The 2010 Vancouver Winter
My Dad taught me that it's always important to have goals in life, and one of my lifelong
goals has been to attend an Olympics. Being a sports fan -- no, make that
fanatic -- I've loved the
Olympics ever since I was a little kid, especially the Winter Olympics with
its cozier and more intimate atmosphere.
I've lived close to
several Olympic Games but had never been to one. In 1980, I was living in
southern California but was in college at the time and, being dirt poor, I couldn't afford to see
the summer Olympics in Los Angeles. I was living in Portland in 1988 but
didn't attend the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary because I was, once again, dirt
poor (is there a theme here?) In 2002 when the Olympics were in Salt Lake
City, I actually could afford it, after having worked in an office for 10
years, but -- wouldn't you know -- I was traveling around Australia, so I didn't
attend those Olympics, either. However, watching the games in Australia instead
of in the U.S. was a real treat and I laughed every night along with every other
Aussie as the Australian TV commentators poked fun at America, as I described in a
2002 update from Australia.
When the 2010
Winter Games opened in Vancouver, British Columbia, I figured I better attend,
because I'd probably never have a better opportunity to see an Olympics.
Vancouver is a six hour drive from Portland and only an hour from my sister's
house in Bellingham, Washington, so I was determined to see the games. And
so that's what I did.
As I started
planning my trip to Vancouver, I quickly realized that tickets to the events
were not only hard to come by, but they were really, really expensive, too. It wasn't a problem if you were
Canadian, because the Olympic Committee had allocated a large chunk of cheap tickets
for Canucks. But if you weren't from Canada -- and most Americans aren't
-- you were just about out of luck because virtually all the tickets to the
events had already been snatched up. However, the Olympics had set up an
online "ticket exchange" as they called it, which was basically a legitimized
scalper's website where anyone with a ticket could try to sell it for any price.
I looked at my work schedule and realized that the last Friday of the games was
the best time to go, so I looked at
the events on Friday and bought three tickets: to the women's bronze-medal
curling match, the team pursuit speed-skating quarterfinals, and the medals
ceremony for that day, which is held each night at the enclosed BC Place
stadium. The tickets weren't cheap -- I paid about $400 for my speed-skating
ticket, yikes! -- but I figured this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
A friend of mine
from work, Martin, wanted to come along, which was great. Martin is Dutch and
has always wanted to see a speed-skating race in person, because it's the
national sport in Holland, which is also known as the Netherlands, which is also
known as that place where Dutch people live. He didn't buy any tickets in
advance, though, figuring he'd try his luck once he got to Vancouver. He
decided if he couldn't score a ticket, that would be fine and he'd just walk
around Vancouver soaking up the Olympics atmosphere.
Martin and I left
Portland on Thursday morning and drove up Interstate 5, reaching my sister's
house in Bellingham late that night after a great Thai dinner. I slept in
the house but Martin had to sleep in my sister's garage
that night for reasons I won't go into, but let's just say that by morning he
was intimately familiar with my van. We left Bellingham Friday morning at 6 a.m.
and reached Vancouver around 7:30, then I dropped Martin off at the Richmond
skating oval because he wanted to see if he could snag a ticket to
speed-skating, and I headed up into Vancouver. I wouldn't see him until late
that night when we reconnected before driving back to Bellingham.
My first event was
the women's bronze medal curling match. When I bought my ticket online through
the scalper's website a few days earlier, I had no idea who'd be playing in this
match, but as events played out, it was Switzerland against China. I also had no
idea how long the lines would be, either, so here's a tip: if you go to an
Olympics, be prepared to wait in line for a long time just to get into the venues.
There are metal detectors at every venue and it's much like going through
security at an airport but with drizzle. Lots of drizzle. I didn't realize that and was 30
minutes late getting into the curling match and by then, the Chinese had taken a
big lead. But heck, I didn't care about the lines or anything else
because, after waiting a lifetime, I was actually at an Olympics!
Curling is an
interesting sport and, next to hockey, it's the most popular sport in Canada --
though in the U.S., it's virtually unknown. Basically, curling is like
shuffleboard-on-ice and I tried it myself a few years ago when I lived in
Seattle at the only curling rink on the west coast of America. Canadians aren't
as disadvantaged, though, because there's a curling rink in virtually every town
and village in Canada. And from what the Canadian fans at the match
told me, the curling rink is often the main meeting place for the whole town.
My Dutch friend, Martin, cradling his beloved Dutch beer,
Heineken in Bellingham.
Above center: The first event I attended
at the Olympics was the
bronze medal match for women's curling. This is Friday morning at 8:30
a.m., waiting to enter the curling rink. There were lines for everything
at the Olympics, but everyone was in a good mood and it wasn't a problem.
The Chinese (in red) took an early lead against the Swiss, then
the Swiss rallied. I can still hear the Swiss fans chanting, "Hoppe, Schweiz!" which
means something like, "Let's go, Switzerland." Being of
Swiss ancestry, of course, I rooted for my countrywomen.
That's me on international TV, entering the curling rink. I'm
wearing a white pullover and am under the green Olympics banner. Hey, I'm a star!
Above center: Carmen
Schaeffer, a Swiss curler. I learned how to curl a few years ago when I
lived in Seattle. Unfortunately, though, I never met any curlers who looked
quite like Carmen.
After a couple hours, the Swiss conceded, leaving the
Chinese with their first-ever curling medal. The Chinese athletes were very
gracious and appreciative.
Speeding Over to Speed-Skating
The curling match
lasted about two hours and the stands were raucous and lively, even though most
folks there weren't either Chinese or Swiss but rather Canadian. The Swiss
tied the game about halfway through, but then the Chinese staged a big rally and
the Swiss conceded, which is another strange thing about curling, that you can
actually concede a match. No wonder this game doesn't go over well in the uber-competitive
United States where the only thing I concede is my receding hairline.
After curling, I
waited in line to take transit, known as the SkyTrain, over to the Richmond Park
skating oval, where I waited in another line to watch the pursuit speed skating
quarterfinals. But like all the lines, everyone was in a good mood here and I
struck up a friendly conversation with some nice folks from Australia. We had a
lot to talk about, of course, since I'd spent a few months in Australia about 10
years ago -- during the Winter Olympics, as you know -- a fact that's documented
all too well elsewhere on my website.
I finally got into
the skating oval, bought a hot dog and some popcorn, and found my seat -- again,
about 30 minutes after the event started. In pursuit speed-skating, which is a
relatively new event at the Olympics, two teams of skaters chase each other
around the rink and the team with the slowest speed, determined by the slowest
skater, loses. It's pretty exciting and I really enjoyed it, and so did the
throngs of other fans there, almost all of whom were, once again, Canadian and
decked out in red -- except for two goofy Dutch guys a few rows down who were
wearing big, fluffy orange wigs. And speaking of goofy Dutch guys, Martin had
scored a ticket (and about $300 cheaper than mine, go figure) and was enjoying
the event, as well. Actually he's not goofy but as we realized later, he was
sitting only a few rows from me, though we didn't see each other.
After curling it was on to speed skating. The rink was
several miles away, so I took the SkyTrain.
Above center: Many of
the Olympic competition venues were scattered around town, but the SkyTrain was a great way to get around.
I finally reached the Richmond speedskating oval -- where
I waited in another line. The lines were mostly due to security because
every spectator had to go through a metal detector to enter the venue.
Above left: But I
finally got in, and only 30 minutes after it started. This was the
quarterfinal round of the pursuit speedskating event where teams of three skaters chase each other around the
rink. The team's time is based on that of its slowest skater.
The Russian women's team warming up.
There was a break after an hour. Time for the
another screenshot of an international television broadcast. That's me in
white in the lower right corner, adjusting my camera. Between this and the
curling broadcast earlier, I'm sure the millions of people watching around the
world were getting tired
of seeing me.
The American women's team beat the Dutch and advanced
to the semifinals the next day. Like the pink skates?
Later that afternoon, I took the SkyTrain again, this time
into downtown Vancouver.
You Gotta Be Here
speed-skating, I had about three hours before the medals ceremony at BC Place
so I took SkyTrain into downtown Vancouver and walked around in the friendly
drizzle, soaking in all the street activities. It was really lively out on the
streets, most of which were blocked off to cars, and everyone was having a great
time. I watched the Canadian women play in the gold medal curling match on
TV at an outdoor kiosk along with several hundred Canadians. I actually found myself cheering with them, "Can -
a - da, Can - a - da," which was strange for an American, I suppose. But alas, they
heartbreaking defeat, I walked over to BC Place stadium where -- you guessed
it -- I stood in another line, although this one went pretty fast. Then I found my
seat and watched the medals ceremony for the next hour. After that, a band came
out and played for several hours, but by now it was about 9 p.m. and I
had to meet Martin and get back to Bellingham. Martin slept in my sister's
garage again that night, and again for reasons I can't divulge, then the next day we
returned to Portland, tired but happy.
It was a great
trip and I'm glad I finally experienced an Olympics first-hand.
I hope I'll be able to attend another Winter Olympics but if not, I'll forever
savor the memories of Vancouver 2010. And I'm sure Martin will, too --
for that part about the garage.
The streets in Vancouver were jammed with tourists.
Many folks came to Vancouver just to hang out on the streets, without having
tickets to any Olympic events.
Above center: You gotta
be here! The weather was drippy but not too cold, and everyone seemed to
have a good time and was in good spirits.
Although the Olympics are, of course, an international
event, about 90% of the folks I saw on the streets and in the venues were
I met was very kind, as Canadians
are, so I called these the "Polite Olympics."
I spent an hour in the drizzle at this kiosk watching the
televised gold medal woman's curling match, Canada vs. Sweden. There were
several hundred Canadians here cheering on their team, as did I. Team
Canada had a big lead but lost the match right at the end.
Above center: After
that, I hustled over to BC Place, the large enclosed stadium where they held the
opening and closing ceremonies. Each evening, they held the medal awards
ceremony here with lots of national anthems played.
And each night after the awards ceremony, a
different band took the stage and played for a couple hours. There were
several thousand people in BC Place and it was a giant party. What a great
Olympics -- if only for one day!
March 9, 2012: Room at the Inn
January 7, 2010: Belize
Trip #4 (Building an Orphanage for Jaime and Nancy)
July 29, 2009: A
Wedding in Tucson
and a Road Trip to Montana
April 18, 2009:
Belize Trip #3 (Building a School with NYU)
January 24, 2009:
Abu Dhabi and a Road Trip in Oman
January 5, 2009:
Belize Trip #2 (Two Schools and an Orphanage)
6, 2008: Around the World in Eight Days (Part 2: Abu
Dhabi to Portland)
6, 2008: Around the World in Eight Days (Part 1:
Portland to Abu Dhabi)
February 20, 2008:
The San Antonio School (San Ignacio, Belize)
February 17, 2008:
The Succotz Library (San Ignacio, Belize)
February 16, 2008: Old Friends / Belize it or Not (San Ignacio, Belize)
May 28, 2007: Oregon
Bound (Portland, Oregon)
August 7, 2005: Back To
Work (Redmond, Washington)
June 25, 2004: Life
in Bellingham (Bellingham, Washington)
December 7, 2003: The Greatest Generation (Bellingham, Washington)
March 28, 2003: My Father (Bellingham, Washington)
October 30, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
July 24, 2002 (Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia)
July 12, 2002 (Lake City, Colorado)
July 4, 2002: Life as a Ranger, Part 2 (Lake City, Colorado)
July 4, 2002: Life as a Ranger, Part 1 (Lake City, Colorado)
July 1, 2002 (Looking Glass Rock, Utah)
June 25, 2002
(Lassen Volcanic National Park, California)
June 18, 2002: Part 2 (Port Orford, Oregon)
June 18, 2002: Part 1 (Port Orford, Oregon)
May 22, 2002 (Bellingham, Washington)
April 7, 2002 (Sydney, Australia)
April 4, 2002 (Coffs Harbour, Australia)
April 1, 2002 (Hervey Bay, Australia)
March 28, 2002 (Airlie Beach, Australia)
March 25, 2002 (Port Douglas, Australia)
March 16, 2002 (Winton, Australia)
March 13, 2002 (Alice Springs, Australia)
March 11, 2002 (Ayers Rock, Australia)
March 8, 2002 (Coober Pedy, Australia)
March 5, 2002 (Port Augusta, Australia)
March 1, 2002: Part 2 (Robe, Australia)
March 1, 2002: Part 1 (Robe, Australia)
February 18, 2002 (Bega, Australia)
February 7, 2002 (Auckland, New Zealand)
February 2, 2002: Part 2 (Taupo, New Zealand)
February 2, 2002: Part 1 (Taupo, New Zealand)
January 25, 2002 (Hokitika, New Zealand)
January 20, 2002 (Geraldine, New Zealand)
January 16, 2002 (Te Anau, New Zealand)
January 12, 2002: Part 2 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
January 12, 2002: Part 1 (Dunedin, New Zealand)
January 1, 2002: Part 2 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
January 1, 2002: Part 1 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
December 24, 2001 (Wellington, New Zealand)
December 20, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
December 16, 2001 (Auckland, New Zealand)
December 14, 2001 (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)
December 10, 2001 (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)
December 3, 2001: Part 2 (Bellingham, Washington)
December 3, 2001: Part 1 (Bellingham, Washington)
October 18, 2001: Part 3 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
October 18, 2001: Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
October 18, 2001: Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
October 6, 2001 (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)
September 30, 2001: Part 2 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 30, 2001: Part 1 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
September 15, 2001 (Bismarck, North Dakota)
August 30, 2001 (Webster, South Dakota)
August 18, 2001 (Watertown, South Dakota)
August 17, 2001 (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)
August 14, 2001 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)
August 8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)
August 8, 2001 (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)
August 6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
July 23, 2001 (Middleton, Massachusetts)
July 22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
July 20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
July 18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
July 16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
July 14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
July 9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
July 8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
July 5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
June 30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
June 29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
June 27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
June 24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
June 20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
June 18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
June 15, 2001: Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
June 15, 2001: Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
June 14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
June 11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
June 2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
May 19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
April 30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
April 19, 2001 (Bellingham,
April 5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)