Sunday, February 21, 2010

Women's Super G - Whistler

Bright and early yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to go to Whistler in order to witness the Women's Super G. What exactly is the Women's Super G, you may ask? It's basically alpine skiing, and obviously with women competing. After coming to Whistler, I now truly understand how stressful, and nerve-racking it is to compete in such a prestigious event. One little mistake can jeopardize an athlete's performance.

There were 53 women competing, and a couple of them were disqualified within the first 30 seconds. Unfortunately, two of the four Canadian women were a part of that bunch. I can't imagine how disappointing it would be to have worked so hard, and screw up when it mattered the most.

The track was an extremely difficult one. Some of the women fell short, while others ranked high. Britt Janyk started off incredibly fast, which put her in podium contention, however turned into a near disaster when she lost her control. She miraculously pulled things back together, and managed to finish off and ranked 17th place.

While in Whistler, I also get a chance to interview Joy Fera. Joy Fera was an Olympian that competed in the sport of rowing. Sh won three gold medals, one silver at the Canadian Masters' Alpine Ski Championships at Sun Peaks Resort, Kamloops. She won gold and silver in Giant Slalom, gold in Slalom and gold in combined for women in her age category. Joy competed in the Olympic Games in her home country during the Summer Olympics in Montreal, in the year of 1976. For the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Joy is a slipper. I wasn't exactly sure what a slipper was until yesterday. A slipper is essentially someone that smooths the ice before and after an athlete is going down the mountain. Slippers are usually avoided by the camera, and are more like the behind-the-scenes type of workers. The hours are also really early. Fera mentioned that she had to be on top of the mountain to start "slippering" by 3AM for the Games.

All in all, my trip to Whistler was a great success. I got time to stroll around Whistler Village for a bit and enjoy the atmosphere of the Games up there. It was a tiring, but enjoyable day. Too bad I didn't run into anyone from Peak Season. :P

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Men's Curling

Early this morning, I got to witness the Men's Curling Round Robin at The Vancouver Olympic Centre. They played in front of a packed house at the venue. What struck me the most was the fact that Curling generally provoked a family-oriented, and older audience. It was spectacular to see rather older women all decked out in their Olympic gear, cheering for their home team. On the other hand, a young boy with a Maple Leaf on his chest led a "Go Canada" cheer from his father's lap in the front row. Other fans dangled flags with pride, clanged cowbells, and stomped their feet, trying to rally the favored Canadians. Let me tell you, I felt bad for anyone walking down by this noise! The cowbells were quite deafening, however I managed to be wide-awake during the whole event because of them.

Before the event had started, Samaah and I took the time to interview a couple from Saskatoon. Both of them were former curlers, and we asked them about how they felt about Curling, and how talented one must be to take part in the Olympic Games. We were told it took a lot of dedication, patience, and focus. Some people say that 80% of Curling is mental because it requires intense focus that only comes with experience. Curlers range from young to old. More often than not, Curlers are usually older because they peak at a later age than many other sports. Due to the fact that Curlers may be older than athletes from other sports, I think that was a vital reason as to why it generated an older audience today.

Although the sport attracted an older audience, that didn't stop them from cheering as loudly as the younger generation. You could feel the noise, and I'm sure it was stimulating for the athletes. I can't imagine how the crowd will be next week, when the medal time will be rapidly approaching. Words definitely couldn't describe the atmosphere. The help from the fans was probably very appreciated by the Curlers. Everybody took notice, and was watching the game closely. This is great for the sport, and a chance to even further put the sport on the map while performing on the world's biggest stage. I have no doubt that the victory for Canada was unquestionably assisted by the audience.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Finland vs. Russia - Women's Ice Hockey & Victory Ceremony

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to attend the Finland vs. Russia Women's Hockey Game. It was an amazing event filled with great sportsmanship. However, one thing in particular stood out to me. I was mind-boggled at the fact that we have so many people cheering on non-home teams. There was a group of three ladies holding a sign each. One sign said, "USA" meanwhile the other had a heart(loves), and the third said "FINLAND." It was unique to see supporters all over the world unite as one. This just goes to show how during the Olympic Games, everyone becomes a whole. In addition, the way the fans interacted with the athletes was incredible. Not only did Finland receive an applaud for their fantastic win, Russia also got a round of an applause for its effort. The fans are always there to lighten up the mood, and yet make athletes feel good about their performance, no matter what the end result may be.

Today I had a number of tasks on my "to-do" list. To start off I had been eager to try out the zipline track at Robson Square. I've tried on countless occasions to line up, but I always fell short. With a large dose of determination, I tried to make sure I would complete this task today. I lined up for the zipline at 11 AM sharp with Samaah, and we basically waited for our turn. As the line grew longer, my patience was wearing off. It had been 6 hours, and it felt like we weren't moving at all. Randomally, as we were in line, I was told that Alexandre Bilodeau was across the tent from where we were standing. Samaah, and I rushed mad down to try and meet him. We were fortunate enough to get a high-five, as well as an up close personal view of him. After Alexandre had left the tent, we headed back to the line where a couple of our new friends had saved our spot. At 4:00PM, I started to get worried. I was told I had to be at BC Stadium at 4:30PM in order to watch the victory ceremony, and see Alexandre Bilodeau receive his gold medal for Men's Moguls. At the end of the day, time did fly. I had to get out of my seven hour wait line, to head to BC Stadium. I was extremely angry, and words could not describe how bitter I felt. I practically wasted my whole day for nothing. The new friends we had made told us to stick around, however that was quite impossible. I still can't get over the fact that I didn't actually get to experience the zipline yet.

As I headed out of the line-up, I literally ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. I am by no means a walking GPS. I had no sense of direction, and really had no idea where I was going. I had asked a couple transit personnel directions to BC Stadium, and every one of them would give me a different route. I was exceptionally stressed out. Although, I ended up finding my way to BC Stadium in time to see Canada receive it's first medal on home soil. It was a memorable event that I'll never forget. I felt so honored to be apart of it. All three athletes got cheered on, and Canada celebrated its victory. After the victory ceremony, we were joined by singer, Gregory Charles as part of Quebec Night for a great performance to end off the night with a bang.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Less than 24 Hours!

In less than 24 hours, BC Stadium will be filled with a diverse group of people with a serious case of Olympic fever. Over the past few weeks, I've made numerous trips Downtown. The city is looking extravagant. Down at Robson Square, the out-door ice rink is catching the eyes of many Vancouverites. There were dozens of folks jammed around the square on a recent afternoon, lining up to try and catch their pictures with the countdown clock that's now dangerously down to single digits! A new attraction is open to the public starting tomorrow daily from 10AM-9PM. This unique endeavor will provide visitors the opportunity to experience the thrill and exhilaration of ziplining!

Some of the athletes and their coaches have also taken the time to just merely stroll around the Downtown core. I recently ran into the Czech Republic Men's Luge Team. They were bombarded with people, but obviously that's bound to happen if you're casually walking down the street in your Olympic uniform. A couple of Russian athletes took a day to shop at Pacific Centre as well.

Today, I spent my day at the Vancouver Library witnessing the Governor General of Canada host an Olympic True: Youth Dialogue with over 500 young, youth leaders. It was an amazing, and inspiring event. I got the chance to hear wise words from not only the honourable Michaƫlle Jean, and Mr. Jean-Daniel Lafond, but youth from all over Canada. It was a dialogue basically promoting mutual understanding. After the Dialogue was over, I made my way to Vancouver City Hall to watch the torch relay. The main attraction however, was the presence of Victoria, B.C's two-time NBA MVP, Steve Nash. Not only did I get to see Steve Nash, but I also got to meet my all-time favourite Canuck, Trevor Linden. Linden carried the torch on Main Street (my area):). If it wasn't for the heap of homework, and tests assigned to me, I would probably be at David Lam Park in Yaletown right now, celebrating the Torch coming back home. Instead, I'm sitting at home updating my blog, and studying for Physics, and writing and English essay.

The eve of the Opening ceremonies is almost coming to an end. I'm pretty sure I won't be focusing at all at school tomorrow. Thank goodness, for the "Friday Schedule," which means I get off at 1:45 PM. I'll rush mad to LiveCity Vancouver, and try to look for something interesting. Stay tune, to read about all these "interesting" stories!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vancouver Eastside Getting Recogonized By Olympic Journalists?

10 more days folks, just 10 more days until the day we've all been anticipating for. However, as the Games come closer, the more stories are developed about our beautiful city. As of late, Vancouver's poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside is catching the eye of international media in town for the Winter Games. A crush of media, including some foreign camera crews and reporters, showed up Monday in the neighbourhood known as Canada's poorest postal code to hear community groups denounce what they deem a propaganda "spin" centre.

Earlier, B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson opened the Downtown Eastside Connect Centre, which they say will give visitors information about the notoriously poor and drug-plagued area in the middle of the Olympic heartland of the city.

Coleman said the centre will show the public and media how government subsidies have made a positive difference in the community. The province subsidizes 7,000 social and supportive housing units a year.

Later that day, several dozen protesters made their way in front of the centre with
signs saying a number of slogans like, "Homeless Need Homes," and "No Olympic Social Cleansing." They attracted the attention of the foreign reporters, and now have several world-wide newspapers covering their "side" of the story.

No one can really has the ability to stop them. They may humiliate our City a tad bit, but after the Games are in progress, I'm in no doubt that the press will soon have different types of stories to cover. Every Olympic Host City has been bashed, and had their fair amount of anti-Olympic activists. Once again, just 10 more days until actual Olympic coverage will take place. I'm ready, are you? :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Transit Prices Sky-rocket Just In Time For The Games

According to the Vancouver Sun, it is believed that the Sky-to-Sky bus trip cost will double, and the Whistler Village shuttle is going to start charging a fee. So, how will this affect us? Well, commuters, residents, and tourists travelling between Squamish and Whistler will now see daily cash bus fares double during the Winter Games. By raising prices, BC Transit aims to cover the costs of its expanded transit services during the Olympics.

A one-way trip from Squamish to Whistler will increase from $5 to $10, while the cash fare from Pemberton to Whistler will rise from $3 to $6. Guess what? It doesn't stop there. Once the persons get to Whistler, travellers will have to pay an additional $2 to use the village shuttle, which currently is free.

Because of this new tactic, many commuters will be forced to drive their own vehicle, or even possibly hitchhike rather than taking the bus. Anything that discourages people from taking the bus is usually a bad thing, isn't it? Personally speaking, shouldn't VANOC be concerned about all the vehicles clogging traffic? However, apparently the high bus fare is aiming to attract people to resort to monthly bus passes, which will give them access to connector services as well as local buses. The Squamish pass is $95, meanwhile the Pemberton one is $50, for the month of February. It is encouraged to buy transit passes to avoid single-passenger vehicles on the roads.

During the month of February, the amount of buses in Squamish, Pemberton, and Whistler will increase from 39 buses to 135 in order to carry 1.2 million people on the Sea to Sky corridor. Transit in Squamish and Pemberton connectors will run 24/7, while the existing Whistler routes will run more frequently.

These soaring fares apply to all passengers, and there are no discounts for seniors or students. Only children under five, or those with a ticket to an event, can ride the bus for free, otherwise best of luck to you!

BC Transit has hired an extra 250 transit operators from Alberta, and Ontario who will be travelling from Squamish to Whistler during the Games.

Those who are driving to Squamish and hoping to catch a ride to Whistler on one of the BC Transit buses will have to find themselves a place to park after VANOC notified the District of Squamish this week that, it will not provide a park and ride for the Games. The District of Squamish will develop its own park and ride, but the challenge will be coordinating it with the VANOC transportation plan.

Anyhow, I suggest everyone invest in a Transit pass because I doubt anybody is willing to pay that much money to just ride for a one-way trip. Are you all ready? Fill your pockets, and let's rock this Vancouver!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010, here I come! :)

The 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are creeping right around the corner. There are exactly 41 days up until our very own city will be amplified with spirit, diversity, and patriotism. So, how are the citizens of Vancouver feeling about the Games? I took the time to interview a current employee of the Richmond Oval Olympic venue, named Ajay Brach. The Richmond Oval will be the location where elite athletes compete in speed skating.
Ajay has been working at the Richmond Oval since it first opened in December of 2008. He was recently laid off as VANOC had moved in to make their preparations for the Games. Previously, Ajay’s duties included taking care of people who were renting skates and treating people to first-aid. The size of the venue has attracted many Vancouverites to the Olympic Oval. Consequently, there have been an increased number of first-aid accidents. Even though many people have never skated before, the Richmond Oval has gathered a lot of interest since officially being named an Olympic venue. Ajay has received training for all kinds of accidents including large scale catastrophes, and minor injuries.
When asked how he felt about such a prestigious event coming to his city, he answered: “I feel really privileged to have been born and raised in Vancouver, and to now have Vancouver be the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics. I know that there are negative aspects with hosting such an event, one in which includes the many expenses that come along with it. Calgary for example, has just recovered from the financial deficits that they had been forced to deal with after hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics. This debt is going to be mostly passed to us Vancouverites as myself through such things as a higher tax rate; however the new infrastructure and increase in world wide exposure puts our city on a worldwide pedestal that I think is worth the large amount of costs.”
Ajay states that he finds it to be really fun and exciting working at an Olympic venue. He says he thinks about the ice track that he skates on during work being used by Olympic athletes, and being seen by millions around the world. Ajay feels fortunate to meet some of the Olympic athletes that have been training at the Richmond Oval in order to prepare for the upcoming Games. He has had chances to meet them and even converse with some of the world renowned athletes, which he considers to be an incredible honour. Ajay has learned new communication skills that are essential in working with the general public, as he is constantly pressured to withhold a highly regarded image for the City of Vancouver. Ajay has gained plenty of knowledge about the Games that will be held at the venue as well, simply because he must be able to answer the many questions that the public put forth to him. These questions can range from how the venue will look during or after the Olympics to past records in speed skating, and different speed skating events that take place during the Games.
Working at an Olympic venue isn’t always as glamorous as it is portrayed to be. However, Ajay states that there weren’t many problems other than the fact that the standards for the employees have been set really high, due to being constantly told that he has to uphold Olympic standard of service. He would have to go out of his way to please the public and increase their Olympic moral and awareness. Ajay says the employees were given radios for communication and were put to strict radio protocol as they were told that they are put under great pressure by the media for any slip ups that may occur.
I asked Ajay by what means does he believe that Canadian students could get the most out of their Olympic experience, and in what ways could they involve themselves in which he replied: “The first thing I believe they should do is follow the Olympic Games as our countries’ athletes need the support of our nation. For those who live near venues where events are being held, I believe they should perhaps volunteer if not apply for jobs that would involve them in the Games. With such an event occurring in our city, there are a number of jobs that will be created, and with an increased demand for labor this will increase the strength of our city’s economy with decreased unemployment rates.”
Because Ajay works for an Olympic venue, I asked him how he would get the most in his own Olympic experience. Unfortunately for him, recently VANOC has taken over the Olympic Oval so they can prepare for the events that will unfold during the month of February. For that reason, he has been temporarily laid off as the Games are in progress. During the Games he plans on following the men’s ice hockey events with his attention being put mostly upon the Canadian men’s ice hockey team. Along with his job at the Olympic Oval and school, Ajay plays ice hockey on a regular basis. His love for the game translates into his love for Olympic hockey, as he believes that is the ultimate pedestal for anyone that loves the game of hockey.
Alas, even though Ajay is a die-hard hockey fan, he will not be able to attend any of the events. He personally wishes he would be able to watch passionate players play his favourite game. It’s far too hard to obtain tickets because many of them were sold out instantly, and ones being sold privately now are ridiculously expensive. It’ll be okay though, because he always has Students Live digging in the dish for him!