Sunday, May 2, 2010

Olympic Fever for Vancouver 2010

Finally, I will get my Olympic post's only taken me about 2 and a half months!   In fairness to me, I did have an awful lot of photos to sort through, and this post has taken almost all day to get up.

We arrived in Vancouver about 2 weeks before the Olympics, but the Olympic excitment was already at 10 out of 10.  Giant Canadian flags were popping up all over the place...

All the businesses were getting into it too, from the official suppliers of sleep... the unofficial supplier of yetis?


The outside of the HBC stores were decorated with athletes, and was the location of the Olympic superstore, which was a great place to go for all the Olympic merchandise, and also to test your patience of being crowded, pushed and shoved by people who want red mittens.
These guys were popping up everywhere.  This display was in the main train/seabus station in town.  Apparently Quatchi's (and Miga's) choice of mobile phone brand is Samsung.

In the last few days before the Olympics actually started, we were lucky enough to have the torch relay come past Peter's front gate where we were staying.

Even better, there was a changeover right there!

Everyone was getting into the spirit...including the dogs.  We saw a husky that had been painted red and white with the maple leaf as well. 

We chose a bar in North Vancouver to watch the opening ceremony in.  It turned out to be an excellent choice, as balcony looked right out over the Burrard Inlet to where Wayne Gretsky lit the official Olympic Cauldron, and these specatular fireworks went off.

And there is the cauldron just after it was lit. 

On the first day of the Olympics we headed over to Granville Island.  Ashley McIsaac, the punk fiddler who had played in the opening ceremony was doing a free concert at the "Atlantic House", a place supposed to celebrate the Atlantic provinces of Canada.  All the other provinces had one of these houses, as well as quite a few other international places.  So off we all went on the saturday morning.  We enjoyed a wander about Granville Island for a bit, but the weather was pretty bad, so we went off to have lunch.  After lunch, we thought we had better check out the line, and when we found it was quite long already, and that people were waiting 4+ hrs to get in, we joined it.  That was at 2pm.  Three hours later we got inside, with the assurance that we would be able to order food at 7 pm.  7 pm rolls around and then we were told we can't order till 8.  8 rolls around (and by this point we were getting mighty hungry) and the waiter is nowhere to be seen.  When we finally track him down, he told us we can't order food because there is an electrical problem.  Ok...fine, that might have been believable had food not still been coming from the kitchen, just to the other side of the restaurant.  We tried everything to get some food, but we told we couldn't leave without rejoining the line, and we weren't able to order anything in, so it was most frustrating later on when someone walked through the crowd with three takeaway pizza boxes to the VIP room.  So, by the time Ashley McIsaac came on, none of us were much in the mood, so we listened to half a set, and left to get food. 

So unfortunately it wasn't the best start to the Olympics.
One of the more fun (even if it was intended for the kids), was the mascots on ice show, which was on every day, about 5 times a day.  It was very cute, and the big mascots skating around was very neat.  It told the story of how all the mascots became friend.  It was sadly lacking Muk-muk, but overall it was really good. That whole area was great, lots of music and street performers, a free zipline (if you wanted to wait in line for a LONG time) and big tv screens where you could watch the events, and a big light show every night.

Here is one of the stars of the show, Quatchi the Sasquatch.  He wanted to be a hockey goalie.
One of the other business that had a lot to do with the Olympics was Birks.  Birks made all of the souvenir jewellery and the small souvenir torches, but they also got to have a commemorative bobsled from Omega (the group responsible for all the timing software and mechanics).  So of course when we walked past and got asked if we'd like to see a bobsled, were we going to say no?
Another night, we walked up to one of the bridges on False Creek to watch the fire works that were set off from the Yaletown celebration site.  Unfortunately we weren't able to see them that night, as they were called off because of an accident at the site.
Another morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed very early to go and see Stephen Colbert tape. What a morning that turned out to be...even before we got there.  I managed to slip in the shower, landing on the edge of the bathtub and giving my back a good wrench...cue Craig bursting into the bathroom in a panic.  So I scraped myself off the floor, and we still managed to go, though walking was not so fun.  When we got to the filming site, we found that our plan of getting there early backfired a little because everyone else got there earlier.  But we found ourselves a spot where we could see, and where it wasn't a bog.  But it was worth the cold and muddy wait because we did eventually get to see him, and his guest Michael Buble. 

Unfortunately we couldn't hear them all that well, but if you watched the olympic coverage, we would have been there...perhaps about a pixel size!

One day we ended up back at the Mascots on Ice show (not deliberately, we were tired, there was somewhere to sit down, so it seemed like a good idea).  We got better seats this time so we got a few more photos.
This is Sumi, the forest spirit.  She had quite a bit to do with the Paralympic Games.
One good thing about the Olympic games was that there was an abundance of mounties around, so of course everyone's favourite patriotic little dinosaur had to get in on the act.
It was such a lovely day that we joined a big group of Peter's friends and went off to the beach, and went to see the big inukshuk on False Creek.  The inukshuk had of course joined the legions of Canadian statues to be given red mittens, but I think they looked a bit too much like fire gloves.

Just one example of the average line-up to get into some of the celebration sites.   This one was "short", estimated on average at about 3 hours.
Sadly, I had a couple of days where I missed out on going out.  I got sick in the middle of the Olympics, and spent 3 days lying on the couch coughing up my lungs.  When I eventually got out again, the first thing we did was head out to the celebration site at Surrey.

The reason we wanted to go out to Surrey was the the RCMP Musical Ride was performing in a giant tent. 
Here is the entire ride.  They are all real police, and most of them joined the force without riding experience. The horses are bred specially, and when they hit a certain age, they are taken off to train people new to the ride.  The horses were so beautiful, though some of them looked a bit like they'd had enough.  I guess it was getting close to the end of the Olymics.

Overall it was really impressive, and I look forward to being able to see the ride in a larger arena.

On the last thursday before the end of the Olympics, Craig, Peter's friend Kim and I decided to join the mother of all line ups to see the Olympic medals.  We got there before it opened, and the lineup was already as long as the block.  The mint was supposed to open at 9, and we were in the line at 8:30.  We got into the building between 1 and 2 pm...and we got into the medals around 3.

We were quite excited when we got to the point we we could actually see the front door of the mint. 

Even more exciting!  About 30 mins before we went in, a lady came round with a "received" stamp (like the one you put on mail) to show that we had indeed been waiting in line for a long time.  You couldn't get into the building without that stamp.

Eventually we got upstairs and were getting closer to the medals.  Only ten people at a time were allowed into the room, so this bit got quite tedious.  I was also losing my voice at this point. 

This was the other ticket to getting into to seeing the medals.  No glove no...medals.  And even then, you weren't getting into the medal without showing that you had a glove and stamp.  Then we were given the rules, which included no licking or biting the medals, no victory signs, so number 1 signs, and no pointing at the medal.  And if you did any of those things you would be escorted out by the armed security.  So we were all very well behaved.
A Paralympic silver medal
A Paralympic gold medal
A bronze Paralympic medal
Olympic Silver
Olympic gold
And Olympic bronze
Me holding a paralympic gold medal.  They were very very heavy, and it was a little nerve wracking holding it.  Was so worried I'd drop it!
And here's me with the Olympic gold.
Medal Ingredients!
This was the design that all the Olympic medals' images were taken from
And this one was for the paralympic medals.  All the medal winners were given a silk scarf of the design, so they could try and match up where the picture on their medals came from.
In the mint, they also had a real gold ingot that you could lift.  It was actually pretty heavy!
This is a million dollar coin...though we weren't allowed to try and lift that one.
One of the cute mascto ads on a bus stop.
The end of a very long day...the last thing we did on the day of the mammoth lineup was go to see the Olympic Cauldron.  At first you couldn't get up close to it at all, but then they put up a new fence so people could get closer and take clear photos.

Our big Olympic finale was attending the Olympic event that I had booked tickets for last September.  It was the final night of the short track speed skating. 

The night started with synchronised zamboni-ing...
The Olympic inukshuk.  The best thing about the venue was that even though we were sitting really far away from the ice (so far in fact that you couldn't even see the tier that we were sitting in existed on tv), we had a great view of the whole rink.
Here's the venue before it started filling up.  The skaters on the ice were just warming up.
The men's relay team from Germany.
The lone Australian competitor
Warming up with one of the Candians
Miga welcoming everyone

All the world flag around the roof
The on-ice cameraman.  This is a job I wouldn't be so sure about doing, given the speed of those skaters, and how often they wiped out on the ice.  Also, we all thought he looked kind of funny.

Suits on skates!  These guys are the starter and the guy who watches for false starts (which there were a lot of)

Starting one of the men's 1500 races...I think it's probably a semi final.
 Quatchi telling us to be quiet.  You had to be quiet for all the race starts because the skaters needed to be able to hear their instructions.  There were quite a few false starts because of yelling people disrupting things.
The start of one of the womens 1000m races.  A semi final too I think. 
More of the womens 1000m

This one was the end of the mens 1500 m final.  It was a most dramatic finish, with Canada winning gold and bronze, and the Korean guy sliding across the line on his tummy for silver, after being thumped by the American, who was of course disqualified.
The gold medal kiss! She also won medals for Canada in the long track speed skating.
The neat thing about being at the event in person was that you get to see everything that goes on between races when the commentators are usually babbling.  Was much more interesting!
Some of the fan groups
This is during the mens relay final.  If there was ever a race that matchs the indoor cycling events at the Summer olympics for insanity, and not having a clue what's going on till the end, this would be it.  Being able to see the whole rink meant we could watch all the skaters, rather than just the ones that were on their turn.  It was very exciting, but just a bit confusing!
One of the confusing bits, "the push", where you'd get at least 8 skaters on the ice at once.

Canada leading the way!
Wow...was an amazing race, and an amazing atmosphere. 
More gold medal kisses
A little bit of cross border friendliness.
Something I'll give the Koreans for this olympics.  Two things actually, they ruled at the speed skating, and whenever they won anything, whatever colour it was, they were just so happy!  It was really nice to see such gracious sportsmanship.

Two VERY ecstatic Canadians!

Muk muk asking for applause...applause?  I don't think so...I lost my voice again that night.

The big moment is coming, and the mounties are bringing out the flags.
Gold and Bronze for Canada!

Gold to China, Silver to USA, Bronze to Italy
Boy this girl was fast, she got two records that night.

And lastly, GOLD TO CANADA!!!!!!!  This was the only event that Canada got two golds in one night, and I'm so glad we were there to see it.

The flags going up for to relay.  It's nice how into the anthem Canadians are, especially in comparison to Australians.
The relay boys with their golds

Craig and Peter outside the Pacific Coliseum!  What a night!

Of course, that wasn't the end of the Olympics.  There was still the mighty hockey clash to go, and that was one of the most stressful sports games I have ever watched (even including the 2003 Rugby final), but Canada won out, and it was a great way to end the Olympics.    And the Olympics were a great start to Canada too!