Wednesday, March 03, 2010

On the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games

And so it is done. In 14 short days, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games have come and gone. Vancouver has returned to its former level of activity. There are less people on the streets, those streets are mostly no longer closed to vehicle traffic, and the SkyTrain is no longer bursting at the seams. Just like in Ottawa, there was a budget announced in Vancouver. It's back to business, isn't it?

Well, no. For all of us who were involved in the Games, one way or another, whether through volunteering, participating or spectating, 2010 will be a memorable year. Vancouver and Whistler will leave a mark in our hearts and looking back on the events of Feb 12 to 28 will rekindle our passion for the sports, our country and the experience.

My personal experience was fantabulous. See? It was so fantastic that I can only describe it by using a fake word.

Despite our early stumbles, the staff at The Whistler Sliding Centre recovered admirably well. We gave it our 110% and put out some of the best quotes of the Games. You probably unknowingly read them in your sliding sports recaps. They were better than the cliché I just used, I promise.

Thanks to the wonderful support of our Olympic News Service (ONS) Supervisor and Sports Writer, we - my co-reporters and I - learned more than just the basics of Luge, Skeleton and Bobsleigh. By the final Runs and Heats of the competition, we were able to have knowledgeable conversations with the real, paid reporters in the Mixed Zone. Sure, some of them were rookies like us, but we could even keep up with the best beat writers out there. We made predictions, comments and suggestions. We were able to ask poignant questions and understand the ones posed by other reporters. We were even able to understand the athletes' answers, and better yet, tell them apart! This proved to be quite useful during the Four-Man Bobsleigh event, and our studying served us well.

In the end, working for ONS was a work contract like any other. But it wasn't. To echo the athletes, it's just another race except it's the Olympics. I made friends for life (I hope!), invaluable contacts on both sides of the fence (in the journalism world and in the Olympic family), and I learned. I learned from sports reporters, from ONS staff, from fellow volunteers. I learned from the athletes, from their responses, from their races.

And I laughed! When we were exhausted and hungry, we laughed. When we were cold and wet, we laughed. When we were done for the day and more than ready for bed, we laughed.

Sure, we had our ups and downs. We got frustrated and argumentative. We disagreed with each other and sometimes were quite vocal about our dislikes. But that's just part of the job. It's part of the stress of working long back-to-back days, part of the pressure of always being on the ball, part of the difficulties a live sporting event experience. And I loved it. Because overall, we laughed.

The best part was the bubble. It was also the worst part. You get so into your sport, into your venue, into your athletes that you just can't absorb any additional information. Medals and crashes in other sports? Nope, haven't seen them. A snow storm in Montreal? Nope, haven't heard about it. Haven't read that article. Haven't spoken to my family and friends in a few days. Haven't had time to read status updates on Facebook. Yet the only reason I found out about the snow was because people were complaining about it in their status. But don't ask me what people were tweeting about. I could barely catch up on emails and direct responses!

The bubble is what pushed me to escape Whistler as soon as my last shift was done. Quickly home to pack and catch the bus. Nothing against this snowy, wintery Olympic town. The atmosphere was fantastic, the people were super friendly, full of fun and enthusiasm. And it's not that I didn't want to celebrate the end with my co-workers... I just needed to get out of the bubble. To further the analogy, it's like when you blow a bubblegum to the limit and it's about to burst and you suck it back a little just in time to avoid it embarrassingly covering your face. That's how you feel at the end of an intensive gig.

Luckily, I was able to catch some of the Olympic fever in Vancouver as well. I came back to Van City when I had a couple of days off and toured some of the attractions, though I was not at all interested in wasting my day waiting in line. The beautiful spontaneous Inukshuk wall between Science World/Rusky Dom and GM Place/Canada Hockey Place is the kind of passion that turns me on, and I loved just basking in the energy of the host city.

I also felt the pulse of the city on Feb 27-28, thanks to my speedy return from Whistler. Crowded streets and spontaneous "Oh Canada" chants, red and white at every turn of the head. I watched the Gold Medal Men's Hockey Game with my family, in their living room, sharing simultaneous heart-attacks with hockey fans from all over the globe. When we went out for dinner later that night you could still feel the electricity in the air and the high, soaring spirits of the inhabitants.

And then, just like the sudden onset of my post-ONS, post-Whistler blues, the city crashed. Call it a passion-low. The flame was extinguished, it was done, it was over, and we all had to face the facts and go back to our normal, boring everyday lives. Transit that's not as regular. NHL games with predictable intermission interviews. And thankfully, streets that are much easier to navigate without a gazillion people crawling along at a snail's pace.

I'm glad I took a few extra days to experience the city's true face. And guess what? Even sans Olympics, I still love it. Don't worry, Vancouver. I might be leaving you on Thursday but I'll be back before you know it!

Stay tuned... I should be posting pictures to Flickr soon!


Lynn Braz said...

LOVE this post and your writing. I'm staying tuned to see where your talent and drive takes you. Wishing you tons of luck as you navigate the early stages of your career. You are most definitely an up-and-coming star.

Naila J. said...

Awww... Thanks Lynn! :)

Anonymous said...

Nice! I'm glad you had a good experience there. Reading your tweets during the olympics was fun. Are you also going to be there for the paralympics?

Naila J. said...

It was wonderful! I unfortunately will not be in BC for the Paralympics, though I really would have liked to!

x-ine said...

You have managed to capture all the things I was feeling about the Games and express it far more eloquently than I ever could...

Naila J. said...

Thanks Christine! I'm honoured at your compliment! :)