Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 9 - Speed skating and the "freed cauldron"

I had just gotten off the bus on my way to the Mens' 1000 meter-short-track-speed-skating when I heard, "Are you selling tickets?". As I continued to walk, more people asked and others had homemade signs asking for a specific amount. Although I had seen scalpers trying to buy and sell tickets at other events, I had not seen regular folks like myself wanting to buy tickets at the entrance of the event. I was really looking forward to this event and from the ticket demand, I think others were too. The main reasons I was really looking forward to watching the Mens' 1000 short track speed skating at Pacific Coliseum were the Hamelin brothers and Apolo Ohno.

Before I entered the Pacific Coliseum, I had to walk a long distance, go through a security check, then another line to get in.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Building - Pacific Coliseum

Once inside, I made my way to my seat where I could get a good view of the races and the finish line. There were a few heats and the crowd went wild every time any Canadian competed. I almost went deaf. The women's 1500-metre-short-track final was on its way and there was a Canadian, Tania Vincent, who performed well at the start of the race however by the end of the race she finished last. Zhou Yang from China set an Olympic record and won gold in the women's 1,500-metre short-track final. She won her final race with ease at the finish line.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Speed Skating- finish line

Then the main event of the night was among us - the Mens' 1000 meter-short-track-speed-skating. As the race started, the Hamelin brothers, Charles and Francois, took the lead and kept it for half the race. Then the other racers, passed them. It was very disappointing to see the Canadian skaters come out strong and then have them loose their leads. I was also surprised by Apolo Ohno's performance. Although he won bronze and now becomes the most decorated American Olympic Athlete, I was expecting him to win gold. Congratulations to the Koreans who came in 1st and 2nd place.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Speed Skating-5 racers curve

After the finals, I decided to go see the cauldron at night. I wanted to see the "freed cauldron" but that is now what I saw. It was nice to see it was "semi-freed". The fence is closer than the first time I saw it and has plexiglass. The area where you could see it on top was closed. I think it will become more popular as we continue the Olympics.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Cauldron at Night

Friday, February 19, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 8 - Transportation

One of the major successes of the games thus far has been public transits. I have seen a major improvement in the frequency of buses. My wait times, no matter what time of day, have decreased substantially. Although there are more people trying to take the Skytain, Canada Line and buses, the frequency, especially of the buses, has compensated for this. Local Vancouverites can save lots of time if they know and use the bus network instead of just relying on Canada Line and Skytrain. I hope greater appreciation for public transit is a legacy of the Olympics for Vancouver.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 7 - Hockey, Yaletown Live City Fireworks, Germany House

I watched the Canada vs. Switzerland hockey game. It was a tough game for Canada but they won in penalty shots 3-2. So I decided to go downtown. I was really surprised at Swiss's level of play during this game.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Live City Yaletown

Then I headed downtown to watch the fireworks at the Yaletown Live City (David Lam Park) and enjoyed the energy that a Canadian win brings. I received several high-fives from strangers and there were spontaneous singing of Oh Canada!

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Live City Yaletown Double Fireworks

People all over Vancouver are dressed in Canadian gear and the atmosphere is electrifying.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Live City Yaletown Go Canada Go

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Live City Yaletown Canadian Fans

People are coming together to sing, dance and generally have a merry time. After watching the fireworks, I watched the end of the Russia vs Slovakia hockey game. It was exciting to watch both teams battle it out in penalty shots. I was surprised Slovakia won against Russia but glad to see the underdog win.

On my way home I decided to enter German House and it seemed everyone was having a good time and there was more spontaneous singing there too.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics German House at Night

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 6 - Maelle Ricker, Lindsey Vonn, Paul Brandt plus more

Maelle Ricker was the first Canadian to win gold on home soil and I had the opportunity to see her receive her medal at the Victory Ceremony.

The experience was surreal. Everybody in the crowd cheered, clapped and went crazy. It was great that we were all excited to see one of our own win gold. It made me so proud to hear the national anthem play and hear everyone singing to Oh Canada! at the same time. The evening was amazing.

Cool Banners at Olympic Victory Ceremonies

We were also treated to the USA's sensation Lindsey Vonn gold medal presentation. After all the medals were distributed, Alberta country music superstar Paul Brandt gave a great performance. I especially liked his song and performance for "Canadian Man".

Singer Paul Brandt at Olympic Victory Ceremonies

After the victory ceremonies I watched some fireworks at Robson Square and enjoyed the atmosphere on Granville Street. It was great to see everyone enjoying themselves.

Dancing on Granville Street During Vancouver 2010 winter Olympics

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 5 - Curling and Hockey

First day of women’s curling round robin and I had tickets. I was there to see Team Canada play however there were four games happening at the same time. I was not prepared to see 4 games simultaneously but once I got used to it, it was so much fun.

2010 Vancouver Olympics Culing and Bagpipers

I had never been to a curling game but had seen it on TV and thought i knew the game. However, I met Cathy from Kamloops who was a real fan and she taught me a whole bunch of new terminology. For example, there are ten "ends" in a game, like nine "innings" in baseball and a "hog line violation" which just means you have to let go of the rock before a certain line, the hog line, or you will loose points. Cathy was so into the game and was telling me about different strategies and point possibilities. It was all very interesting. I never knew there was so much to curling.

2010 Vancouver Olympics Culing Fans at Vancouver Olympic Centre

Cathy would also be part of the judging team for the Olympics starting on Day 6 so I could tell she was excited to have been selected to volunteer.

2010 Vancouver Olympics Culing Women Players at Vancouver Olympic Centre

At the end of the game Team Canada won against Switzerland, 5-4, so I was glad to have witnessed Canada get off to a good start. After I left the curling game, I rushed to go see the Men's Hockey, Canada vs Norway, which had started and was delighted at the end of that game too since Canada won in Hockey too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 4 - Kla-howya: Aboriginal Displays, Cauldron, Alberta House, Korea House and more!

I was up bright and early and found out that VANOC cancelled the snowboard grandstand seats, one of the tickets I had. Being up at 5am, I decided to make my way to downtown, have some breakfast and then go to some of the venues. After having a "Canadian Breakfast", as one of my tour guides to the Rocky Mountains would say when he referred to a breakfast at Tim Horton's to the Asian travellers, I started my adventure around the city.

Snow Board Ticket

I started walking towards the Art Gallery and along the way, I began seeing a pattern, there were large lines everywhere. I walked by the Hudson Bay Company Superstore and there were lots of people lined up. Then as I crossed Robson Square, I saw more lines for tickets. Then I saw yet another long line for the Zip Trek. I began becoming curious and asked the 1st person in line for the Zip Trek how long he had been waiting with his kids. His response: 6am. I was floored by the dedication since the Zip Trek did not open until 9am!

I finally reached the doors to the Art Gallery to be told that the venue did not open until 10am. I thought they might be open from 9am since I saw that posted somewhere and arrived at 8:30am. Not wanting to wait hours to get into the Art Gallery, I decided to head towards the places I knew were close by and would be open early: The Olympic Cauldron and the Kla-howya: Aboriginal Village at the Pan Pacific.

I wanted to go see the Olympic Cauldron after I saw The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, carry the Olympic Flame out of the stadium at the opening ceremonies. I thought this would be a great opportunity to get a glimpse of the cauldron before it got busy. Also, there have been so many complaints about the cauldron being locked up that I wanted to get a picture before flame is freed up, if VANOC decides to do so.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Security at Cauldron

I took a photo with the chains and the linked fence with the cauldron. Then I took a photo through one of the holes in the chain and got a great picture of the flame with the security stationed there. I thought I was going to be told not to take pictures of the security personnel but was offered the opportunity to have someone take a closer picture. So I took the offer and thanked the security for being a real Canadian for trying to make things better.

As I walked to my next destination, the Kla-howya: Aboriginal Village across the convention centre, I noticed that there were a lot of people selling, trading and buying pins. I stopped to take a look at them and found that some pins were very old and very unique. I heard about people trading pins but had never seen so many Olympic related pins together.

When I arrived at the Pan Pacific, I proceeded to the Village. Once there, I saw beautiful aboriginal artwork. The display was small but had many colourful and intricate pieces of art. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the artists, Pat Bruderer, and her son, Jadeon. Pat is one of only three First Nation artists that can create masterpiece designs with her teeth by a technique called birch bark chewing. Pat use to live in the Mosakahiken Cree Nation Reserve in Manitoba but moved to BC 4 years ago. While I was there Pat was interviewed by NBC and I learned a lot about the history of the art and learned about how people shoot TV footage. Pat and Jadeon were extremely nice and patiently taught me about the artwork. I hope to see the interview in the near future on NBC.

After leaving the Aboriginal Village I decided to head over to the Royal Canadian Mint where I returned to my earlier theme of long lines. The Mint had two lines, one was three hours long, the line where you were able to see the Olympic medals, and the other was about 30 minutes long. I decided to get in the short line and was in 35 minutes after lining up. I saw the $1 Million dollar coin, held some bullion, learned a bit about the history of coin development, and ran into my friend Chantal who was working there doing some children's activities.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics at Royal Canadian Mint Pavilion Million Dollar Head

I headed over to the Hyatt Hotel where I heard Korea House was located. When I arrived I was greeted by a nice host but once inside I was disappointed. They had some technology they were displaying but when I tried it, it did not work. Also, it seemed everyone with the exception of two or three staff members had gone for lunch. However, even if they had not gone for lunch, it would not have mattered because it seemed the House lacked anything interesting. Perhaps this is the reason why there was no lineup.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Korea Dream Big

I continued my day and headed over to CTV, the official Olympic broadcast network, and was surprised to see so much activity happening there. Indoors they were selling merchandise and they also had a few people selling and trading pins, like I had seen earlier in the day in front of the convention centre. I learned that CTV unveils a new coke bottle with a different aboriginal design each day during the Olympics. The bottle of the day was “The Awakening” and I received a free magnet to commemorate the occasion. Outside there was a booth which you can line up and play the role of a television anchor.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics CTC Building

As I walked across Robson, I realized that I was back at the Art Gallery so I went to check the entrance just to find the longest line of the day. So I decided I would check out the northeast side of the Georgia Street Plaza which features Coast Salish artists demonstrating their creative skills. I really enjoyed watching a totem pole carved by the aboriginals.

By this time in the day I started feeling a bit tired but kept going and ended up in Alberta House and just in time to watch the snowboard cross and Canada win a silver medal. I had not realized what a nice place Alberta had for the Olympics until I visited them. That topped my day off.

As I prepared to call in a day, I ran into a native who was dressed with full aboriginal gear. She was talking about her lineage which intrigued me and which led me to the Haida Gwaii display which is located near Alberta House on Beatty, just off Robson. The house was small but very colourful with lots of helpful people. They had a video that kept looping that was interesting. Best of all there was no lineup here.

I felt good. I was able to cover lots of ground in one day and my appreciation for aboriginal art and culture just keeps building.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 3 - Quebec House, Ontario House, Saskatchewan House and more!

Olympic Houses at False Creek

It was a beautiful day for walking along False Creek or anywhere in Vancouver. You could see the sun shining and the sky was the clearest Vancouver has seen lately. It was a great treat for the beginning of the Chinese new year and Valentine's Day.

I visited some of the Olympic houses today. I started the day by visiting Sochi House, home of the Russians, but there was a HUGE line to get in, estimated time to enter was three hours. Not wanting to be in line that long, I decided to continue to walk along False Creek and visit one of the other Olympic Houses.

Within minutes I arrived at the concept miniature house. The line had only a few people and I was able to see the concept house rather quickly. I then experienced the “Play On” exhibit which is an exhibit about helping children in underdeveloped countries pursue sports. The proceeds from any purchases made here go to charity. Best of all, the Play On Exhibit had no line.

I then ran into another line up at Saskatchewan House however the length of the line to get into the house was not as long as the one for Sochi House. I was in the door within 15 minutes but not before winning a shirt in line that read "Saskatchewan: Hard to spell. Easy to Draw". Once inside the Saskatchewan House, I watched a live band which was performed folksy rock music that played well. I stayed to listen to three or four songs and then wanted some food. I looked over the menu and decided to have perogies but when I went to order, I was informed the House did not have any on hand. So I left the tent and into the spherical structure of Saskatchewan House. Inside the sphere there was information about Saskatchewan Tourism. The most fun thing to do at this house was to take a picture of yourself with a Saskatchewan themed background. The pictures turned out great. My only issue with the house was that although there was a line outside, there were a lot of empty seats inside the performance tent.

I then went to Quebec House (La Maison de Quebec in French) where there was a line again. This time it was stretching around 100 meters but I only waited less than 5 minutes. Once inside I witnessed a band practising, probably doing a sound check for later in the evening. The House also catered good food and beverage. As I sat down to eat I started watching the men’s mogul freestyle finals en fran├žais. I watched athlete after athlete compete but by the end of the game there was only one gold medal winner and the crowd at Quebec House went wild. Alexandre Bilodeau became the first person to win a gold medal for Canada on home soil. Some of the people in attendance even performed a “cirque style” piece in celebration after he was announced the winner. After watching Jennifer Heil win silver last night, I was hoping Canadian athletes would start winning gold soon and Bilodeau came through today. I then left La Maison with much joy because I had just become part of a historic moment.

My last trip on Day 3 was Ontario House. There was no line to get into the House however to experience the 4D Ontario movie experience, there was a line-up which was long but that moved fairly fast, 20 minutes. The wait however was worth the wait. The movie was lifelike and had many great components. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone so I won’t say what it entails; needless to say, it is a “must-go” place during the Olympics. After the movie I went into the House where there was live music, some food and beverage, plenty of fun games and new technology that was fun. You could play virtual floor hockey with an opponent or even change the lights pattern for an Ontario landmark, like the CN Tower, Niagara Falls or the parliament building. It was lots of fun.

With so many things to see, I am uncertain if 2 weeks will be enough to see everything!!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 2 - Women Hockey Record and Canada's first medal

After the opening Ceremony day, I decided to stay home and watch the Canada vs Slovakia women's hockey game. The game was lopsided, Canada won 18-0, a new Olympic record. After the hockey game, I watched the Ladies' Moguls Final who won the first Canadian medal, a silver. Canada was still on the quest for the first gold medal on home soil. Go Canada Go!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vanouver 2010 Winter Olympics: Day 1

After many days of anticipation, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Ceremonies arrived! I was fortunate enough to be at the opening ceremonies of the Games.

Before making my way to B.C. Place, I went into our local store to purchase a big flag to wave at the stadium and an umbrella with Canadian flag in case I had to wait outdoors for a long time. I even ended up buying a Canadian jersey because it was such a good deal to add to my HBC Canadian Olympic sweater. The availability of Everything Canadian in my small local store surprised me but glad I could buy everything in one spot.

I arrived at the ceremonies 3 hours prior to the start of the ceremonies, the earliest I have ever been for anything. Having witnessed the torch relay in Richmond and Vancouver, I did want to take a chance getting stuck in crowds.

With all my new gear in hand, I got on the bus. When I arrived at the Stadium Station, there were a whole bunch of volunteers telling everyone where to go. We had to walk for a while but when I arrived at the stadium, the line to get in was almost non-existent. I even got through security quickly.

Once in the stadium, I was greeted by volunteers and then found my seat, which had a aboriginal themed box and book. The box served a triple purpose: 1. a container for a flashlight, torch, parka and a drumming stick 2.a drum to be used during the ceremony. 3. a countdown piece. An hour prior to the Opening Ceremonies to be televised to 3.5 billion people around the world, we were oriented and when to use the items in the box.

Attendants at the stadium counted down from 10 seconds, I was a 7. Then the event started.

I thought the top 5 moments of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies were:

5. Tribute: Standing ovation for the Georgian luge competitor, Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in a practice run earlier in the day. You could feel the Human Spirit transcended in the crowd as the team for Georgia entered the stadium. Let's hope this is the only major accident of the Olympics.

4.Rising Bear Constellation and mountains: The polar bear looked great. It was made up of lights and it demonstrated the climate change problems faced by these beautiful creatures by the retreat of ice habitat.

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Open Ceremonies Endangered Polar Bear

3. Tribute to our Canada's aboriginals: The aboriginals had four totem poles that rose from the floor. They danced all around them as the athletes entered the stadium. The displays of aurora boralis and growing trees kept with the aboriginal theme. It reminded me of Stanley Park and Victoria where I see strong signs of the culture.

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Open Ceremonies Native

2. Lighting of the Olympic cauldron by "The Great One", Wayne Gretzky and other Canadian athletes, Catriona Le May Doan, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene.

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Open Ceremonies torch almost lit

1. Orca Effect: Wow! What was that? This effect looked so lifelike. The Orcas appeared to spout across the ocean which was the floor of B.C. Place. I have never seen such a cool effect performed in my life.

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Open Ceremonies Orca Whales
(No picture or video can do it was that good.)

I also enjoyed Shane Koyczan's poem "We Are More" ,however, it did not make it on my top moments because it sounded similar to "I am Canadian", which I found was more original. Also, K.D. Lang never appealed to me but after I witnessed her performance at these ceremonies, I will have to reconsider. Lastly, acrobats displaying people having fun in the mountains was aslo really well.

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Open Ceremonies Mountain with fast skiers

Apparently there was a "prop malfunction" however from the angle of my seats I did not see it. I was sitting in front of the projectors that were used to create the different themes throughout the night so I was happy with my seats since they provided a great view of the whole venue.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Olympic Protesters Celebrate with the Torch

The day before the Opening Ceremonies the torch travelled across the "Punjabi Market" where you could hear the drums beat to modern Indian music. People followed it with such excitement that I was more convinced than ever that the Olympic spirit is being shared by all Canadians. There were Indian, Japanese, Spanish and Canadians from different backgrounds at the torch relay. There were also a few protestors at the Langara College site but they joined in the celebrations and took pictures with the Torch bearer.