Vancouver 2010: A Relatively Embedded Blog Chronicling the 21st Winter Games - Day 5

Day 5 – Air Maelle (for my sake, pretend it’s pronounced may-ill) It’s a pretty lame play on an otherwise nice-sounding name, but there was nothing lame about Maelle Ricker’s performance today (let’s forget about her first run) as she carved her way to a gold medal in women’s snowboard cross in front of her hometown crowd (literally. Ricker was born in West Vancouver and grew up shredding the hills at Cypress.) I was at the mall to pick up some hardware for my board and caught the final, a race in which Maelle led from the start and was really never in jeopardy of losing.

Of course, that’s what announcers were saying in 2006 when American Lindsey Jacobellis, appearing to have the gold medal wrapped up, attempted a method grab on the final jump and ended up bailing and costing her the victory. Ricker, the top-ranked female in the world, made no such mistake on her way to the finish line, grabbing first place and dulling the disappointment of Canadian fans, who had hoped to see two medals materialize from the event. Ricker’s teammate, third-ranked Dominique Maltais, crashed in both of her qualifying runs, ousting her from the semi-finals.

Ricker’s victory brought a huge cheer from the mall’s “Olympic Station” where I was watching the event. There are several more stations set up around the mall, complete with projection screen TVs, Canadiana, and bleachers for shoppers fans to sit on. It’s a wicked thing to see how much work not only the Olympic organizers themselves have put into these Games, but also regular businesses and citizens as well. The unifying spirit of the Olympic Games has most definitely taken over Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Already, the National Post has said that national pride is at extraordinary levels in the streets of Vancouver, and having spent the past four days downtown, I can and do most definitely concur.

Of course, things got ridiculous at 4:30 PM. One guess as to what happened at that exact time. I watched the puck drop from inside a Boston Pizza, where at 4:30 the dining room and bar were both packed with white-collar workers who had no doubt called it a day an hour earlier than usual. No matter though, because their bosses were right there with them, exchanging the suits and blouses for red and white as we prepared to cheer on the team that, in all honesty, makes or breaks these Olympic Games for the entire nation. It is not for no reason that the 2006 Games in Turin, at which Canada won a national record 24 medals, are still commonly referred to as a disastrous Games for Canada because of the men’s hockey team’s dismal seventh place showing. Hockey is Canada’s game (at least to Canadians.)

There would be no need for upset this night however, as Team Canada routed the overmatched Norwegian team 8-0 thanks to a well-balanced attack and solid goaltending from Roberto Luongo. The result leaves a lot of fans satisfied that the team is starting to gel and that 2010, Year of the Tiger, might also be the Year of Redemption.

The weather is still gorgeous.


Things learned from February 21, 2010

"A woman's heart should be so lost in God that a man needs to seek Him in order to find her." -Unknown

Ho-ly craaaaaaaaap do I need to hear that.

Current Musical Gold: Installment 5

"I like music. It defines life, love, and everything in between. I also happen to have an abnormally ridiculous amount of music in my possession, most of which I listen to very very rarely because I have a tendency to overplay. As in, overkill. As in, when I'm feeling a song I will play that tuneage over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until I am either sick of it, or it is inducted into my special itunes playlist simply titled LEGENDARY. Many songs have come and gone; only the chosen few have made it to LEGENDARY status. Every so often, because I like to share music that is good, I will post the tracks that I am feeling at the moment - the ones that are on trial to make it to LEGENDARY. Hopefully in this manner, you, my readers, will be able to expose yourself to a broader variety of good music. And who knows - maybe it'll even make your LEGENDARY."


Current Musical Gold: Installment 5 (in no particular order)
1. Valentine - Kina Grannis
2. Thugz Mansion (Acoustic) - Tupac ft. Nas
3. By Your Side - Tenth Avenue North
4. Genocide - Rita Carter
5. Redemption Song (Acoustic) Bob Marley
6. Who I Am Hates Who I've Been - Relient K
7. Since I Met You - DC Talk (I SEE YOU TOM REYNOLDS!)

Stay gold, kids. Peace.

Vancouver 2010: A Relatively Embedded Blog Chronicling the 21st Winter Games - Day 4

Day 4 – Vancouver Weather = Fail

Really. It really, really does. After all the trouble that has already plagued the Games with the Georgian’s death and the mechanical error at the opening ceremonies, the weather is doing its best to ensure that 2010 goes down in the history books as an absolute washout (pun intended. Pun so very much intended.) While I won’t go so far as to dub it “the worst Games ever” as some international media outlets are already starting to joke about, I will say that so far, I have been a little embarrassed with the way things have gone. Despite schooling in Ottawa, I’m still around Vancouver enough to know just how much work has been put into making these Games epic, and so far, for reasons both inside and outside our control, things have not been up to par. Here’s hoping that VANOC can turn things around. I’m optimistic – we’re still only four days in!

I do have to say that the organizers know how to get the fans into it – free shows are good shows, and there have been and still are plenty of free shows to go around. Tonight I decided to once again brave the crowds by making the hour-long commute down to Livecity Yaletown, where Montreal rock band Malajube opened for the Matisyahu, the infamous Jewish rapper-turned-reggae-artist. Unlike most of the evening revelers, I actually know of and listen to both Malajube and Matisyahu, so stoked does not even begin to describe my state of anticipation.

And then the rain started.

And for a while, it sucked. Then it stopped sucking because we hardy Vancouverites sucked it up and realized that this is our damn Games and we’re gonna have an effing good time in the rain because that’s how we do it. From that demented realization, things deteriorated into a two-hour-long, soggy mosh pit that moved to the rhythm of Matisyahu’s excellent dub. He ended the set with his hit single “One Day”, prompting all of the 2000 or so diehards still gathered in the deluge to sing the track’s main chorus with him: “All my life I’ve been waiting for, I’ve been praying for, for the people to say that we don’t wanna fight no more, there’ll be no more war, and our children will play.” This we belted out as strangers linked arms and did the whole good times sway that epitomizes unity and love. And then there were fireworks. Doesn’t get any more Olympics than that, does it?

In other news, congratulations to Mike Robertson for bringing home another medal. Well done, sir.


Vancouver 2010: A Relatively Embedded Blog Chronicling the 21st Winter Games - Day 3

Day 3 – GOLD

So after Friday and Saturday’s HELLACIOUS weather… blue skies and good times are finally here. The day was one for the record books (in both the best and worst ways possible: the tourists are loving it, Olympic organizers not so much.) Word is that today was actually two degrees warmer than the 92’ Barcelona Summer Olympics. Brutal. VANOC has already cancelled thousands of tickets for the standing areas at Cypress Mountain, which is the venue for moguls and snowboarding. Fans are obviously none too pleased – after dropping $300 on auctioned tickets, many are only receiving $50 compensation from Olympic organizers. It’s unfortunate for sure, but as much as VANOC is trying to go green – it can’t control the weather.

Of course, for those of us not on the hills, Sunday was gorgeous. I caught the Skytrain downtown in the afternoon, getting off at Main St. Station to check out the Canadian and Russian houses. The entire waterfront, located across from the athletes’ villages, was buzzing with fans, tourists, and athletes from all over the world. After checking out the vibe (electric) in the area, my brother and I made our way down to Livecity Yaletown, one of several venues hosting free concerts for the duration of the Games.

We jumped into the already massive lineup at 6:00, two hours before North Vancouver’s own Mother Mother was scheduled to play. Twenty minutes later (security has been extraordinarily efficient so far,) we found ourselves wandering the grounds inside the fence, where there were attractions set up by corporate sponsors (such as Coca-Cola,) concession booths showcasing ethnic food (Greek and Jamaican being the most popular,) and about 5000 people milling about.

The atmosphere turned ridiculous as two massive screens flanking the concert stage were patched through to cameras at Cypress Mountain, where Canadian freestyle skier Alexander Bilodeau was preparing to take his final run. As is well-known and documented by now, he nailed it, vaulting him into first place with only one skier left to go. It was quite something to see as Livecity Yaletown stopped in its tracks and held its collective breath to watch the final run of the final skier, whose name and nationality escape me because frankly, he was of no consequence. When his score came in behind Bilodeau’s, Livecity erupted. It was literally an EXPLOSION of primal screaming and happy times as we all broke into an impromptu dance party to celebrate our first gold of these games (and first Canadian gold on home soil EVER!) before launching into a raucous rendition of our national anthem. It was diehard patriotism at its finest and I’ve never been prouder of the ole red and white than I was at that moment (including the fuzzy feelings I got at the end of blog post 1.)

The night only got better from there, O my brothers. Mother Mother came on and played an absolutely killer show, flipping between popular singles such as “Ghosting” and “Arms Tonite” with some of their lesser-known tracks. The set was extremely high energy as the North Vancouver band got to play in front of their family and friends for an hour and a half, setting the stage (no pun intended) for the other headliner, local surf rocker Daniel Wesley, who is a personal favorite of mine. Wesley mellowed the hype right out of Livecity Yaletown, turning the rest of the night into his own personal jam session. As dry ice smoke and Vancouver smoke* mingled together in the (surprisingly) crisp air, the moon and stars decided to come out and play, lighting the way for an evening that finished off in the most West Coast way possible – dub reggae, new friends, and some seriously righteous times.


*That’s the Mary Jane, kids.


Vancouver 2010: A Relatively Embedded Blog Chronicling the 21st Winter Games - Day 2

Day 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn_CmH0-6yI

I’m all for athletes going in for the kill. Heck, I used to do a fair bit of spirit-crushing myself in my athletic heyday (read: high school track and field.) But ten minutes into Saturday’s game and with Canada already up 4-0 on the hapless, helpless Slovak team, I was covering my eyes more than I did during previews for “The Orphan”. There’s been plenty made about the place for women’s hockey in the Olympics, mostly because of results like yesterday’s Olympic record 18-0 romp (which, ironically, broke the previous set by Canada in 2006 when they devastated the host Italians to the tune of 16 goals to none.)
The question is then, how far should teams like the US and Canada run up the score on their obviously overmatched opponents? Some believe that athletes train to be the best, and to do anything less than your best in the game is cheating yourself. Others are of the camp called “Let’s institute a mercy rule” which preaches compassion and good sportsmanship above all. Which then, of course, leads to another unanswerable debate over whether running up the score is actually bad sportsmanship.

Some are calling it karma and saying the Slovaks deserved the rout after blasting Bulgaria – a country with 37 registered female players – 82-0 (that’s not a typo) in Olympic qualifying play. I just call it a clear representation of how much women’s hockey still has to grow outside of North America.
But I digress. What really matters is this: our women came out and played a helluva game in front of a packed home crowd. The fans, while raucous, were respectful and gave the Slovak players (especially goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova, who made 49 saves,) a standing ovation as they left the ice. And the Slovakian team, playing in their first ever Olympic Games, got a sense of what they need to work on to one day compete with the big girls.
“It was heartbreaking,” says Slovak forward Natalie Babonyova. “Canada has how many games under their belt… give us a little more time and we’ll get there.”

Vancouver 2010: A Relatively Embedded Blog Chronicling the 21st Winter Games - Day 1

Vancouver 2010: A Relatively Embedded Blog Chronicling the 21st Winter Games

Day 1 – Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty

So all the excitement and anticipation of the past seven years has finally come down to this: the world touches down in Vancouver, British Columbia for 17 days of passion, pain, participation, and some epic partying.
I will admit that I never considered coming home until just over three weeks ago. It was then that I realized that the Games don’t actually happen in one’s hometown that often, and it might be worth it to spend reading week checking things out. And so, three weeks, 4600 kilometres, and far too many airmiles later, I found myself stepping off that small Westjet jet into the +10 degrees of the 2010 Spring Winter Olympic Games.
After three years of studying in Ontario, it gets me how coming home still consistently reduces me to a puddle of emotion. To see the snow-capped mountains and the shining ocean waves, to smell fresh, clean air and feel the warm breeze off the Pacific… effffff. It’s the best place on earth, friends.
The vibe in the city is electric. Sure, the skies are a little dreary and the moguls course at Cypress Mountain is a slushy mess, but you can’t deny the growing buzz of excitement as opening ceremonies draw closer and closer.
Wow… epic fail.
Things to note from tonight’s opening ceremonies:
1. It was absolutely wicked to see the huge nod given to Canada’s aboriginal people in tonight’s performances. Though there are obviously underlying politics at play, it was still classy on the part of VANOC organizers to acknowledge, in front of the world, that this was and will always be their land.
2. On the topic of classy, a nice standing ovation from the home crowd for the Georgian team. Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has thanked Canadians for their compassion and humanity.
3. In true Canadian fashion, we couldn’t decide on who should light the cauldron so we chose four people to do it.
4. The orcas in the floor were frickin SWEET.
5. Despite the mechanical errors, the balmy winter weather, and the disgraceful rendition of our national anthem… never have I been more proud to be Canadian. These aren’t just Vancouver’s games – these are Canada’s games. Let’s get it on.


Spell ICUP

So today at Running and Reading, Shakul and Eric asked me if I knew the calculator trick. I said I didn't, so they explained it for me:

There once was a girl who lived on 69 street
And her boobs were 222 big
So she went to 51 street
And saw Dr. X
She had 8 magic pills
And now she's... (then you turn the calculator upside down to get the answer, which spells out boobless in numbers.)

After telling them to put the calculator away and start reading or they wouldn't get snack, I allowed myself a brief smile. Because that's exactly the same trick that I used to do back at Porter Elementary. Nice to know that no matter where you go and how old they might be, the naivete of youth always seems to find its home in the minds of kids.


It's time for people to start making some changes

If I were serious about finding my own Calcutta, I would stop worrying about myself so much. It's tough, what with school and bills and SO MANY EFFING injuries, but life was never supposed to be easy, was it? Sometimes I wonder if I would've enjoyed eating fruit in the Garden of Eden... sounds mad boring to me, to be perfectly honest.

So in other news, I'm reading through "A Clockwork Orange" in 20th-Century Lit and it's honestly one of the most disturbing pieces of writing I've ever read. I also can't put it down, which scares me and tells me something about myself that I'm not sure I care to know.

Djordje, you don't know how much you destroyed my thumb last summer.

Je n'aime pas university politics... student council is just a bunch of Greeks who get votes from all their Greek friends. I wish that community could return to the TRUE meaning of fraternities and sororities. But no matter... my thumb hurts and that's all I care about right now.