Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Olympics: Day 1.2

February 12, 2010. I was the very first person into my gate at BC Place for the Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics! How cool is that!? The volunteers weren't even ready for me!

I walked in and immediately saw the stage.

And then the rings... Several storeys high!

I'd heard so many things about how rundown the stadium was becoming, but the whole place was beautiful!

Everyone had a really awesome program, and a drum filled with things to use throughout the ceremony. So fucking cool! I'll keep it FOREVER!

They kept testing various lights in the stadium, as people slowly filtered in. I imagine it took a long time to process the thousands of people through security. Of course, I got there early so who cares about the slow people? :P

Somehow, the 4 hour wait between entry and start time flew by! I chatted with the people around me. They were all great except for the bitch sitting beside me. She showed up about 5 minutes before it started, and complained about EVERYTHING. 65,999 other people in the stands loved it. She bitched about everything, including having to wear a poncho after spending 800 bucks for the ticket. Has she never seen an Olympic ceremony before? She was also mad that our 4th level seats were so high up. In reality, we were sitting directly above the dignitaries swanky box... Jaques Rogge, Michaelle Jean... right below us with the best seats in the place. It was amazing. We could see EVERYTHING.

I nice lady volunteer was totally patient while I helped her work my camera so we could get this great shot. Thank you, volunteer!

Seriously, look how much bigger the rings are than the people!

Every section had an audience participation leader to show us what to do throughout the ceremony. They were fun.

With an hour to go, Tamara Taggart and Ben Mulroney came out to host the pre-show entertainment, and go over what to do participation-wise, explaining when to flash your lights based on what colour you had, etc. etc.

The Canadian Tenors sang a couple times too.

Finally, at 6pm PST, a snowboarder came down through the rings, and the Olympics had begun! The RCMP brought in the Canadian flag, and Nikki Yanofsky of CTV theme song fame sang the national anthem.

The four host nations welcomed the spectators and athletes with their cool totem poles that rose from the floor.

The Lil'Wat Nation was closest to me.

Then, nations from all across Canada came out to join the celebration. They probably danced for an hour!

The parade of nations began! Big cheers for Greece!

Lengthy, deafening applause for the Georgian team. It was the most emotional part of the whole ceremony.

Finally, Canada arrived in full force, and to equally deafening applause. Mad screaming. Friggin' incredible!

Clara Hughes, one of my favourite Olympians, carried the flag. Love love love! Also in this picture (more visible in the version I have that was not shrunken down to blogger-accepted size) is that funny speed skating coach with the beard. He's kinda hot.

Who is holding that flag? Oh no one... just silver and bronze medallist Kristina Groves!

And who do we have here? Why, its gold medallist skeleton-er Jon Montgomery holding a camcorder!

Nelly Furtado and Bryan adams sang a tribute to the athletes, which allowed us a great opportunity to use the drums we were given (the song may or may not have been titled Bang The Drum). The show was officially underway!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Olympics: Day 1.1

February 12, 2010. I woke up and discovered that I had roommates in my hostel. [It was basically an apartment... you went in and there was a shared bathroom and kitchen, then I had a room with a powerful lock, and they had a room with an equally powerful lock. They looked like a crackhead couple. They also looked a bit dead. We all said "hey", and that was the last I ever saw of them. I was Canada-clad, they were gothed out. I'm sure we would have been fast friends.

I headed downtown, well-crafted itinerary in hand, and arrived at the Four Host Nations Pavilion, only to discover that it wasn't opening on time.

I did get to look around outside, and saw this cool totem pole, which I had previously seen the making-of video for!

There was also this woman practising whatever instrument this is. She was hilarious, so I stayed a little while and listened to her beautiful music / hilariousness.

Also, there were flowers EVERYWHERE. February my ass!

Next on my itinerary was the also closed-rather-than-open-as-promised Alberta House. A sign on the door said it would be opening a whole day late. Come on! They built all these beautiful buildings and they're open for as little time as possible!?

I crossed the street and discovered that the Bell Ice Cube actually WAS open as promised! I went inside, where Sidney Crosby's torch was in the main entrance.

They gave everyone a pair of Bell earbuds, which could be plugged into a variety of cords, screens, etc. to enjoy live footage of the final day of the torch realy, news, and various interactive things produced by Bell.

I only spent about 5 minutes in line, and about 10 minutes inside. I had allowed 90 minutes per pavilion, in case wait times were bad as predicted (they were later in the games, but not that day). Obviously I had lots of time to kill, so I took a walk to an area way on the other side of BC Place where a bunch of other pavilions were. I hadn't planned to go there because they were out of the way, but I had tons of time! On my walk, I passed a group of volunteers who totally clapped for me after I took this picture. The volunteers were everywhere, and they were wonderful!

I walked through this little neighbourhood, which borders the Downtown Eastside. Vancouver is even pretty right next to extreme poverty!

I arrived along False Creek, and got a shot of Science World, which was playing host to Russia House. Sadly, they had very limited hours, so I was unable to go check out their promotion of the Sochi Olympics.

But I got to look across the water to the beautiful Athletes Village.

There were flags!

The Salt Building is a salvaged old building used as the athletes' living room. Cool! And check out how awesome my zoom is!

Canada house!

There were hundreds of little inukshuks all along the shore.

Rumour has it that one guy comes every day and makes some, but I imagine lots of people do it.

I saw Molson Hockey House, which was too pricey for little old me.

I also saw Maison du Quebec, which you could go into, but it wasn't really anything. At night, it would be filled with food and drink and live music, but not when I was there at 11am.

Next up was Saskatchewan, which I was one of the very first visitors to! Unfortunately, its enticing dome was just about the most exciting part. I got a free broken pen, and a pin with the new logo for the city of Regina. That was about it. It was mainly a business showcase.

I then checked out what Ontario had to offer. A very cool building, with cords on the outside that moved in the wind, looking a bit like Niagara Falls. The first part was a small theatre, where a 4D movie made me completely homesick for about 5 minutes, even though I'd been away about 30 hours hah. The theatre sprayed us with mist and snow and bubbles, it even stabbed us in the back. It was fantastic.

I strolled back to my original location, where I grabbed lunch at a very delicious BBQ joint called DIX. It was there I found out about the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashivili [whose name I can spell without even looking it up! :O]. Very sad.

After lunch, and a couple rye and cokes, I still had time to kill, but nothing to do. I decided to see what was going on at BC Place. And that's how I ended up as one of the very first people inside for the coolest event I've ever attended.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Olympics: Day 0

February 11, 2010. After working until late the night before, then barely sleeping due to packing challenges and general excitement, Darryl and I were off to the airport at 5am or something. We got there by 6, grabbed some Tim Hortons, hung out, then I headed through security, which was successful. I went through 6 security scans in 5 days. Woo!

I was a little nervous about takeoff because I`d only ever flown once before, and that was within the province (just to Thunder Bay) in 2002. So It had been a while!

But then I saw this big awesome country, and things like this (I assume) Saskatchewan town. Wonderful!

I was seated beside some lame old couple who were doing work on a laptop. Much like I`m doing right now, since Blogger was being stupid on my PC. I strongly dislike laptops. I used my time taking pictures of the landscape. I love geography!

The weather was great, except for all of BC which was just grey outside the windows, which was slightly scarier. Sadly, I didn't get my expected view of the beautiful city. I saw grey, then I saw the runway. Later, I saw this very large Canadian flag on a building! But the first thing I did in Vancouver was rush to one of the ten Olympic stores in the airport and drop a ton of money on even more souvenirs. Awesome.

After checking into the hostel (which was nice), I headed to Robson Square, which was starting to become the jam-packed zone of awesomeness that it would be throughout the Olympics.

Wandering around downtown, I saw the largest-ever Canadian flag, on the Hotel Georgia.

I also found The Bay, which contained the gigantic Olympic Superstore. I only had to spend about 15 minutes in line before getting in, which was pretty good. Some people waited hours.

Their window displays were sexy!

Granville Street was closed off in order to accomodate many art displays, and to allow for throngs of people to cram downtown.

My favourite thing on the street was a lantern forest (this is only part of it) which comprised 2010 lanterns made by children. Who doesn`t love specific numbers of things made by children!?

Later, I was back to Robson Square, since quite frankly its the best place to be in order to find your location and get to somewhere else. The skating rink was pretty. Oddly, I NEVER saw anyone skating on it all weekend. Very weird.

Ooo, Vancouver!

On the other side of the square, I finally found the countdown clock. (At this point, I was still adhering to my strict itinerary, before it turned out that I over estimated how long things would take, and I actually had MORE TIME than I expected!). I got there about 20 minutes early, so me and a group of people just hung out waiting in the rain. Which bothered no one. At any point. Like it didn`t even exist.

It gave me 20 minutes to fiddle with my camera settings, and try to get the best lighting. Sadly, everyone kept moving around, umbrellas kept getting in the way, so my picture of the big moment was just a zoom of the clock itself:

Still, it was incredibly exciting for about 100 soaked people to glimpse that very second when the Olympics were just one day away. After the cheering died down, I turned to the guy beside me, who I hadn't said a word to, and said "Well that was fun" and he replied "no kidding... have a fantastic Olympics" and then we parted ways. That`s how it was. Everyone talked to everyone. Sometimes a few words, sometimes a question, sometimes a long chat. It was the most interesting thing I've ever experienced... Strangers being nice to each other, and interacting in a way I've never seen before. The people made it awesome.

After the clock hit 1 Day, I headed toward David Lam Park, expecting to get in and experience a torch relay celebration similar to the massive one on Parliament Hill back in December. But when I got there, the park was already at capacity, and Pacific Boulevard was jammed with people. Easily 100,000 were there. Again, the atmosphere was amazing. It was the 105th night, and the final celebration along the torch relay.

After finding a good spot on slightly higher ground, I watched the torch enter the city of Vancouver! They did a nice slow entrance, and eventually it went into the fenced-off park. So we crammed up against the fence, and actually watched the celebration through the fabric that was wrapped on the fence. And it was still awesome. There are few times in my life I`ll ever be happy to watch something through a fabric-wrapped fence.

After the celebration ended and the crowds dispursed, I walked up the Granville St Bridge to get a good view of the downtown buildings.

I was also there for the view of Vectorial Elevation over English Bay.

And it was only about to get better.