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7 Stories From Vancouver 2010- Martin Rydlo

You won’t hear much about these stories unless you were at the Winter Olympics in 2010…

I experienced the village of Whistler, saw skiing competitions live, talked to volunteers and witnessed the excitement the Olympics brought to kids’ faces. I also had the chance to walk the streets of Vancouver to experience probably the biggest party of 2010, heard languages from all over the world, haggled for tickets and felt the beat of a city standing prouder than it ever has.

So for those that only had a chance to experience the Olympics through TV, web and newspaper coverage, here’s a look at the top 7 stories that you won’t hear about.

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1- Spectators make the events- TV show the athletes but rarely promotes the spectators that come from different countries, bearing their flags costumes and traditions that go with each sport. For cross-country skiing, the Norwegians and Austrians bring 16 foot flagpoles covered in the flags of their favourite countries, while dressed in their traditional costumes. For speed skating, the Dutch come in yellow riding hundreds of bikes imported from Holland just for the Games.

2- Athletes are Anynomous- With the exception of a few hockey, snowboard and downhill skiing stars, you could walk by a medalist and not even know it. I’m sure I saw two women downhillers walking around Whistler Village unrecognized while the day before they had been idolized on TV. Without their helmets and ski suits, they were like any other spectator on the scene.

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3- The various ‘Houses’ are Incredible- Nations and organizations find bars, building or other large venues where their athletes and entourage can go gather. They celebrate the best that country has to offer and create a bit of a home away from home for them. These are the places to try to get into and really get an understanding of the incredible effort it takes to send athletes to compete at the Olympics. Just make sure you know how to say hello and thank. These Houses are committed to speaking their languages and celebrating their traditions.

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4- We were made for this- It’s a slogan that really hits home when you see the coordination, logistics and innovation that goes into pulling off what many are calling the Biggest Gathering of Humankind. To witness the busses, volunteers, athletes, spectators and media moving about, eating, working and playing with barely a glitch is amazing. As a spectator, I experienced nothing negative. Certainly there were events with their issues, but definitely no more that water other Olympics have experienced. Keep in mind that the events are the toughest to organize as VANOC is not solely responsible for them…rather it is a collaboration of various sporting, judging and building organizations that are ultimately responsible for each events success. It saddens me when I hear people refer to Vancouver 2010 as the Glitch Games…it’s such a typical Canadian perspective. Instead of focusing on an event that has helped Canada define what is at it’s core, the media lets itself fall victim to focusing on the inevitable fallout that comes with putting on any major event.

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5- Walk through the streets- After a busy day, it’s easy for spectators and media to retire to their room to watch the recaps. The real action and energy takes place in the evening as the events close and people head out to celebrate and see the city. You get to see the city at its best and have the ability to talk to strangers and celebrities like you’ll never experience otherwise.

6- Try to get into restricted parties and venues- It’s the unwritten challenge that everyone is trying to score. Why? Simple human nature of wanting what you don’t have. Except at the Olympics you end up meeting some really interesting people and experiencing events hard to see anywhere else. It’s a thrill when you get into special venues like Austria House, Canada Hockey House and sold-out concerts.

 

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7- Volunteers are the real heroes- Most athletes have fame, fortune or four more years of inspiration they get out of the Olympics. Volunteers have nothing to gain but the personal satisfaction of knowing they played a small part in creating the Olympics. Most have to be at their work-site by 6am and work until they get called-off by the crew chief. Yes they get nice swag and free tickets to events, but standing around on a ski hill for 6 hours freezing with your only mission being to respond to a radio request like “I need some tape” takes special dedication to the spirit of the Olympics. They are the one’s that really are the link between the organizers and the athletes. They are the one’s that are the biggest heroes in my mind.