Random Thoughts

I Am an Olympic Junkie

... this is my winter vacation

by Ann Robbins Talbot

Vancouver, here I come. Not in the traditional sense of buying my plane ticket and packing my bag. But I am getting ready for a winter vacation, none the less. I will be enjoying the Winter Olympics from my recliner with views that the actual audience will never see. I will be shouting encouragement and applauding achievement. My schedule is printed courtesy of www.vancouver2010.com and my fuzzy blanket is ready for late night activity. I will be seeing the Winter Olympics my way.

Vancouver is a wonderful city. On the way to an Alaskan cruise we spent three days in Vancouver. We took advantage of the tour bus and saw the old city of Gastown with its buildings restored to the nineteenth century, Chinatown bursting with red for good luck, the Stanley Park with totem poles to tease us, Queen Elizabeth Park with its sunken gardens in full bloom. We ate lunch at the MacMillan Planetarium and dinner choosing the first of many wonderful salmon dishes.
We took a day trip to Squamish, a logging town nestled in gorgeous mountain scenery. M V Britannia transported us under the Lions Gate Bridge and up Howe Sound, beautiful in its shades of gray on a rainy morning. The return trip on the Royal Hudson steam train was exciting as we clung to the edge of the bay marveling at the beauty as the weather cleared. We got a glimpse of Canada Place, the modern facility where cruises to our fiftieth state begin.
Our hotel was located across the street from City Hall. We strolled around City Place, from the outside a fairly plain building. Inside were two complete buildings from the past, a normal school and its adjacent elementary school restored to shops a la Quincy Market. From our hotel window we could see the home of the Canucks, a stadium that I look forward to seeing as an Olympic venue. At that time in 1992, Vancouver was rivaling Honolulu as a Pacific coast convention city. It was clean, exciting and safe.

As I check my schedule I see that one ski jumping event precedes the opening ceremonies. It reminds me that the athletes do not get the same Olympic experience that the visitors get. Many participants are not even in Vancouver when the Olympic flame arrives, being at out-of-town venues or still in training for events that do not even occur for ten or fifteen days from the opening. Some arrive for the opening festivities and return home to arrive again for their part of the tournament. I would think that the ideal schedule would be to compete two or three days into the tournament so there would lots of time to be a spectator.

Over the years I have been drawn to some of the non-traditional sports like curling and women’s ice hockey. It is a joy to learn the nuances of the scoring in figure skating and snowboarding. The commentators are wonderful explaining the dynamics of the luge and speed skating. In fact, the at-home audience is receiving a tutorial that the fans in the arenas do not get. Probably the in-person spectators already know the ins-and-outs that I am still learning after many dozens of years. Enjoying the winter games is in my blood via my Swedish heritage.
I have not met many Olympic athletes. I did see Dick Buttons and Barbara Ann Scott (Canada) at the Dartmouth Carnival in the fifties. A few years ago my town (Holliston) sent Kara Wolters to compete on the woman’s basketball team and she came home with a gold medal. She was very generous sharing her award with the entire town. She went from school to school allowing each child to hold the medal and attended receptions to let the grownups do the same. We each took pride in the support and encouragement we gave for someone to live her Olympic dream. A friend of my son’s college roommate was on THE hockey team that gave us so many wonderful memories. That made me feel somewhat connected.

So I am ready for my Winter Olympic vacation. I have scheduled no appointments for the middle of February. I do not need heavy waterproof clothing full of insulating materials. I just have to cross my fingers that the electricity stays on. I shall try not to snack too much or yell too loud. My best to all competitors – I shall cheer for great performances. But I shall be especially proud to see the USA on the medal platforms.  

February 5, 2010

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