Hi Everyone! First of all, thank you for the absolute deluge of emails yesterday morning offering encouragement and support of my Olympic experience and good wishes for Canada and then last night for such glowing feedback of our Opening Ceremonies. It was such a surprise to receive them all and I thank you-it totally made my day!
Okay so I have TONS to share with you about last night and it's hard to even know where to start. Maybe I will start with telling you the job I have been doing.
About a week or so ago, I got a call asking me if I would like to "come rub elbows" with the athletes? Of course I said yes! I have no idea how I personally got that call, but it meant I was one of about 28 people out of over 1300 volunteers working in Events Services at the Stadium who would be helping to marshal the athlete's parade.
I went to a special training on Feb. 4th for this job, so that's why my Olympics started a bit earlier than I had anticipated. The job entailed standing in the seating area where the athletes would sit once they had done their parade lap around the stadium and getting them seated to enjoy the rest of the show. I spent hours going up and down the stairs, practicing so we'd get it right. I think by the times the Olympics are done, I will be in the best shape of my life. It's the world's best cardio workout!
As if this job wasn't cool enough, I also got to be one of 13 from my team of 28 to go down into what's referred to as "ring road" (essentially "backstage", which, because it is a stadium, is a ring shape) and help get the teams into place for the athlete's parade. This was the real "rubbing elbows" part because there was ALOT of Olympians. Each member of the ring road team had a flag and as the teams came into the ring road collected several teams and lead them around the ring to stage them.
As the teams arrived, it was like Christmas every few minutes because we'd all wait to see who was arriving. I looked over to my right and a few feet away, several very famous people were also watching! I saw Steve Nash, Anne Murray and Bobby Orr. I also saw Donald Sutherland and Barbara Ann Scott-King, who reminded me so much of Audrey Hepburn-so incredibly classy and beautiful.
While waiting for the parade to start, the athletes were taking photos with all the First Nations performers, who were in full regalia. It was a great moment to see strangers, smiling and laughing and wanting to connect in this way with one another. A smile is the same in any language.
Eventually, it was time for the big show to start, so I flew upstairs to be in place to work with my two partners to seat our section of athletes. I know that it doesn't sound all that complicated, but believe me, it's hard work. To get giant teams off the field, up into the stands, into their seats and sitting down before the next team in your section comes takes alot of focus, energy and not to mention team work!
My team was responsible for seating Albania, Algeria, Austria, Caymen Islands, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia-Macedonia, Israel, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Republic of Moldova, Morocco, Norway, Portugal, Senegal and Uzbekistan. WHEW! That's 17 teams-we were a very busy section!
After all the athletes were seated, we took seats in amongst them, becoming a part of the audience until the end when we helped marshal them out again. I sat next to the Jamaican team. At one point, one of the athletes leaned over and said to me in French (and then in English) how utterly beautiful the ceremonies were. I had to agree. I kept glancing around to see the look of awe and delight on their faces. That made me so happy.
As for the ceremonies, here are the parts I enjoyed most:
-The whales in the floor. I saw the ceremonies four times over the last week and a half and every time, that gave me goosebumps. It seemed so real.
-The section where first you hear Donald Sutherland reading a quote about the Prairies by W. O. Mitchell, and then a performer who was on a wire came and Joni Mitchel's "Both Sides Now" played while waves of grain blew on the floor. That part was so much about the memories of my childhood that I cried ever single time I saw it, especially when the young man is running through the field.
-k.d. Lang singing the world's best version of "Halleluia", *EVER* and then the doves (projected ones) flying up through the "sky" (draping).
-Slam poet Shane Koyczan's "We Are More", which was just so utterly inspiring. If you missed it or wanted to see it again, it's here, but I think the version he did last night, which was slower and more deliberate, allowed for the words and their meaning sink in more.
It was an amazing night and all night long, I just kept saying to myself "Stop and breath it all in. You will never been in this time and place again." I kept taking snapshots in my mind of all the things, big and small that I wanted to remember. It felt slightly unreal to me to be in the thick of it all. I am racing now to get it all down on paper before I start forgetting small details.
Today is a day off while they prepare the stadium for the victory ceremonies. Each night there will be medal presentations for the athletes who won at venues in Vancouver and Richmond while the alpine events will be awarded at Whistler. After the presentation of medals, there will be a concert by some very big names and each night will feature talent from a different province in Canada. You can see who's playing here.
I do have photos coming. I didn't take my camera, because my understanding was we weren't permitted to, but some people did, so I should have some soon. (I imagine everyone is super busy today so it might take a couple days for me to get them.)
Anyway, wherever you are in the world reading this, I wish your teams good luck for the Games and I hope you keep watching. We will all have so much to celebrate!