Saturday, February 05, 2011

2010 Olympic Memories

Yes, it's rolling around to the 1 Year Anniversary of the 2010 Olympic Games, so we'll be having a bit of nostalgia on this blog this month. I will be sharing some stories I haven't told before and if you watch carefully, I'll also be having a give-away before it's all over!

So come join me as I take a stroll down Olympic Memory lane.

My Top 5 Best Moments of the Olympics

1. The phone call asking me if I wanted to "rub elbows with the athletes".

The person who called me had a thick Australian accent and talked a mile a minute. When I said yes, I really didn't have any idea what I had said yes to. I thought I was going down on the Thursday, a week before the Games began to help the athletes practice lining up for a parade. I don't know why it never dawned on me that the parade was really THE Parade of Athletes in the Opening Ceremony. I just thought it was a one day deal for a few hours-I'd help them line up and that would be that.

What it turned out to be was the chance to watch the Opening Ceremonies from start to finish FOUR times, in addition to gathering up hundreds of Athletes in the tunnel (Ring Road) under the stadium. Our mission was to get them queued up for their parade, and then seating in a timely manner as they came off the field of play. The bonus was being able to sit with them while the ceremony was unfolding.

You could have knocked me over with a feather that first day when I finally found out what all the fuss was about! I wasn't the only one who was confused initially about the nature of the job we'd said yes to-apparently the phone call of a lifetime was just as baffling to several of my teammates!

2. Standing in Ring Road and watching as each of the teams emerged from the airlock.

The stadium, had a air supported roof, so entry into the building required that you came through an airlock. Essentially, it's two giant sets of garage doors, with a large space in the middle. If the outer door is open then the inner door is closed and vice versa. Only one door can be open at any given time or the roof will collapse. You walk in when the outer door is open and it closes. When it's completely closed, then the inner door opens and you can enter. The sequence takes 3 minutes to complete.

Every 3 minutes, in the hour preceding the start of the Opening Ceremonies was like Xmas. The inner door would go up and in would walk several hundred athletes at a time. As the doors raised each time, Ring Road would erupt with applause and cheering as the next batch of Olympians arrived. At one point, I glanced over and Anne Murray, Bobbie Orr and Steve Nash were standing there clapping and cheering along with the rest of us.

Once I gathered my group and took them to their holding area, they spent time taking photos with one another. Athletes from different countries would walk up to one another and using gestures a good part of the time because they didn't speak each other's language, they would ask to have photos taken together.

Alot of the First Nations dancers were lined up along the inner rail loop on Ring Road, watching the arrival and it was so sweet when the athletes began asking to take photos with them. Most of the First Nations performers were teenagers and they were dressed in full regalia. It was fun to watch the athletes treating the kids like the real stars. That's when I got a real sense of how sport connects people-when I saw strangers interacting with one another, with big smiles on their faces. In that moment, the world became a very small and intimate place. It was very moving.

3. The Whales in the floor and the Joni Mitchell sequence.

The first time I saw the whales in the floor, that first day when I was discovering that I had been asked to take on the best job at the Olympics, I saw it happen and thought "What was that?!?" It was so real I did a double take. Every time I saw it after that (3 more times) my jaw dropped each time. Of all the special effects orchestrated for the Opening Ceremonies, that was far and away the most special. It was spectacular and while I am sure it was pretty cool on TV, to see it in person, up close was dazzling.

On the actual night of the Ceremonies, I was sitting with an African team and I looked around when I knew the whales were coming, just to see the reaction on the Athletes' faces. The gentleman sitting next to me kept leaning over and telling me, first in French and then in English how beautiful the whole program was.

The Joni Mitchell sequence, began with Donald Sutherland's elegant reading of a W.O. Mitchell quote about the Prairies. It was followed by Joni Mitchell singing "Both Sides Now" while a boy on a wire ran through wheat fields projected on the floor. It so beautifully illustrated life on the Canadian prairies and reminded me so much of my childhood that tears just rolled down my face each and every time. I have the ceremonies on my iPod and watching that sequence still undoes me.

3. Shawn Koyczan "We Are More" poem.
I don't think anyone has ever expressed more succinctly what it is to be Canadian. He hit the nail on the head in the most beautiful way.

4. The night Joannie Rochette skated to a bronze medal.

Clearly illustrating grace under extreme pressure, this was a truly courageous moment in the Olympics. That night, I was stationed just outside the stadium, in front of Terry Fox square. I was acting as a one-woman information booth, which was great fun. It was a beautiful night to be outside helping people.

Across the street from where I was standing, was Alberta House and they had big flat screen TVs mounted on the outside of the pavilion, broadcasting the Olympics. When it came time for Joannie to skate, hundreds of people in the street stood mesmerized, watching the drama unfold. It was like we all collectively held our breath as she made her way through her program and each time she landed a jump, a cheer would go up.

If ever there was a moment when an athlete might feel the power of love and goodwill of an entire nation lifting them up, I think this was it. When her program was complete and they announced she'd won the bronze, people were crying and cheering for her. Everyone understood the pain of her loss and wanted her to be able to have that moment in memory of her mother.

5. Men's Moguls gold medalist Alexandre Bilodeau & his brother Frederic's interview with Brain Williams on CTV.

Alex and his whole family were invited to the interview and Alex credited his older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy as his hero. The love between these brothers was so touching to witness.

1 comment:

Carol Browne said...

Hi Lelainia! I enjoyed talking about the Olympics today with you and especially loved checking out your Olympics journal and awesome art journals. Thank you for my art book. I will be sewing paper very soon.