gathered at the Temple of Hera to kindle the Olympic flame from the rays of the sun. This flame has been transported across the globe to Vancouver, carried by Canadian hands all across the country. The journey by air, land, and water has taken 106 days.

My beloved blurry photo of the flame being passed in Kits.

Last night, I caught my first glimpse of the flame reflected in the window of a local pub, and instantly began jumping up and down yelling, “I see it! I see it! There it is!” At the street corner, two torchbearers met, the flame was passed, and off it ran up the hill, right by me. It took just a moment, then that moment was gone, but the feelings I had stayed with me. It’s the first time I’ve really been excited about something in a long time . . . I don’t mean like “Oh goody, it’s payday!” excitement or “Hey look! Free cupcakes!” excitement. I mean little kid seeing Santa with a bag of goodies excitement. It was cool. And someone did give me a free Coke Zero and a hot cross bun.

This morning, the Governator of California himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, helped kick off the final leg of the torch relay in Stanley Park. The fathers of Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky are also taking part in today’s final run, but the last torchbearer is still a secret. I’ll be watching CTV tonight to find out who it is.

There are demonstrations and protests taking place, and the torch is headed for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where street life is a harsh reality, half-buried under the glitz ofthe Games. Protesters have said they want to prevent people from going into BC Place for the opening ceremonies, but I really hope that doesn’t happen. As much as they have the right to be heard, so does everyone else have the right to enjoy this moment unhindered.

I have been ambivalent about it all up to now—strong feelings either way. It’s a huge hassle and money could have been better spent elsewhere, I’m certain. But the fact remains, the Olympics are right here, right now. And the world really is watching.

It means something. All of this means something. Despite all the crankiness about “inconvenience” and all the protests and politics about where Olympic money could have been better spent, all of this MEANS something. People are smiling. People are cheering. People are feeling good things inside. For the athletes who have trained so hard, for the people who have come to sing and dance and welcome the global community to this beautiful place, for the imports like myself who have come to love a new country, this really is a big deal. The Olympic Dream is real. Tonight, the final cauldron will be lit and that ancient fire will burn in the heart of this city. I’m ready. Let the games begin.