Friday, February 12, 2010

An early start to the day to try and get the tickets that I couldn’t get the night before. Thought if I went down early I might be able to beat the crowds. Wrong! The drive downtown was quick and parking was easy to find but there were more people downtown at 8.00 am than there were the night before. The torch relay was in full swing winding its way through the city after having started at about 6.00 am with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Stanley Park. Robson Street was packed by the time I got there. The CTV broadcast booth filled the road complete with hundreds of onlookers.

I arrived at the ticket will-call office at exactly the same time as the Olympic torch! It was great to see the torch again after having seen it in Calgary but it also meant I wasn’t the first one down to the ticket booth. When I joined the ticket line, I was much further back from the front than I had been the night before! This time, the wait was about 90 minutes. Not bad, given that the line had grown to about a three hour wait by the time I left.

Finally, I arrived at the front of the line. There were only four ticket agents processing all the transactions. No wonder it was taking so long. People were able to get last minute tickets as well as pick up pre-orders. The last minute ticket sales really slowed things down and in my opinion, should have been a separate line. Everybody buying last minute tickets wanted to know what was available and what the various seat locations were like. Very time consuming!

Nevertheless, the ticket pick-up was successful second time round and it was time to head back home to pick up the family. Once again, traffic was pleasantly light.

We all headed back downtown around noon to meet up for lunch in Yaletown with my brother-in-law. As we were walking along Robson Street heading to the restaurant, my eldest son, Devon recognized Steve Nash with his daughter on his shoulders. We stopped him for a photo moment – what a great guy! He was more than happy to oblige.

The restaurant was packed (as was the case with most that we walked by). Lots of people all dressed up in their Canada gear mixing with people from all over the world. It was during lunch that we learned a luger from Georgia had died following an accident during practice. This dampened the mood substantially.

Well fed, it was almost time to head over to BC Place for the Opening Ceremonies. But first we made a detour to join our friends (Una, Doug and Katrina) at another restaurant for a glass of wine and a coffee. It was great meeting up with them and being able to share our early Olympic experiences. 

We headed over to BC Place together along with the rest of Canada. Lots of electricity in the air as we got closer and closer to the stadium. We arrived at the security checkpoints and these were surprisingly painless. Pretty much the same type of checkpoint as you see in an airport. Bags and backpacks were x-rayed while humans were scanned. All in all much quicker than the airports!

After passing through security, we headed into the stadium to locate our seats. We arrived about 45 minutes before the start time and the audience participation rehearsal was in full swing. Each seat had a specially marked audience participation pack allocated to it. The pack consisted of a cardboard drum, a specially coloured flashlight, a battery operated candle, a light coloured poncho and a Canadian flag. In addition, everyone was given a commemorative opening ceremonies book. Very classy.

The rehearsal was entertaining as we all took flashlights and candles apart to insert batteries and then practiced turning them on and waving them around when directed by our section leader. The atmosphere was fantastic with a buzz of expectation in the air. With 10 minutes to go until the 6.00 pm start, the countdown was on.

The ceremony was dedicated to Nodar Kumaritashvili, the 21 year-old luger who died during practice earlier in the day. Memorable moments of the ceremony were: the skateboarder flying into the stadium to start things off; the individual performances of Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams, Sarah Mclachlan and kd Lang; the standing ovation given to the team from Georgia who had lost their teammate earlier that day; the rousing welcome given to the Canadian athletes; the music routine involving skiers and skateboarders suspended from the roof; the arrival of the Olympic flag carried by Bobby Orr, Donald Sutherland and other Canadian celebrities; and finally, the arrival of the Olympic torch and the lighting of the cauldron involving Rick Hansen, Catriona Le May Doan, Steve Nash (who we met earlier in the day), Nancy Greene and Wayne Gretzky. The whole evening was magical although it did seem like an eternity as the final torchbearers waited painstakingly for the cauldron to come up from the centre of the stadium.

Overall, a great start to the Olympics and a proud moment for Canadians. Did I mention it was raining?

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