Archive for February, 2010

Oly Blog – Whistler, Men’s DH, etc…

February 17, 2010

Oly Blog, Days 3 and 4…
A Baker’s Dozen Observations:
1) ALL of the racers who negotiated Whistler’s Oly DH course with its tricky snow conditions and seriously fast turns. Manny and Robbie REALLY went for it, but their enthusiasm may have been too much. My prediction? An Eric Guay medal in Super G. And how will Lindsey Vonn ski?
2) Maelle Ricker – Mike McCullough reminded me that we ran a story about her in COAST magazine when she was 16. I went back into the stacks to see if I could find it, but could not. It was in a cover feature called “The Year Boarding Broke” in 1995. Today, CTV breathlessly announced that she was “the new face of Canadian snowboarding.” Yep, ‘new’ alright.
3) VANOC is taking heat from international media for all kinds of logistical snafus but the standing room only controversy is truly the worst. Why a viewing platform wasn’t built is beyond me. These people (and I’m one of them) have been ripped off, plain and simple.
4) After two trips up there, I have to say… you have NO IDEA how big the production is at Cypress. No, they could NEVER have moved the Games to the interior. And, I’ve got to say, the courses have held up remarkably well. Huge props to Tim Gayda’s crew for getting these events off.
5) Still no real answers on how Cypress got to host the skiing events, but there’s a reporter working on it.
6) Finds it curious that CanWest is using action images from Getty Images instead of the stuff their own shooters are supplying. That said, Getty ARE the gold standard for event photographers.
7) “There’s magic in the air,” my shooter pal Karl said after we had grooved for over an hour to Quebecois jazz/hip-hop band Misteur Valaire last night in Whistler. This band was BEYOND good; their multimedia show must be seen to be believed.
8) Cannot even begin to keep up with the steady media streaming on Reuters, Christian Science Monitor, NYTimes, Guardian UK, Sydney Morning Herald, it just goes on and on… This is the 24/7 news cycle that is beyond intense…
9) CBC gave a shout out to Ross Rebagliati’s snowboard medal, but I never heard it mentioned on CTV.
10) Though I had a checked history with the Canadian Tourism Commission, I have to give ‘em props for commissioning Shane Koyczan and his fabulous spoken word piece during the Opening Ceremonies. Too bad I haven’t seen any reference to it in the media…
11) I’ll likely watch more hockey games in the next ten days than in the next five years. I just hope it’s exciting, wide open, and doesn’t ‘go to shoot-out.’
12) Still waiting for the flame to bust out of jail…
13) Paid $9.25 for a beer at the Dublinh Gate yesterday. (A super-silky Kilkenny)… Actually, I think that’s the normal price, if you can believe it!

And finally… I would NOT WANT Renee Smith-Valade’s job for all the money in the world!

Olympic Blog – Days 3 and 4

February 17, 2010

Oly Blog: Thumbs up, Thumbs Down… in no particular order
Thumbs up:
1) Vancouver Spirit – Who knew? Our truly ‘felt the love’ while walking down to see the flame on a gorgeous spring, er, winter, day. I love seeing all of the jackets and uniforms from other countries and shared a couple of pints with a wonderful journo from Nine Network in Australia last night. I would bet that many of the people walking the streets are in fact coming in from the ‘burbs – where support for the Games is ABSOLUTELY overwhelming. People in Vancouver proper HATE the suburbs. Fuck ‘em, this is the revenge of the Real Canadians.
2) Opening ceremonies – not too sure about the ‘multiple torch lighters’ concept – great to see Nancy Greene-Raine included – (though why they left Al Raine’s name off is beyond me – what, they can’t get their heads around the hyphenated names?). I loved all of the different unis (check out that Mongolian outfit!) – the Austrian one was suitably fascistic… Loved the version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Clouds’, the fabulous ‘whales’ that came out of the floor, the First Nations dancers (did they EVER STOP?). I even loved the cheesy, American Idol-inspired Bryan Adams/Nelly Furtado duet.
3) Alexandre and Frederic Bilodeau – Because they BOTH won gold tonight. Truly a night to remember – and – haha – I called it on my blog at NBCOlympics.com! I have tons more to say on this, basically, I love three things – the fact that AB is Quebecois, and continues a long line of excellence from that province, that he kept talking about ‘how more medals are to come’ from Canada, rather than tooting his own horn (which he would never do; I have interviewed him and he is just the best) and – I loved his aerials. That double twisting backflip off the top was sheer poetry. What else did I love – the fact that CDNs finished 4, 5, and 11 as well. Outstanding team effort!
4) Speaking of which, I LOVED the fact that one of the Russian bump skiers tossed in a ‘truck driver’ move. That is New School steeze, to the max. Jonny Moseley said “I love that trick, but the judges don’t!”
5) I love the torch, but hate that it’s behind a chain link fence. But that will change, apparently! It is a wonderful beacon and focus of energy during the Games. People will really miss it.
6) The incredible energy at Whistler – your days are coming, and the world will love it.
7) The huge museum quality prints in the Main Press Center of Olympics Games gone by. They were contributed by the Associated Press.
8) I love the fact that the Games are just so damned INTERNATIONAL. People from all over the world. Did I mention how I love the uniforms?
9) Hearing Jonny Moseley’s commentary for NBC has been awesome – he is a real pro and I’ve really come to respect his analysis. Come to think of it, OBS (Olympic Broadcast Services) has a tremendous freestyle announcer. I have no clue who he is, though!
10) Getting an edition of the Globe on Sunday. Even though I haven’t cracked it, or the NYTimes, or The Province, yet.
11) The US Freestyle one-piece uniforms. Did I tell you I love all of the international unis?
12) Vancouver, when it’s sunny out, like it was today and tonight. Outstanding. The best place on earth. Shit, did I just say that? Sorry, NDP…
13) The First Nations logo inside the maple leaf. IO thought it was just the hockey team, but all of the unis have it.
14) That quite wonderfully Tourism Quebec commercial which shows telemark skiers and superb views of the St Lawrence valley.
15) The D-Spin. A staple of any freestyle skier now, it’s the best and steeziest move the bump skiers throw in. And it was invented by Mike Douglas.
16) Jenn Heil. She threw down an awesome run, but Hannah Kearney was just THAT MUCH better. Am curious as to how it would have turned out had the course been rock hard, since speed is Heil’s forte. Still, she ‘won the silver,’ as they say. Good on her! Loved Chloe Dufour-Lapointe’s run as well.
THUMBS DOWN:
1) The Olympic criminals. The idiots who broke the Bay windows and tied up all of the traffic. Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of ‘em. They are not ‘the Olympic protesters’ – they are criminals and I hope they throw the book at ‘em.
2) Cancellation of standing room tickets at the Cypress venue. Yet another reason why this place should NEVER have been selected to host the freestyle events. I have never received an answer to that question.
3) The horrendous bus lineups to get back to the city. Like, did VANOC not do a few dry runs of this beforehand?
4) The overwhelming sense that this event is ‘all about TV’ – don’t get me wrong, I love my HD, but so much of this event is tailored for TV audiences.
5) Brian Williams – he used to be so great, but has become so overawed with his own self-importance. Or something. I still really wish that CBC was the rights-holding broadcaster, frankly. CTV is SO commercial. But their ratings are through the roof. And they did have a good freestyle analyst.
6) Rainy, crappy weather like yesterday. As my colleague Lisa Richardson said, “Time to go home, El Nino.” That said, the rainforest is SO beautiful.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down – Olympics, First Three Days!

February 15, 2010

Oly Blog: Thumbs up, Thumbs Down… in no particular order
Thumbs up:
1) Vancouver Spirit – Who knew? Our truly ‘felt the love’ while walking down to see the flame on a gorgeous spring, er, winter, day. I love seeing all of the jackets and uniforms from other countries and shared a couple of pints with a wonderful journo from Nine Network in Australia last night. I would bet that many of the people walking the streets are in fact coming in from the ‘burbs – where support for the Games is ABSOLUTELY overwhelming. People in Vancouver proper HATE the suburbs. Fuck ‘em, this is the revenge of the Real Canadians.
2) Opening ceremonies – not too sure about the ‘multiple torch lighters’ concept – great to see Nancy Greene-Raine included – (though why they left Al Raine’s name off is beyond me – what, they can’t get their heads around the hyphenated names?). I loved all of the different unis (check out that Mongolian outfit!) – the Austrian one was suitably fascistic… Loved the version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Clouds’, the fabulous ‘whales’ that came out of the floor, the First Nations dancers (did they EVER STOP?). I even loved the cheesy, American Idol-inspired Bryan Adams/Nelly Furtado duet.
3) Alexandre and Frederic Bilodeau – Because they BOTH won gold tonight. Truly a night to remember – and – haha – I called it on my blog at NBCOlympics.com! I have tons more to say on this, basically, I love three things – the fact that AB is Quebecois, and continues a long line of excellence from that province, that he kept talking about ‘how more medals are to come’ from Canada, rather than tooting his own horn (which he would never do; I have interviewed him and he is just the best) and – I loved his aerials. That double twisting backflip off the top was sheer poetry. What else did I love – the fact that CDNs finished 4, 5, and 11 as well. Outstanding team effort!
4) Speaking of which, I LOVED the fact that one of the Russian bump skiers tossed in a ‘truck driver’ move. That is New School steeze, to the max. Jonny Moseley said “I love that trick, but the judges don’t!”
5) I love the torch, but hate that it’s behind a chain link fence. But that will change, apparently! It is a wonderful beacon and focus of energy during the Games. People will really miss it.
6) The incredible energy at Whistler – your days are coming, and the world will love it.
7) The huge museum quality prints in the Main Press Center of Olympics Games gone by. They were contributed by the Associated Press.
8) I love the fact that the Games are just so damned INTERNATIONAL. People from all over the world. Did I mention how I love the uniforms?
9) Hearing Jonny Moseley’s commentary for NBC has been awesome – he is a real pro and I’ve really come to respect his analysis. Come to think of it, OBS (Olympic Broadcast Services) has a tremendous freestyle announcer. I have no clue who he is, though!
10) Getting an edition of the Globe on Sunday. Even though I haven’t cracked it, or the NYTimes, or The Province, yet.
11) The US Freestyle one-piece uniforms. Did I tell you I love all of the international unis?
12) Vancouver, when it’s sunny out, like it was today and tonight. Outstanding. The best place on earth. Shit, did I just say that? Sorry, NDP…
13) The First Nations logo inside the maple leaf. IO thought it was just the hockey team, but all of the unis have it.
14) That quite wonderfully Tourism Quebec commercial which shows telemark skiers and superb views of the St Lawrence valley.
15) The D-Spin. A staple of any freestyle skier now, it’s the best and steeziest move the bump skiers throw in. And it was invented by Mike Douglas.
16) Jenn Heil. She threw down an awesome run, but Hannah Kearney was just THAT MUCH better. Am curious as to how it would have turned out had the course been rock hard, since speed is Heil’s forte. Still, she ‘won the silver,’ as they say. Good on her! Loved Chloe Dufour-Lapointe’s run as well.
THUMBS DOWN:
1) The Olympic criminals. The idiots who broke the Bay windows and tied up all of the traffic. Hopefully, we’ve seen the last of ‘em. They are not ‘the Olympic protesters’ – they are criminals and I hope they throw the book at ‘em.
2) Cancellation of standing room tickets at the Cypress venue. Yet another reason why this place should NEVER have been selected to host the freestyle events. I have never received an answer to that question.
3) The horrendous bus lineups to get back to the city. Like, did VANOC not do a few dry runs of this beforehand?
4) The overwhelming sense that this event is ‘all about TV’ – don’t get me wrong, I love my HD, but so much of this event is tailored for TV audiences.
5) Brian Williams – he used to be so great, but has become so overawed with his own self-importance. Or something. I still really wish that CBC was the rights-holding broadcaster, frankly. CTV is SO commercial. But their ratings are through the roof. And they did have a good freestyle analyst.
6) Rainy, crappy weather like yesterday. As my colleague Lisa Richardson said, “Time to go home, El Nino.” That said, the rainforest is SO beautiful.

One week from today – notes from the front (Whistler)

February 6, 2010

Well, I’ve been skiing at Whistler Blackcomb for over 25 years (on and off) and this was certainly one to remember.  The Olympic Torch Relay came to town, which neatly coincided with a fresh snowfall and a lucky coincidence in having a buddy (dentist Vern Beckie) who wanted to take it all in.

“Security lockdown” is the only way to describe what it’s like to drive the Sea-to-Sky Hwy right now. We saw – no kidding – at least a dozen RCMP cars – parked at the side of the road, in the lot of the Starbucks in Squamish, and providing a wonderful ‘escort’ (one in front, and one behind) for a nice, leisurely drive from Squamish to Whistler at EXACTLY the speed limit. Maybe even a little less. Parking in the village lot cost $20 and frankly, no matter who purchases Intrawest or Whistler Blackcomb, I will bet that this is one “post Games legacy” that you’re sure to see. Maybe not right away, but pay parking will come to WB in the day lots at some point in the next five years.

Up on Blackcomb, it was quiet. No, make that utterly abandoned. On our first run we had fresh tracks down Blackcomb Glacier (at the crack’ o’ noon time of 11:00 am; and at 2:50 enjoyed first tracks down Cockalorum on Whistler.  At one point, we looked up on the Blackcomb Glacier and we were the ONLY TWO people on the whole damned thing.

Ate lunch around 12:30 and found a ‘table for eight’ in Glacier Lodge with no problem (even though it was just Vern and me). We did not ride the lifts with anyone else, nor did we see anyone in line. It was… eerie. And, for all of you skiers, a likely sample of what the skiing will be like come Games-time. You’ll have the mountain to yourself for two weeks in the middle of winter. How sweet is that?

In the Village, though, it was quite another story. People started milling around the stage for the arrival of the Olympic torch at around 5:30, and the crowd built, and built, and built. After a couple of beers and a plate of natchos (Olympic pricing in effect; no, wait, that’s just Whistler pricing) at the GLC, we decided to go into the Village and wait for the Torch. Bill Good and Pamela Martin were broadcasting live from the plaza (or whatever the hell that place where Crankworx is held each year is called), and there were people EVERYWHERE sporting red and white Canada sweaters, jackets, everything. Happily, the corporate presence was not NEARLY as heavy handed as I thought it might be; far less than Crankworx, for example. The MC gamely tried to engage the crowd, but didn’t have much to go on. Tourism BC played their ‘You Gotta Be Here’ advert (an ‘extended cut’, without Kim Cantrell and Steve Nash). Suddenly, up on the slopes, the torch was transported via snowmobile (apparently being carried by Julia Murray, the unfortunately-injured Ski Cross skier) and then it was skied back down under the lights by Crazy Canuck and all-around ham Steve Podborski, who handed it off to Whistler student Tyler Allison.

The crowd got pretty revved up by this time, well, as much as you can get revved up for a tiny flame in a sea of thousands, and respectfully sang along to “O Canada”. Yet another verklempt moment – they don’t sing O Canada at goddam Red Bull events, do they? I would bet that eighty percent of the people in attendance were Whistler locals, who I am convinced will support these Games even more than Vancouverites will. We never did catch Barney Bentall; I think he was playing a different stage than the main venue. It was wonderful evening, and I will bet that Starbucks sold out of hot chocolate for all of those kiddies and their parents wandering the Village afterward.

As anyone who visited there in February knows, Whistler is an incredibly vibrant town. I am not sure – even after watching the Torch Relay – how much more stoked the place will be than normal. I think a LOT of hotel beds are taken up by support crews, members of the international media, coaching staff, and people who – essentially – are there to work, and not necessarily party or vacation. In fact, we hear that Vancouver can expect 400,000 visitors over the 17 day period – are these tourists with Games tickets and money to spend, or are they people up there to do a job?

One thing is for sure – they aren’t there to ski…