Sunday, February 28, 2010

Scenes from Canada vs. Russia

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What people are really saying about the Olympics

It's really interesting to see Twitter trends on the Olympics and the disconnect between what the media was hyping vs. what the public was actually talking about. The FSA Group put together a little study called "Are Traditional Media and Social Media Talking About the Same Thing?" which visually displays (with a series of charts and graphs) how out to lunch the media could sometimes be when writing about the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Here's the link:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Scenes in Vancouver after Canada beat Slovakia

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Day Six

Day six of the Olympics was Wednesday, February 17th. After work I visited my parents in Steveston and we decided to visit Richmond's O-Zone for the evening. O-Zone is the official Olympics site in Richmond where a variety of pavilions, stages, and attractions are located. We arrived at 5pm and surprisingly, there was no lineup and the crowds were minimal. While it was sunny, the was a very cold wind blowing - the first time that it actually felt wintery during the Olympics. Here are a few shots from that night:

The main stage at Richmond O-Zone. Speed skating was playing on the big screens.

Holland's Heineken House - one of the most popular pavilions in all of the Olympics.

Vancouver legend Dal Richards performing on stage
Richmond City Hall all lit up

Inniskillin winery had ice wine tasting flights - 3 for $10. Well worth it!

Ice Gate - a colourful ice sculpture by local artist Gordon Halloran

All bundled up with the red Olympics mittens!
Beautiful lanterns add to the magic of the atmosphere.

All in all, we spent about 3 hours at Richmond OZone and it was a memorable night. There was an outdoor ice rink for ice skating and live music at the big stage. Quite a few big names were scheduled to play there, including Canadian bands such as Our Lady Peace,  Hawksley Workman, and the Bedouin Soundclash.

Heineken House had a large line-up to get in, so we didn't bother, although if you had a Dutch passport, you have your own separate VIP lineup. They essentially turned Richmond's Minoru Arena into the official Dutch headquarters during the Olympics. I can't imagine how they did it. I used to ice skate in that arena as a kid... and I have a hard time believing they converted it into a beer hall, dance floor and fan club! I never did make it out there, but my sister ended up going there a few nights later with a friend and was treated to a surprise DJ set by Armin van Burrin! It's true that, despite being out in Richmond (ie: not your standard nightlife destination), it's become the hottest party venue during the Olympics.

Across Minoru Blvd from the main stage and Heineken House, between Richmond Centre and City Hall, were some more Richmond OZone pavilions. City Hall was open to the public with a variety of displays on Richmond's varied industries. Large screens showcased Olympic events happening, while public art in the form of ice sculptures and laterns added to the atmosphere. Inniskillen Winery had an ice wine tasting. My Dad, being the wine lover that he is, treated my sister and I to a flight to ice wines. Definitely an enjoyable experience. It's such a treat to drink ice wine... it's almost like a dessert wine. Very sweet, almost like syrup, but very exquisite!

My favourite part of Richmond O-Zone was BC Street. Essentially it was a pavilion put on my Tourism BC featuring all the different regions of BC. Cariboo's pavilion was great - they had a guy dressed up out of Barkerville (BC's gold rush national historic site/town) and they had various businesses set up and First Nations with informative displays. Vancouver Island had a great display where they replicated Sooke and Tofino's ecosystems. And all throughout they had representatives from the various tourism centers and local businesses happily answering questions and sharing their passion for their homes. While Ozone won't be open for much longer, if you get a chance, it's well worth a visit!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stephen Colbert's Vancouverage of the Olympics

Stephen Colbert visits Sochi House in Vancouver - photo by Erin Hanson

Last Thursday afternoon I received a text from my sister Erin.

"Colbert is here! omg"

Hmmm. Well, I knew that already. People had been Tweeting like crazy about waking up early enough to see Colbert film on location for the past few days. I knew he was in Vancouver filming a few episodes for his show. I knew that he had a big stage set up out along False Creek by the Olympic pavilions, but the filming was early in the morning and I'd miss it because of work. I thought perhaps Erin only just found this out.

But when I inquired further, Erin clarified that no, she was literally standing right next to Colbert and his entourage in Russia's Sochi House. She was there touring around, and he just sort of arrived out of the blue. A bewildering experience, no doubt.

Colbert's take on anything is pretty hilarious as the best of times. For his unique perspective of the 2010 Olympics, you can now watch his "Vancouverage" online on the Comedy Network's website:

There are several episode's worth (all broken down into 4 part segments) and shows him touring a variety of the different Olympic venues and pavilions around town, interviewing athletes and visitors along the way. There's a good a sense of the crowds and the atmosphere in and around Vancouver (the cheering crowds outdoors are the same crowds cheering in the downtown streets every day and night). There's also a great interview with local politician, MP of Vancouver South, Ujjal Dosanjh.

You can read about Dosanjh's experience being interviewed by Colbert on his blog:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Day Four

Day four was Monday February 15 and back to reality: work. After work I drove over to The Bay department store at Oakridge Mall and picked up a pair of those red Olympic mittens. At home I took a stroll through Yaletown before making my way to the Aboriginal Pavilion before eventually heading back home via the Vancouver Public Library. It was low-key but I think I needed that.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Day Three

Day three of the Vancouver Olympics fell on Sunday February 14th. It was not only Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year, but it marked the end of grey skies and cold rain and the beginning of what would be a week's stretch of non-stop sunshine and beautiful springtime temperatures. We also had tickets for the Victory Ceremony at BC Place that evening, so it would be our first Olympic event, so to speak. We'd be witnessing the first medal awards! What a perfect day to wear red if there ever was one!

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.

(Click on photos to see them at full size)

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 

Yaletown condos

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

Yours truly

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!
Quatchi's a sasquatch

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!