Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Update: Whistler Village

I'm not sure how to begin today's update. A lot's happened, that's for sure.

The day started off great. Even the sun was out as I made my way to Brackendale to catch the shuttle to Whistler. The Sea to Sky Highway drives me to distraction every time I'm on it, so my book-club book remains un-touched.

Our first stop was the athletes' village. They were getting ready to head into Vancouver for the opening ceremonies so there were lots of people around, and I think I even spotted some athletes, judging by their national kits. About this time I had another wave of "holy shit I'm at the Olympics." So thankful to experience all this -- and it's barely even started!

Next stop was the Whistler Transportation Mall where I got out. I headed over to the accreditation centre and got official. Uniform, ID, the whole bit. Of course, the jackets in size small were scarce and I was forced to take a coat that's too big for me, but we small people are used to this by now I suppose. On the plus side, I'll be able to layer up underneath.

I met Nancy in the village and she showed me her extensive pin collection, of which I was very jealous. After a quick hello we both had to go our separate ways.

I headed to the sliding centre for training, and my supervisor had to break the news about Nodar Kumaritashvili. The track was shut down, and the volunteers sent home. In our mess hall, blue coats gathered in tears around the first media coverage. My heart goes out to his family and friends, coaches, teammates -- everyone who supports an Olympic dream like Nodar's.

As I type this on my blackberry, our bus has stopped at the athletes village. Can't imagine what the mood is like here, especially for the Georgian team (who I thought handled the Opening Ceremony with a ton of class). I hope all the athletes take John Furlong's remarks tonight to heart. I for one really respected what he had to say. Hopefully you watched, but to paraphrase, he spoke of the strength of the Olympic community and his faith that everyone involved here will rally even in the face of this tragedy.

With training postponed, I headed back down to the village, and straight to the Olympic store for retail therapy. I now have a pin collection, too.

Nancy was kind enough to lend me her hotel room, so after playing tourist in the village, I cooled my heels there until the opening ceremony began. It's been great hearing from everyone via text, phone, email, facebook. Especially today because it really made it feel like no matter where we were in this huge country, we were together.

The mood in the village was much improved and the big screens were set up in the Skier's Plaza and Whistler Square. The streets were full of patriotic people from Canada, and all around the world.

The best part? We had our own athletes' parade with members of the Canadian Team who couldn't make it to Vancouver. We cheered them on as they marched guided by mounties to the head of the crowd. Some spoke of what this night meant to them, they threw us pins, and then we all sang the most BEAUTIFUL (albeit out of tune) version of Oh Canada ever, led by the Whistler Childrens Choir. It was a pretty emotional night.

Again, I am so thankful to be there, right in it, soaking up this experience.

The rest of the opening ceremony was as awesome as it was Wednesday (aren't you glad I didn't tell you?). Guess they should have practiced the cauldron bit though. I like to think that the missing piece became a little symbolic. A tribute, "to the missing member."

And speaking of Tributes, how awesome was it that Brian Williams shouted out to Port Elgin?! At the mention of my home town, a reflexive "WOOOOT" escaped my lips. The best part? About 20 other woots erupted from the huge crowd crammed into the square -- who are you?? Amazingly, two were right beside me! I was JUST telling someone about how no matter where I go, I can find someone home. Turns out my neighbours were from Goderich. Go figure.

So, back to the hotel room to pick up all my bits and pieces and now bussing back to Squamish so I can get to bed (after posting this of course!) and do it all again tomorrow!

Thanks for following!

RIP Nodar Kumaritashvili

Photos from today (click to enlarge):

Bobsleigh Boxes at the Sliding Centre

Olympic Rings, Village Stroll

Amazing night in the village

How I was almost on CBC ...

Big crowd to cheer on our team!

Clowning around in the village