Thursday, 11 February 2010

Dress rehearsals are over, let the games begin!

It's hard to believe it's been a year and a half since my experiences at the Beijing Olympics and it's curious to find myself in an Olympic city—not coincidentally, but largely due to circumstance—for the second consecutive time.

I wandered downtown today after collecting my event tickets, watching final preparations underway: people pressure-washing, filling flower beds, cleaning windows, and just generally putting the final touches on months (in some cases, years) of work. Traffic was sparse and the yellow-jacketed traffic officers, though numerous, were easily outnumbered by blue-jacketed volunteers.

Media coverage here has droned on and on about the lack of snow, the probability of rain, the chance of lasting debt, and fact that Vancouver hotels are not sold out. While I desperately wish the media would drop the cries for drama and focus more on news, I guess these are the normal concerns of any host: what if the party sucks? what if nobody comes? But downtown, people are just carrying on getting ready.

It's interesting to note how similar one Olympics is to the next. All the details have been tweaked but the structure and rhythms are the same. The accreditations are the same; the security screening tents are the same; the timelines and schedules are the same. This time it's my German language skills and European citizenship that are securing me tickets, but the collection procedures are the same. And of course there must be stacks of procedure manuals handed from one organizing committee to the next; it would be madness to re-invent it all. More than that, though, it's mostly the same people putting on every Olympic Games: I'm going out for drinks here with many of the people I knew in Beijing, and most are carrying on next to London or other big worldwide events.

I only began to sense the excitement and anticipation here at the end of last week (probably more than a month later than in China), but it's building now. And one major difference here is the number of free concerts and other events. The Richmond O-Zone, Heineken House, Atlantic Canada House, Ontario House, and Vancouver LiveCity sites are all high on my list for entertainment, but you can check out the City Caucus Free Events Guide for many other options.

The torch will be traveling around Vancouver on Thursday and Friday. Check out the route map if you want to catch a glimpse. If you'd like to advertise your willingness to help out the tourists, you can pick up Ask Me buttons in 24 languages at the Vancouver Public Library downtown.

And finally, a cleanly-organized resource I found helpful last time for up to date event schedules, competitor information, and medal counts is Google's Olympic portal.


Dave Cameron said...

You're quite lucky to work at both. I hadn't realized you were at Beijing! Sounds like it will be a lot of fun. Do you think you'll continue on to London?

I hope I can get good coverage here in Australia.

Julian Fitzell said...

Sure you did... I gave you restaurant recommendations in Beijing! :) I'm not actually working at either for either event; just happen to be in the same location and to know people who are.

Australians will fare better than the poor Europeans - the opening ceremony will be at 3am for them!

Dave Cameron said...

Ah, very true! I remembered that. I was surprised to hear about the olympics though. I guess I heard how difficult it was to get visas from people afterwards, and assumed no one I knew could have gotten them.

I'm not seeing much of anything live, but they are showing highlights 10pm - midnight every night. I'm watching them now!

They do seem to take the american approach to coverage though: show all events in which there are australians competing. Then, show those same events again. ;_;