Sunday, February 21, 2010
I got tickets for our family to see a medal ceremony. They were cheap to buy, and I figured it would be a good way to get a bit of the Olympic experience. I chose a night when the band Hedley would play after the ceremony, because Alex and Andy like Hedley.
Fiona had a rehearsal so she couldn't make it. We offered her ticket to our friend Sam, who was glad to come with us. We met up at the Lougheed Skytrain station and had a quick, crowdless trip down to Main Street Science world, where were advised to de-train as Stadium station was reportedly a crowd scene. It was a gorgeous afternoon, so we walked from Sochi World (the pavilion for the Russian city that will host the 2016 Winter Olympics) to BC Place. Outside, one of the many still-smiling volunteers offered to take a photo of all four of us with my camera. That was nice. We arrived at the stadium where checking through security was quick and easy, and we got to our seats early enough to watch BC Place fill up with people, mostly wearing read and carrying Canadian flags.
For the medal ceremonies, one end of the stadium has been partitioned off. There's a small front stage area with a curtained performance stage behind it. The podium is wheeled in the awards portion of the evening. I think this keeps most of BC place curtained off so that preparations may be made for the closing ceremony. We got seats way off to the side and up high, but whatever we couldn't see on the stage was visible on big screens all around. We wished that they would broadcast some events live on the screens while we waited, but they didn't. Instead we got event titles in French and English, and a couple of ads about how wonderful the Olympics are. So we talked about various Protestant Church denominations and their policies on gay marriage.
I had snacked us up at my office before we left, but Alex was hungry already when we got to BC Place. You are not allowed to pack a lunch or even a snack or a drink into any of the Olympic venues. I bought 3 cokes for a total bill of $13.50. The cashier at the concession counter said, "I'm sorry, that's a lot to pay for 3 drinks." I told her it was okay, it was giving me that Disneyland feeling all over again, but right in my own back yard. At another stand I bought spicy potato wedges, a small tray for $6. They made Alex feel better, so I guess the $20 snack and slurp was worth it. After the ceremony Alex, Sam and Andy chowed down at McDonald's on Robson. It was quick, and reasonably cheap, so that was successful. I'm glad Alex could wait so I didn't have to buy him a $40 hot dog at the stadium.
Before the medal ceremony began, there was a tribute to Prince Edward Island. A young singing/dancing group entertained us for about half an hour with songs and dances, including a song from the musical, Anne of Green Gables. It was pretty nice. We chatted about the trip that Sam and his mom, Louise, took to PEI a few years ago. Sam says it's a great place.
Then it was time for medals. The ceremony alternated between real-life medals being awarded to athletes in BC Place, and a live broadcast from Whistler, where medals were being handed out to winners of events at Whistler and the Callaghan Valley. We saw medals given out to Canadians Marianne St Gelais (a silver for short track speed skating) and Christine Nesbitt (a gold for 1000 metre speed skating). That was fun to watch. Then there was the Hedley concert. There seemed to be a lot of teenage girls very excited about Hedley. The sound was surprisingly good for BC place and quieter than a normal concert, and the crowd was much pretty laid-back. The concert went on for about 30 minutes, then Hedley left, and we left.
We walked around downtown Vancouver. Robson Street is closed to vehicles and there was a stream of pedestrian traffic, including people shouting and singing and cheering. At Robson Square, we saw a laser and fireworks show, with big flame-throwing towers, a lot like the end of the evening shows at the PNE, only a kajillion more people watching it.
After the show, we walked down to the waterfront to check out the flame cauldron. The cauldron has been surrounded by a chain link fence, and lots of people have complained that they can't just walk up to it, take a picture, or have their pictures taken in front of it. By Thursday, the organizers had opened a viewing platform. You could line up, climb a flight of stairs and get an unimpeded view. They had also cut a hole in fence, for the holding up of cameras. I still think it's pretty lame that you can't get close to the flame. The burning parts are at least 20 feet above the ground and the structure is hardly climbable. I think they should just post a couple of Mounties in front of it and invite people over. They're saying it's in a secure area, so the fence has to stay. I think that's crummy planning - like putting Stonehenge or the Blarney Stone inside the prime-minister's private lavatory, then saying "no admittance, we're peeing in here." The cauldron should be in the middle of a public place.
After the flame we were pretty tired, so we took transit home, It was crowded but quick. We left downtown at 11, and were home in bed before midnight.
So that was our first big Olympic evening.
question: have you seen the cauldron?
mompoet - giving this evening a bronze medal for variety and good company