This is my first trip to the Olympics where the Olympics are my main goal and the only reason for being here. I’d only attended one Olympic event before (gymnastics in the Barcelona 1992 Olympics). Now that I’ve been to a few events, I can say without a doubt that the 2012 Olympics in London (which I’d already planned to attend with friends) will not be my last. My friend, travel companion, and organizer of this great trip, Stacy, said once you attend one Olympics it’s addictive and you want to go back. I’ve only been to three events so far and I couldn’t agree more.
Our first event was the Russia vs. Latvia men’s ice hockey game at Canada Hockey Place (GM Place). We were in the 4th row, near the corner. Typically a bit close to be my ideal hockey seat, but they were great for my first Winter Olympic event. The crowd was amazing and the game was fun to watch, though the Russians were definitely in a different class than the Latvia team. With Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and the other amazing Russian players, Russia was expected to dominate the game and didn’t disappoint the spectators. At that point, it still looked like Canada was the best team in the Olympics this year. At this point, it really doesn’t seem that way. They just barely beat Switzerland in a shootout (a team the US beat by two goals in regulation). Sunday’s USA vs. Canada game is definitely going to be interesting and I can’t imagine many people in Canada paying attention to anything else. I feel sorry for the other sports going on at that time. There aren’t a lot of events going on at the time, but there are events that end right before the game or shortly after it starts that will make things tight for some of the spectators and athletes who want to find a place to watch the game.
My hockey thoughts can be found at HockeyBuzz. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my Olympic experience so far. I’ve seen two hockey games including Alexander Ovechkin’s 1st Olympic game (and first couple goals), Evgeni Malkin’s 1st Olympic goal (& game), Team USA’s 6-1 win over Norway, and much more.
Our second day in Vancouver, we spent most of the morning getting to the curling matches we attended. Neither of us had ever seen curling in person before and it was a lot of fun. The US vs. Switzerland match was very exciting. It went to an extra end, so we got to see overtime in our very first curling match. Denmark and Germany also had a very close match. The other matches ended before they got to the 10th end, since the one team knew they were too far behind to tie it up.
The woman who sat next to us at curling is Canadian and was a wealth of information on curling. It was really great to talk to her about the sport, since she’s played it before and is a big fan of curling. Every time we had an odd question (like about how they smooth out the ice, which apparently was the wrong question, since the ice surface isn’t actually smooth like hockey ice), she had the answer. This is part of the fun of the Olympic games. Wherever you go, there are fans who love the sport and the Olympics. You may not be rooting for the same team, but everyone seems to have a deep respect for good competition and those who are willing to support their team (say, by wearing Team USA hockey jerseys). On our way out of the Canada Hockey Place in our USA hockey jerseys (along with many others in USA hockey jerseys), the Canadians heading inside for their game were chanting for Canada and we chanted back for USA. It was very similar to the spontaneous shouting I heard on the streets in New York City during the Subway Series in 2000.
We don’t have internet access in our room, which we hadn’t anticipated at all, but other than that our trip has been completely perfect. There have been fireworks we can see off our balcony every night (if we’re back in time, which we haven’t always been).
The coverage of the Olympics here has been amazing and it’s great to watch from another perspective. The Canadian media doesn’t seem as Canadian-centered as the NBC coverage is American-centered, but perhaps if we were recording everything possible on a DVR here, we’d see that it is a lot more Canadian coverage. I liked that TSN had a special on Shaun White. Another great thing the competing media do here is tell you what’s airing on every other channel showing the Olympics. NBC doesn’t do that in their broadcasts and they actually own every channel airing the Olympics in the US. Coverage has been live here – even for things like figure skating, which NBC airs on a delay for the west coast. Canada’s coverage seems to be less east coast centered. They realize that there are people no the west coast who would like to see events as they happen.
There are some amazing commercials here relating to the Olympics. Chevrolet (which many know is not a car I’d typically plug) has a great series of ads where the cars talk to each other about the Olympics, taking athletes to and from the games, etc. Coke also has a great commercial talking about how hockey is Canada’s game. RBC has a series of commercials with various sports. Visa has a funny gravity commercial that’s related to the Olympics. I’m sure they’re available online and I suggest checking them out.
The cauldron was surprisingly difficult to locate – especially given the fact that Stacy and I had both noted that it was by the Convention Center. We tried to find it after the Russia/Latvia hockey game, but didn’t go quite far enough. Fortunately, when the ramp that gives you the perfect unobstructed view was open, they also had people telling you where to go. The only sign we saw for the cauldron was located close enough to the cauldron that you could see the cauldron well before anyone with binoculars could see the sign. However, if you’re going to the Olympic Cauldron I can definitely say the wait (we waited 20-25 minutes) is worth it for the ramp. Wait a little while and enjoy the best view of the cauldron. We got some amazing pictures there.
Everyone here (volunteers for the Olympics and just average Canadians) has been amazingly friendly and helpful. The events have been well organized (especially with start times so close to the end of the previous games). Signage (with the obvious exception of the Olympic Cauldron) is very well done and there are maps in many locations.
Getting tickets for events on the mountains seems to be a bit more difficult than we’d anticipated and shuttles to get up there are a bit difficult to organize when you have no internet access (we were supposed to, but do not and both of our phone carriers charge too much for us to bother using the internet on our phones) is a bit difficult.
My only complaint about the Olympics here in Vancouver would be that the free Wi-Fi access that has been advertised widely about the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics does exist. However, it is not connected to the internet. That means even though Stacy has an iPhone and I have a Centro (both Wi-Fi capable), we could not get to the internet from the Olympic venues. We talked to quite a few people at the various events who were similarly disappointed. If they hadn’t advertised the free Wi-Fi access, I wouldn’t have a problem with the Wi-Fi they have not being connected to the internet, but what good is Wi-Fi without internet access?
The weather here has been amazing and it’s still beautiful, sunny, and fairly warm. We’re enjoying seeing as much of Vancouver as possible, though Vancouver is a gorgeous city and I’d love to come back here when the Olympics aren’t in town so I can check out more of the city and mountains.