Sunday, April 18, 2010

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

I am an Olympics junkie. For two weeks every two years (I don't discriminate between the Winter and Summer Games), I care deeply about triple axels, 4 x 400 relay teams, doping scandals, medal counts, and tug-on-your-heartstrings human interest stories. I watch NBC exclusively (don't even get me started on the lack of coverage from the Canadian Broadcasting Company--CBC), regardless of what event is on. Jamaican bobsledding? Sounds great. Lithuanian basketball? Sign me up. Bob Costas' commentary on underwater basketweaving? I'm there. So, when we put 2 and 2 together and realized that we were a mere four hours away from the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, we knew we had to take advantage of such a felicitous opportunity. (Actually, I think Jon realized that his marriage pretty much depended on our attendance.) Due to--or in spite of--our procrastination, we procured tickets to the first night of short track speed skating competition, even though we pretty much know nothing about the event, other than the fact that competitors skate ridiculously fast, wear helmets in preparation for an impending crash, and sometimes compete on Dancing with the Stars. Our tickets were for Saturday, the day after the Opening Ceremonies. Due to a well-timed day off of work, we headed up to Jon's dad's house--putting us two hours closer to the action--Thursday night. Friday was a day of preparation for the big event; by preparing, I mean sleeping in, eating too much, and staying up late to watch the aforementioned Opening Ceremonies. We were joined by a good friend and houseguest, so bright and early Saturday morning, the three of us headed to Canada: America's Hat. Personally, I was expecting a long wait at the border crossing, but the customs officials on both sides were well-prepared for the additional traffic, so we breezed right through. Once in Vancouver, the Olympic fever only increased. We met up with some friends for lunch in the Granville Market (Vancouver's Pike Place) and headed to a brewery to catch some televised action. All too soon, it was time to start making our way to the short track venue, so Jon and I jumped onto some public transportation and began the gamut of ticket scalpers and security checkpoints. We settled into our seats, which were good, although not as close as our outrageous ticket prices would imply. Equipped with the requisite cowbell, we were ready for some skating action. We knew it would be incredible to watch world-class athletes, but it exceeded all expectations. We immediately got swept up into the action. Cheering until our voices were hoarse and banging the cowbell in a way that would make Will Ferrell proud, we sat on the edge of our seats as we watched the Men's 1500 meter event and the preliminary rounds of the Women's 500 meter and 3000 meter relay events. When the Canadian couple in front of us sprung from their seats during one of the heats of the Women's 500 meter race, we figured out that their daughter was competing. (In fact, we later learned that she won the silver medal later in the week.) Yes, we were that close to the action.

The most exciting part of the night was the finals of the Men's 1500 meter. We were present for Apolo Anton Ohno's then-record-tying 6th medal, which came as a result of the unexpected crash of two Korean skaters. In addition to Apolo's silver, American J.R. Celski won the bronze. (As a side note, both Ohno and Celski hail from Federal Way, a town only about 30 miles from where we currently live.) I caught the event on a poorly recorded video...except for the exciting conclusion when the guy in front of me jumped up, right into my shot.

video

Celski, Korea's Lee Jung-su, and Ohno

Our over-priced tickets also earned us entry into a hospitality lounge, so after gorging on some fancy food, we met up again with our friend. We checked out Vancouver's Olympic nightlife and headed back to the good ol' USA. We opted not to stay in Vancouver because it would have been too expensive, but after driving for two hours late at night with two dozing co-pilots, I think Jon would have forked over the money. We had such a blast, we went back the next day (after sleeping in, of course). The friends we met the previous day went to a USA women's hockey game in the morning, so we met them after a nailbiting 12-1 victory over China. Vancouver was bustling with people bursting with Olympic spirit. However, to my surprise, the majority of them were Canadian. I know we were in Canada, but I was expecting more of an international feel. In fact, when we crashed the German Fan Fest/Beer Tent, it was nearly all Canadians. We learned this when the crowd erupted into a spirited rendition of "Oh Canada" upon the gold medal victory of one of their mogul skiers. Regardless, we had a fantastic time with our bratwurst and beer. Next on the agenda was to find the illustrious Olympic torch. We were slightly disappointed to discover that it was surrounded by a temporary, construction-grade chainlink fence, but joined the throngs of other people to stick our camera through said fence to snap a couple of pictures. We hit up a few more hot spots and then it was time once again to return to America (after the obligatory trip to the souvenir store, of course).

I still can't believe we actually went to the Olympics. Our marriage is safe. Now, how many days until London 2012?!?

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