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Editor's trip to 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games
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Wednesday, February 19, 2014 11:51 AM

Fun and Games in Vancouver

This article about a trip to the Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010 was originally published in the Progress on March 3 and March 10, 2010.

By NANCY WHITAKER • Progress Staff Writer

“You need to experience it in person. It is so different than watching them on TV,” said Melinda Krick, who just returned from a trip to see the Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Krick began planning her trip to the 2010 Winter Games about eight years ago after she and her friend, Cheri Leonard Dix of Seattle, attended the 2002 Games in Salt Lake.

Planning a trip to the Olympics takes a lot of time. There were tickets to obtain, airplane flights to schedule, and passports needed to cross the border to and from Canada.

Kevin and Cheri Dix are friends of Krick. Kevin and Melinda graduated from Paulding High School, and Cheri and Melinda were best friends in college. The couple, who reside in Seattle, began their quest for tickets in 2008.

Canadian residents had the first opportunity to purchase event tickets. Cheri tried to order tickets for a half-dozen events in October 2008. The ticket system, which works like a lottery, only gave them a ticket to one event.

They began asking, “Do we really want to go for just one event?”

However, in May 2009, more tickets became available. Then both Cheri and Kevin got online at the same time and purchased tickets to three more events. Hotel reservations were made and then finally it was all systems go! Vancouver, here we come.

Krick applied for her passport in December and received it in within three weeks. The plan was for her to fly to Seattle, meet Kevin and Cheri, and then drive into Vancouver for the games.

On Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, Melinda hopped a flight in Fort Wayne, changed planes in Chicago, and flew into Seattle.

After sightseeing and shopping in Seattle for a few days, the trio of friends exchanged their American dollars for Canadian money and on Wednesday headed north on the two-hour drive into Canada.

Krick said, “There was no unusual wait at the border. So after showing our identifications, we drove to our hotel which was located in Langley, on the east side of Vancouver.

“After taking in our luggage we drove into the city center. The traffic was heavy, but we were able to park and walk into Gastown, a historic district along the city’s waterfront.

“The weather was like spring and the daffodils and cherry trees were all in bloom. Toward evening, we walked to the Olympic Cauldron.

“Each year the cauldron is different. This year there were five different flames. It seemed funny because each day it seemed as if something different was done to the cauldron.

“They had a fence around it at first and it was hard to take a picture. The next day, there was a part of the fence removed so you could get a better picture. Later, they opened an observation platform so you could get an unobstructed view of the flame, but there was over a hour wait for it.”

After walking around for several hours, they found the Olympic Superstore, housed in a huge department store, The Bay. The superstore had every type of Olympic merchandise you could think of to buy. Sometimes the lines were more than two hours just to get inside. The store ended up being open 24/7 just to accommodate all the shoppers.

Toward the end of the day, they ventured to a pub called The Elephant and Castle. It was full of tourists and everyone was watching the Olympic coverage on TV.

Krick said, “Vancouver really relied on their public transportation to get people around the city. We rode a streetcars, a monorail, a charter bus, a mini bus and the subway.” Plus, they saw ski gondolas, water taxis, ferries and helicopters.

Thursday, Feb. 18, was the first event they were scheduled to see. It was a sport called skeleton. It is like the luge except the competitors slide down the track head first.

The event was held at Whistler. This was a two-hour drive by a chartered bus. Krick said, “We packed backpacks and took everything with us. We took snow pants, extra clothing and mittens.

“Whistler is a ski resort and it was there that the alpine skiing, bobsled, luge and skeleton events were held. There were a lot of vacation homes, condos, boutiques and bars around.

“Just before noon, we stopped at a pub and had lunch. We then took a shuttle bus to the Whistler Sliding Center. We staked out a good place along the track.

“We happened to be in the place where the Olympic luge competitor had lost his life a few days earlier. It gave me an eerie feeling to stand there and think of it. I did notice they had put padding around the beams.”

The event was to begin at 4 p.m. There were a total of four preliminary events. The women and men each competed twice.

“If you are going to make a trip to go see the Olympics,” said Krick, “make sure you take warm clothing and be prepared to do a lot of walking and standing in line.”

The skeleton event lasted approximately four hours and spectators were on their feet for the whole event. In the skeleton, competitors go down on a sled on their stomach, head first. Going up to speeds of 95 mph, there were 21 female competitors and 28 males.

“These were the preliminary runs. You would not believe how fast these people go around the track. It sounds like thunder when they go by. They also had a big screen TV to watch the event on,” noted Krick.

“My toes and fingers got so cold. They felt as if they were frostbit,” continued Melinda. “We stayed at the event and watched the ladies compete and one run of the men’s competition. It was almost 9:30 p.m. and we had been on our feet since about 3 p.m. We then caught the charter bus for the two-hour drive back to our car. On the way through Whistler to the bus, we saw the fireworks at the end of a medals ceremony.

“By the time we got back to the hotel, it was almost 1 a.m. We knew we weren’t going to catch too much sleep because we had to get up Friday morning by 6 a.m. to go to the curling event at the Vancouver Olympic Centre.”

If anyone is not familiar with curling, it is a team sport where team members slide stones across carefully prepared ice towards a target area, called a house. The game is similar to shuffleboard, with each alley being 150 feet long. There are four members on a team who alternate the throwing and sweeping duties.

On that day there were three matches being held simultaneously. It was a women’s competition and was a round robin tournament. China defeated Denmark (11-1), USA defeated Russian Federation (6-4) and Great Britain beat Germany (7-4).

Following the curling competition, they went to one of the LiveCity sites. There were several of these sites throughout the city. It was a place where you could go watch live coverage of the games on a big screen and visit corporate and provincial buildings.

Food and beverages were next on the agenda. There were a lot of various ethnic food choices to choose from. Krick said, “In some of the LiveCity venues, a beer was $10, a brat was $7 and a bottle of pop was $4.

“It was so nice that day, some people were wearing tank tops. The sky was clear and beautiful.”

Then it was time to head downtown and check out some of the activities. Melinda said, “One thing I noticed was wherever we were, either standing in line, on public transportation or in restaurants, we heard all kinds of languages. Slovak, Russian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, French, German, Australian and British accents, Norwegian, Swedish, you name it.”

The next day, Feb. 20, Melinda, Cheri and Kevin had tickets to a men’s ice hockey game between Switzerland and Norway. The event was downtown at the Canada Hockey Place. “It was pretty noisy and exciting because both teams had huge cheering sections,” said Melinda.

Following the hockey game, the trio of travelers were able to get tickets for the medals ceremony the next day. Then walked over a bridge near the entrance to Vancouver Olympic Village. Olympic Village is where the athletes reside during the games, so it is a restricted area.

“We then took a streetcar to Granville Island,” noted Krick. “It’s a popular attraction that has a huge public market, art galleries, artisans, shops and restaurants.”

On Feb. 21, they had been scheduled to return to Whistler for the men’s Super G alpine skiing event. However, due to some weather conditions, this event was postponed until the next Tuesday. No refunds are given on tickets. “So we lost the ticket price, $85. Like Cheri said, it’s an expensive souvenir.”

So, this gave them a free day to look around. They headed back downtown and took another look at the caldron, did some pin trading, and hobnobbed with the rest of the Olympic travelers in the festival atmosphere.

They went to another LiveCity and saw hockey’s Stanley Cup. It was guarded by Mounties as people swarmed to take photos.

“On our way over to the medals ceremony,” said Krick, “we found another LiveCity. This one had the Moulson Hockey House.”

At the same time, the Canadians were playing the USA in men’s hockey in a game that the USA won 5-3. Excitement was running high as everyone was cheering for their hockey team, crowding around the LiveCity big screens and every television in every bar and restaurant.

Krick said, “One of the things most people ask about my trip is about the most memorable moment. I have to say it was the medals ceremony we attended in Vancouver. We saw two Americans receive medals – Apolo Ohno, who won a bronze in short track speed skating, and Shani Davis, who won a silver in speed skating. A team of Mounties raised the flags of the gold, silver and bronze medal winners just a few feet behind us. We could have touched the flags, they were so close.”

The Whistler medals ceremony was going on simultaneously. “We were able to watch their awards in between the ones in our stadium. Bode Miller received his gold medal for men’s super combined skiing. We stood up to sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ when the American flag was raised. It still gives me goosebumps just remembering it,” she said.

“Maybe more than the medals ceremony was the whole experience of being there, being part of the event and sharing experiences with people from every corner of the world. When you see highlights on TV or hear someone talk about one of the events, you can think ‘I was there.’

“Television can’t convey what it’s like in person. You miss the energy of the crowds, you miss many of the athletes’ performances, you miss being in the middle of a historic event.

“I get upset when people dwell so much on the medals count. It really doesn’t matter who wins the most gold, or who brings home the most medals overall. These athletes train for years; they and their families often sacrifice everything to make an Olympic dream come true. It’s a privilege and honor to compete at the Olympic Games.

“You see how people can win and lose with grace. No one likes to see a sore loser, as if winning a silver medal makes you a loser. We saw some athletes disappointed to get silver and some that were ecstatic to win fourth, or even to finish their event at all. That’s what it should be about – the joy of being able to compete and to do your best.

“We saw people compete with broken bones, with terrible weather conditions, with distracting personal problems. Almost nothing could stop them from competing and going for the gold. Their examples are something we should look to.”

Melinda left Vancouver on Monday, Feb. 22 and arrived  back in Paulding early Feb. 24. She said, “In four years, the Winter Games will be held in Sochi, Russia.”

Is she thinking about going to her third Olympics? “Not then, but perhaps in eight or 12 years. It depends on where it is.”

Update: The next Winter Olympics in 2018 will be in South Korea. While watching the Sochi coverage this past week, Melinda and Cheri started talking about possibly attending those Games.