That morning I woke up and immediately opened up my solarium window and peered outside to admire the sunshine. Crowds had already gathered across the block inside of the LiveCity Yaletown grounds. They appeared to be watching biathlon on the big screens. Others looked like they were waiting in eternal lineups for the Coca Cola pavilion.
But even outside of the fenced-in venues, the crowds on the sidewalks were getting larger. You could hear music echoing between the buildings, felt like I was missing out if I stayed indoors. I mean, look! After days of rain, this was a welcome scene:
Having spent the previous day along Granville and Robson, I decided this time around to wander in the other direction toward Yaletown with the intention of taking the seawall along False Creek and then cut through to get into Chinatown. Chinatown usually has colourful festival Chinese New Year festivities, and it was a perfect day to celebrate in red.
I ended up at the Yaletown Marina at the foot of Davie Street. The False Creek seawall was quite busy. Again, thousands of locals dressed in red, white, and maple leaves. Other tourists were wearing their country's gear. Everybody had a smile on their face and the atmosphere was incredible.
The Yaletown marina
Crowds along the False Creek seawall
Across False sits Creek Science World, a legacy from Vancouver's Expo 86. It had been temporarily converted into Sochi House - a pavilion showcasing the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Apparently the lineups to get in are huge.
Also across False Creek is the Olympic Village - the home base for the athletes whose events are taking place in and around Vancouver. The Olympic Village has been entirely off limits to the general public - there's no way to legally access them even if you tried.
These buildings obviously housed the Canadian athletes!
As I wandered solo along the sea wall, I called up my sister Erin who had been in Chinatown for a few hours and had just left there to explore elsewhere downtown. We realized we were close enough to meet up briefly. She had a bit of trouble accessing the waterfront from Chinatown due to all the security fences blocking off the areas around BC Place and GM Place/Canada Hockey Place. We eventually met up at the Plaza of Nations. We both commented on how the atmosphere reminded us very much of being little kids at Expo 86. We were standing on the old Expo grounds, after all, so it was somewhat nostalgia-inducing.
Erin hamming things up
The Plaza of Nations is another legacy from Expo 86. It's basically an outdoor stage, and for the longest time it had a sort of greenhouse plexiglass roof over top. However, a few years ago they got rid of that roof and they developed the indoor buildings (former Expo pavilions) into Edgewater Casino. Well, Edgewater Casino built a a complex of tents surrounding the main stage, and it was sort of like having a miniature version of the Richmond Night Market.
There was one tent devoted to merchandise and two tents devoted to food - mostly Asian street food and fast food, like takoyaki, chow mein, curry fish balls, pork sui mai, and grilled meat on skewers. White Spot had a booth selling their signature burgers, while there was a Chilliwack corn on the cob stand, and a company from the Okanagan selling organic apples. There were the bubble tea vendors, the sushi vendors, a mini donut vedor, and even a few vendors selling Indian curries. For $7, I bought a plate of lamb curry that came with naan, poppadoms, rice, and chickpeas - a great deal during the Olympics!
Back outside, I ate my curry at a standing-room only table with a family visiting from Eastern Europe. A musician performed Nova Scotia folk tunes on stage, probably for the Vancouver tradition of Gung Haggis Fat Choy (a mixing of Robbie Burns Day and Chinese New Year - the ultimate in wacky multiculturalism!) Afterward Chinese lions took the main stage and around the corner, dancers in traditional costumes were waiting around in public, anticipating their upcoming performance.
By 5:30pm, it was time to leave and start heading back into Yaletown to meet up with the group for the Victory Ceremony. As we passed by BC Place, the lineups were incredibly long, and tens of thousands of people were pouring down the street. Crap! Was this the line we were going to be at the end of in 15 minutes? Yikes! However, I walked past the lineup and headed into Yaletown to meet up with Josh and our friends.
Robson Street approaching BC Place
We met up on Robson and Cambie, a block from BC Place. But surprisingly, at 6pm, that long lineup from half an hour before had completely disappered. The security line was minimal. It took about 20 minutes in total and it was very similar to going through airport security. They check your bags, they run it through a machine, and then you walk through a metal detector.
Once inside the BC Place security fences, that's where it became a reality. We're actually going to an Olympics event! 48 hours after the Opening Ceremony, we were going inside BC Place. And just before going inside, who was there to greet us but the Vancouver Olympic mascots Quatchi and Miga!
Miga's a "sea bear" (killer whale & bear hybrid)
When we got to our seats, I just marveled at where I was. It sunk in that I was at the Olympics. They closed off most of BC Place so that only a third of it was accessible for the Victory Ceremony. However, you could still see the infrastructure from the Opening Ceremony.
The main stage
The ice podium
Each Victory Ceremony during the Vancouver Olympics has its own theme based on a Canadian province or territory. The first Victory Ceremony featured British Columbia. It started out with an introduction by Ben Mulroney and Tamara Taggart (the MC's for the night), followed by a powerful performance by the Gitksan Gitsegukla Group. They performed while panoramic shots of BC and old archival photos of BC's First Nations were shown on the various screens. I had goosebumps. Erin wasn't there, but she works closely with BC's First Nations, and I had to phone her to let her hear the drumming. What an incredible experience to see so many dancers and drummers echoing throughout BC Place. The energy was amazing!
As one performance group left the stage, another performance group joined in. It was relatively seemless. They had Celtic fiddlers from Canada's Atlantic provinces (the same ones from the Opening Ceremony) while archival footage of BC's gold rush was shown. There were South Asian bhangra dancers, models wearing crazy locally-designed fashions, drummers and gymnasts and martial artists performed beautifully to music while Tourism BC videos displayed the various regions of the province.
It was all very well done, however, there was certainly a cheesy factor when they had old white businessmen praising Vancouver's economy and telling the audience how great Vancouver is and how they should invest in Vancouver. Jim Pattison may be BC's most richest entrepreneur, but I thought they stopped those economic cheerleading ralleys a long time ago. Guess not! Oh well.
At the end of the performance, the medal ceremony started. We watched Canada's Jennifer Heil receive her silver medal!
And we witnessed Dutch speedskating superstar Sven Kramer get his gold!
There was American celebrity speed skater, Apolo Anton Ohno, moments before getting his silver medal.
And Canada's Kristina Groves smiling before receiving her bronze.
At the end of the medal ceremony, the white curtain on the stage lifted, and behind it began the Nelly Furtado concert. Nelly Furtado's a BC girl after all, so it's only fitting.
We left the concert approximately 7 songs in and decided to head back to the Plaza of Nations for some Asian street food.
Science World at night
Plaza of Nations at night
Food tents at the Plaza of Nations
Mercedes Benz displays outside of the Edgewater Casino
Everyone was tired so we made it a short night and headed home. Josh and I walked back to our apartment just in time to witness one of the most beautiful fireworks displays out of our solarium. It was as if they put on the fireworks just for us. It was definitely a great way to end the night!