Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 Vancouver Olympic Games

Last week was busy: Chris was in Orange County for work and I flew down a day later to have my final visit with my orthodontist (more on that later) and visit some old work buddies. 

The two things I miss about California: winter weather and friends. Mostly friends, really. But occasionally the weather too, when I look outside every morning and am confronted with yet another wet, dark Seattle winter day.

We flew home Saturday night, said a quick hello to Bailey and the Padres, and headed for bed. We woke up at the crack of dawn on Sunday, jumped into the car, and headed north. While on the road I practiced ending all my sentences with 'eh'.  Just like Leanne, a fellow BLM intern in college, did, those many years ago. Well, not that many years ago. More like seven. It seems like forever, eh?  See, I totally rock the 'eh's. Did I mention that she was Canadian? Duh, of course she was. 

Anyway, we made it through the border after a lengthy grilling [evidently we look like gun smugglers], and ended up in Richmond, near Vancouver, at the tail end of the new light rail system. 

We had been planning on sleeping in the car but decided to pop into a few hotels to see if there was any availability. Surprisingly, three out of the five hotels had rooms. We picked the cheapest: Best Western, $200. Not bad, considering our timing [read: last minute, during the freakin' Olympics]. 

We parked the car, hoped on the light rail, and zipped into Vancouver. 

Olympics, HERE WE COME!

Well, we would have, had there been any tickets priced under $350. Tickets for two to see pairs ice dancing? $700? Eh, thanks but no thanks. 

Instead, we wandered around, saw the olympic torch (major disappointment), observed the zip liner folks (4 hour wait, no joke), and decided not to wait in line to enter LiveCity (only a 1 hour wait). We wandered. 

If you're sensing a little frustration here....why, yes, it was a wee bit trying. The online ticket system is hopelessly complicated, over-priced, and frankly, out of tickets. Tickets were made available at the box office on a seemingly random basis, and you didn't know what was available until you had finally snaked your way to the head of the line, an hour long wait. 
The most entertaining part of downtown Vancouver? The PETA people. Naked PETA people. 

Plus, you couldn't buy tickets for Whistler events in Vancouver, which was cool, until you realized that it was forbidden to drive to Whistler and you couldn't hop on an official Olympics bus (ticket price: $50 for the stinking ride up there) unless you had an event ticket. Um? A bit frustrating, no?

Add 100,000 people to the mix and it made for a looong afternoon. But I suppose that's what happens when you head to an event of this magnitude on a lark. 

But our evening more than made up for the earlier hours. We moseyed down to BC Center, snagged tickets from a scalper, and then had an awesome dinner at a pub watching men's skiing. I forget that Canada is a commonwealth country. Very British. Lots o' pubs. 

Also, I should point out that people were incredibly friendly and helpful. We emerged from the light rail station looking confused. Within seconds, random people off the street  helped point us in the right direction. Of course the olympic volunteers are cheerful and welcoming but we found everyone to be happy, polite, and thrilled to be in Vancouver. Well, not everyone was happy. Chris had to shut down an annoying Russian fan on Monday. He [Chris] had backup in the form of some hefty Czech dudes so it wasn't much of an argument. So the Russian wasn't very happy. But he wallowed in his own pity party and nobody spared him a second glance. 

Eh, I'm getting off track. Back to Sunday and the victory ceremony:

We headed back to BC Center for an evening of dancing performances, medal presentations, and a concert by Nelly Furtado. She's Canadian evidently. 
Americans had snagged a few medals and I got to warble the Star Spangled Banner at top volume, much to the embarrassment of my husband and annoyance of my fellow attendees. I was not apologetic. 

[Check out this dude's ear. Funny, I was shooting a picture of his fancy hair do and it wasn't until I looked at the picture on the computer that I realized that he and Evander have a lot in common. On a side note, quite a few people were sporting shaved head designs. It was quite the fashion statement]

We dragged ourselves back to our hotel and crashed. So much more comfortable than the backseat of Pepe the Prius. 

Monday morning (President's Day for those folks in the good ole USA) we woke up at the crack of dawn and drove up to Squamish, 45 minutes south of Whistler. This was a gamble. Since we couldn't get tickets on the Olympic Bus Network and the tickets on private bus coaches were sold out, we decided to drive as far was we could and catch a local bus up to Whistler. Which, according to the website, was for Squamish residents only. Go figure. 

We made it to Squamish but just missed the local bus. We did, however, happen upon the Greyhound station and hopped a nearly empty bus to Whistler. 

Hooray! Mission accomplished. 

Upon arriving in Whistler we discovered that there were scads of tickets available at the box office but ended up buying tickets for below market value from a scalper. Score two for Team J. Take that, Olympic honchos. 

Another bus ride later, a 3/4 mile hike, and we had arrived: Women's cross country 10km free. It was grand. Perfect weather, lots of happy nordic folk in crazy costumes (especially the Swedes), and front row access to the course. One of the skiers on Team USA was Holly Brooks, an Alaska resident [and Cherie's old ski coach!!]. Judging by the numbers of Alaskan flags in evidence, she had a giant fan club. 

Way to represent, AK. 

And WA too, thankyouverymuch, as Holly Brooks is technically from Seattle.  
[Ethiopia?! In a cross country skiing event? That's like Jamaica and bobsledding...wait a minute...]

We ran into Holly Brooks' husband and a few other Alaska folk and generally had a grand time. An hour later we watched the Men's cross country 15 km free

James Southam (another Alaskan!) was in the event, along with three other Americans. 

Holly Brooks, Team USA, Cross Country Women's 10 km Free

It was an awesome day. So. much. fun. 

Caitlin Compton, Team USA, Cross Country Women's 10 km Free

James Southam, Team USA, Cross Country Men's 15 km Free
Simeon Hamilton, Team USA, Cross Country Men's 15 km Free

And then we trundled home, tired but happy. A great weekend. 

Click on the image below for the entire photo gallery. 

Vancouver Winter Olympics