Two Weeks in the Life of an Olympic Junkie

After years of anticipation, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games have finally arrived in Vancouver. Since moving to Metro Vancouver 3 years ago, my husband Jack and I have taken every opportunity to participate in anything Olympic-related. We have volunteered, queued for tickets, purchased those famous Canadian red mittens, and the list goes on. Now that we are in the thick of the Games, here’s a glimpse of what life looks like from the perspective of a self-proclaimed Olympic Junkie:

Monday, February 8:

I’m volunteering at the Olympic torch celebration in Surrey, the Metro Vancouver city we call home. I feel privileged to meet Daniel Igali who will light Surrey’s Olympic cauldron. After claiming refugee status in Canada in 1994, Igali went on to win an Olympic gold medal for Canada in wrestling. I admire that Igali has leveraged his success to help others, as his charitable foundation provides opportunities for youth in developing countries. As the Olympic flame draws nearer to Surrey, I hand out hundreds of flags to excited Canadians. The energy and national pride in the air is electric. It is incredible to see, right here in Surrey, the rich tapestry of diverse cultures that make up this great country.

Wednesday, February 10:

Jack has the coolest volunteer gig imaginable … he is a cast  member for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I feel like I have won a gold medal myself when he gets me a ticket to today’s dress rehearsal. BC Place, the venue for the Ceremonies, has been transformed into a blue and white ice palace. The performance is dazzling and representative of so many aspects of Canada. The headline performers take part in the rehearsal and I feel proudly Canadian when I hear Bryan Adams, Nellie Furtado and k.d. Lang. Poet Shane Koyczan steals the show with his rendition of We Are More, and lively fiddlers remind me of my own family jam sessions. Skiers, snowboarders, a giant white bear, spouting whales and much more appear in the show. And yes, I indeed manage to catch glimpses of Jack as I nervously remind myself that he will be performing in front of a worldwide television audience in just two days.

Thursday, February 11:

The Cultural Olympiad is something not everyone is aware of, but it is having a huge impact on Metro Vancouver’s arts and culture scene. The area is alive with music, dance, theatre and visual arts that coincide with the visits of thousands of international guests. Since I work in the arts, this cultural aspect of the Games is very close to my heart. I spend a day soaking up some of the action including the weirdly stylistic play Nevermore that highlights the real and imagined life of Edgar Allan Poe.

Friday, February 12:

The Opening Ceremonies are even more spectacular than the dress rehearsal. This time I’m at home in my living room, but the roar is still deafening when Team Canada enters the stadium. At long last it is revealed that hockey legend Wayne Gretzky will light the Olympic cauldron.

Sunday, February 14:

Canada is the only host country in the history of the Games that has not won a gold medal on home soil. Until today. The entire country celebrates with Quebec moguls skier Alex Bilodeau as he rips up the course on Cypress Mountain and shakes that stubborn monkey off Canada’s back.

Wednesday, February 17:

Yes, I have the red Canada mittens. I also purchased a red Canada hoodie, a Canada t-shirt and a toque with a big maple leaf on it (for any non-Canadian readers, a toque is a knitted winter hat). Despite unseasonably warm weather, I layer on all of this patriotic gear and head out to participate in our national obsession … watching the great game of ice hockey. The stadium is a sea of red, and Canadian fans are ready to party. Noise levels become deafening when captain Hayley Wickenheiser leads the Canadian women’s team onto the ice. Canada is unstoppable as they pummel the Swedish net with shot after shot, eventually winning 13-1. Although it’s early in the series, we are starting to smell gold for Team Canada.

Thursday, February 18:

Multiply yesterday’s decibels by ten and you might have the hockey madness that is happening in Canada Hockey Place tonight as the Canadian men’s hockey team takes on Switzerland. The game is packed with suspense and excitement, and Canada does eventually win. But, shouldn’t we have won this one a little easier considering Switzerland isn’t one of our biggest rivals? Nonetheless, the winning goal finally comes in a shootout and the stadium explodes. Canadian fans spill onto the streets to continue the celebrations. Jack and I join them and eventually make our way to Vancouver’s spectacular waterfront to see that most iconic of Olympic symbols, the flaming cauldron. We get close enough to feel the heat before making our way through the throngs of people to head back to Surrey.

Friday, February 19:

The entire Metro Vancouver area is pulsing with activity. Even if you don’t have tickets to events, there are countless ways to get in on the fun, many of them free. Tonight we attend an outdoor concert featuring Sam Roberts at the Surrey 2010 Celebration Site. Rock on, Canada!

Sunday, February 21:

Despite our hockey fixation, we want to go to at least one outdoor event and today is it. We get an early start to go to Cypress Mountain for men’s ski cross. We know nothing about ski cross and in fact this is its first appearance in Olympic competition, but we soon discover that it is hugely entertaining to watch. What isn’t fun about sitting in the sun and watching four skiers flying through the air and chasing one another down a bumpy mountain course? It’s interesting to listen to the commentary, as reference is made several times to fulfilling the dream of finally bringing ski cross to the Olympics. My thoughts turn to snowshoe racing as I consider how next week’s World Snowshoe Invitational on Grouse Mountain might be a stepping stone to our sport eventually being included in Olympic competition.

Thus ends two weeks of Olympic-sized fun for Jack and I. There is still more to come as Canada tries for a medal count like never before in this country’s Olympic history. We’ve had some disappointments, but still have many medal hopefuls. Jack is now in rehearsals for the Closing Ceremonies and I’m volunteering at the Surrey Celebration Site several times this week. We plan to catch more concerts, events, Cultural Olympiad activities and of course Saturday’s World Snowshoe Invitational. After that, we will sleep … in preparation for next month’s party, the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games!

About the author

Debbie McKeown