One of the nice things about the party atmosphere in the downtown is the number of street entertainers who have surfaced - most are drawing a crowd - how much moola they are making is another question.
Once I decided what to do today I headed down towards the Olympic cauldron site at the Trade and Convention center - wanted to see what all the fuss was about - well they have changed the fencing a little - effectively cutting a whole in it about eye level so you can put a camera in it and get a decent picture - not that great for taking an image with someone in it.
They have also opened up the west side of the plaza at the Convention center - all you had to do was get in line - took about 35 minutes to get to the top - the scenery was spectacular and the people in the line were friendly and talkative - the couple beside had there 7 month pregnant daughter with them - she had to sit down a lot and by the time she got to the top some of us were wondering if the little gal was going to make an early appearance.
From the top of the stairwell - what a great view.
Thanks to a tip from the Slovakian welcome girl at their downtown representative House I am now able to translate their Paralympian site to English - they say life is an ongoing education and such was the case here - i wasn't aware that Google has a translator app - only knew of Microsoft and it doesn't do Slovak. Well I went to the Translator site and put in the URL of the Slovakian Paralympian Committee and have all of the info I need of the make up and previous performance of their athletes.
It appears and the list could change that their delegation will have 13 participants of which 7 are visually impaired - so those seven will have a guide - 11 are in Alpine Skiing and one each in Cross country and biathlon.
Most have participated in previous games and couple are medal winners but I don't believe that Slovakia has won a Gold in Para events yet.
In addition there delegation has another 6 - 10 team officials etc.
Based on a delegation size of between 20 - 40 - they should get 6 of us assistants - which probably means two will commute by bus from Vancouver to Whistler daily.
They will also have the use of three GM Acadians for there transportation needs - while a number of GM vehicles are being used for the Winter Games it appears that this is the only one for use in the Para Games as they are a cross over model and have been equipped for winter road driving up at Whistler.
The body and the mind are in conflict this morning - one wants to exercise the other says take it easy - I think I am convincing the mind to relent and join the wishes of the body.
I am going try and locate on a Slovak map all of the home towns of the athletes to see if any come from near the paternal home town of Liesek, Slovakia
Near the center middle is a town called Liesek - that is where the Grandparents come from.
I joined my friends and former work mates Tom and Victor yesterday for a little pavilion hopping - I walked down to Science World - nee Russian Pavilion where I met them and after a short lineup wait proceeded to enter the Sochi Games display - they are the holders of the next Winter and ParaWinter Games in 2014 - Sochi is located on the Black Sea so like Vancouver it is also a Seaport - the third seaport to hold the Games after Oslo and ourselves. It is a City of around 350,000 - it is building an entire new complex of sporting facilities and it's ski area is about 45 KM away and will be connected by light speed rail - while construction has started on some of the venues they won't know the costs until after everything is finished - where have I heard that before.
After spending some time there we headed over towards the Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario houses - the first had a rather long line-up so we by-passed it - both the Quebec and Ontario are giant beer halls with the latter also having a 4-d display - I remember getting dizzy with 3-D at Expo so we voted to by-pass that line-up.
From there we heading over to the Edgewater Casino where we rested and had a soda and Tom contributed to the Casino's profits on the slots.
A quick tour of the food court and the shopping bazaar on the grounds of the Plaza of Nations - put on by the Casino and it was time to say goodbye - while Tom and Victor headed for Skytrain I walked up to Granville and then home.
The crowds for a week day were large and with the sunny but brisk weather a great day to get out.
Entrance to the 4-D part of the Ontario Pavilion.
Le Belle Province pavilion.
Guess who overlooking some of the pavilion from the park by Science World,
A model of the planned site in Sochi
Russia House - nee Science World and the line-up waiting to get it - it moved quickly - they only scanned our packs for forbidden items.
Today is suppose to be a bike ride but the body and mind are fighting each other so I think I will listen to the body - just take a short walk down to the Gym and relax in the steam bath - then take in the Cauldron and a couple of other houses - recheck on the Netherlands merchandise.
The next few events I know about and once the Games are over the focus will switch to the Paralympics - already starting to see some advertisers started to switch there promos to the Paralympic logos - good to create as much awareness as possible.
On Monday Feb 22, 2010 I get my accreditation and uniform
March 3, 2010 - two weeks from today I will be on a bus up to Whistler - need to start a packing list of what to bring in addition to my uniform - one thing I don't know at this time is whether us volunteers will have access to laundry services in the Village - otherwise I will have to take everything back and forth on my day's off.
March 4, 2010 - we meet our Chef de Mission and start to get our various work assignments.
March 12, 2010 I travel with my delegation down to BC Place for the opening ceremonies.
March 21, 2010 the Para Games end
March 24, 2010 final day in Whistler and my return to Vancouver
Through my involvement which the YMCA's Connections program I was able to receive a ticket to the Victory and Medal celebration last night at BC Stadium - each night is a theme night - usually a Canadian province or corporate sponsor - last night it was Nova Scotia and in a short 30 minute time frame they provided a good mosaic of that provinces rich cultural diversity.
The nightly events are MC'ed by CTV BC weather Gal Tamara Taggart and E talks Ben Mulroney - yes he is the son of the former Prime Minister.
After the thirty minute warm the awards take place - they alternate between Vancouver and Whistler and while it was quite as wild as the night before it sure got noisy when Michael Robertson was presented with his Silver Medal from the Men's Snow Cross.
Then it was onto the feature entertainment of the evening - a concert by Canadian rock stalwarts the Bare Naked Ladies - while I have never seen then perform live I was certainly aware of there music - after all - who doesn't know some of the words to "If I had a Million dollars" Ed Robertson - lead singer really worked the crowd and even had a few zingers for us - such as - the real reason that Wayne G is in town is to work on a bid for Phoenix to host a winter Olympics since there seems to be snow in Arizona and not in Vancouver - or those up at Cypress aren't saying EH Canada but HAY Canada.
It was an abbreviated 50 minute performance - the images aren't all that great since my free seat was to the side of the stage - they did allow people down onto to the floor. I opted to stay in my seat and then after the concert headed for Granville street which is getting zanier by the night.
The concert stage
From the large screen Tamara and Ben work the crowd.
My seat mates and their large Canadian Flag.
A proud Canadian with his Silver Medal.
The three medal winners standing for the playing of the US anthem
The band has taken the stage.
Ed Robertson works the crowd
One final look at the stage.
Today it is a possible meet up with Tom and Victor and some time visiting the Russian, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan pavilions.
The photo uploaded is slow today so not all of my photos have being uploaded.
Wanting a break from the action in the downtown core I took a little drive down to the southern suburbs and a much quieter place - the Crescent Beach - White Rock area.
I made a stop at the old Stewart House in Elgin Heritage Park and then into Crescent Beach and Blackie's spit - the weather was clearing off - looks of people out and about - very high concentration of older adults but there is also a spattering of young ones with kids.
Then it was into White Rock and a couple of stops along the beach - they have lifted the parking fees during the week until the end of the month - strolled along the boardwalk before heading back to Vancouver to get ready for the Victory Ceremonies at BC Place with the Y connections new immigrant program of which I am a volunteer.
The first few days of the Olympics certainly has had it share of ups and downs - my emotions from gone from elation of seeing and later holding the torch to sadness and dismay over the death of an athlete to anger and disgust over the wilful damage and disregard for human safety by a gang of thugs or anarchists back to elation with the winning of our first gold medal on home soil - to seeing and being apart of the celebratory atmosphere so prevalent in the downtown core - never seem so much red and white in all my life - it is also very inspiring to see people either from other nations or new Canadians proudly showing off there colors.
Below are a few images of my thoughts so far.
The torch makes it way down Davie to a turn at Burrard.
A large moving crowd greets all of the participants on a cool Friday morning.
Heading down Burrard St and a change of bearers.
That me holding the torch at Robson Square - it was taken with my Blackberry and cropped from the picture below.
Here's Gordon bearer #74 who was so kind to let people handle and be photographed with the torch - he tried for about 15 minutes to leave but continued to keep smiling for the many people at Robson Square who wanted their picture taken.
Found out later that bearer #73 was former Mayor Sam Sullivan.
A small Deneditoral - have the Games being prefect NO - likes most things in society and in people's lives there are challenges and issues that have to dealt with.
Weather - really hard to blame VANOC etc for the weather woes - mother nature has done her thing at other Games and will continue to do so in the future. A great credit must go out to the volunteers who work tirelessly in getting Cypress Bowl ready - Cypress asked for and spent some of there own money for this site - also another 10,000 people going to Whistler each day or several times a day was problematic.
The Cauldron - the only real mistake here was putting it in a place where people want to get up close and personal - most Games it is located at the top of a stadium or building where people can't get up close.
The death of an athlete - as part of the Olympic family - volunteers or Blue Jackets as CEO John Furlong calls us we were all saddened of this young athlete's death - who is to blame - I wasn't there and have refused to watch the video - too squeamish for me. I will let those who like to play the blame game to fight it out about what should or shouldn't have been done.
Legitimate protest vs anarchy - before the Games started a number of organizations have made there views on the Games, their costs, their warts, their misguided message etc well known and indicated that they intended to try and focus to the world community how much worse Vancouver is than other cities or countries in the world. The Poverty Olympics , the Opening ceremony protest, the hanging of banners from the Cambie Street bridge, the setting up of a tent city on a vacant privately owned lot were all for the most part peaceful and without incident and was accepted by citizens and visitors alike.
Fast forward to Saturday morning and the actions of a group of thugs or anarchists who decided to take the law into there own hands - throwing newspaper boxes through windows in the Bay and the TD Bank - spray painting the anarchists logo on passing buses and private cars and assaulting members of the press - Thanks to the good work of the VDP and others these hoodlums were cornered and giving the option of dispersing or being taken into custody - thankfully all but a few opted to leave. THE VPD RECEIVED HIGH MARKS FOR THEIR HANDLING OF THE SITUATION. The sense on the street later Saturday was one of disgust and more than one person stated what they would do the next time these wet diaper twits tried something.
The downside of this is that other legitimate protest groups have been neutered and are worry about a backlash - so far that hasn't happen and let's hope it doesn't - while we may not like the inconvenience of a street close off for a rally or a few signs attacking corporatism it's a small price to pay for our freedom.
Traffic management - despite all the dire predictions of gridlock the only gridlock to be found downtown is all the people out on foot enjoying the sights and sounds of the Games - yes transit has been busy but many people who need to use it are reporting they waits aren't that much longer - all the extra buses added, more Skytrain cars is working.
Entertainment - all along Granville and parts of Robson every restaurant and bar is filled to capacity - people are milling around - last night there was a giant pick up game of ball or street hockey in the middle of a close off section of Granville St - a note about Granville Street - after about 3 years of closures, ripping up the pavement, redo the sidewalks, lighting etc it is starting to look like it's former neon glory - the Vogue theater folks have restored there large neon signs and many of the other businesses are dressing up there signs as well.
Finally - despite what a protester was trying to tell the world on a hand made sign at Robson Square that read in part " Are you aware that 1000's of homeless east side people have been picked up and bus to a secret location about 60 miles from Vancouver" - WHAT UTTER HOGWASH AND I TOLD HER SO -the homeless are still on the streets - sleeping in door ways etc - the panhandlers are still standing and looking for help - I have talked to a couple of them - some are doing better than normal because of their location - others less well because the crowds have shifted - there are lots more playing instruments and singing - where's Simon Cowell or the Gong when we need them.