Saturday, February 13, 2010

Olympic Update: Whistler Sliding Centre

I had some great lines prepared in my head for today's blog, but at the end of ten hours running up and down Blackcomb Mountain (in the pouring rain) I seem to have forgotten what I wanted to say. But the show must go on ...

I’m becoming addicted to "bean around the world" coffee which is [devastatingly] located at the bus stop in Squamish. But I'm not sure I could have made it through today unaided by some sort of stimulant, so perhaps it's not so much an addiction as survival mechanism.

Enjoyed my coffee on the bus while reading the book-club book, and then soon met some great fellow-sliding centre volunteers waiting for our shuttle to the venue.

Once at the top we were thrown straight into the fire. There was a ton of information to process in a very short time. Men had been on the track all morning, woman began training at 1pm and first men's single events began at 5. We had three hours to get spectators in and learn the venue for ourselves, as well as our duties, how to work our radios, where important places like warming tents were located and anticipate the top-asked questions by spectators.

My job is to keep my team happy and comfortable while they handled everything from accreditation monitoring, to ushering, to spectator and course marshalling. I’m also a “firefighter” as in, I go around putting out fires as needed as well. Today, ironically, the big “fire” was the weather, which caused many spectators to become frustrated with the use of umbrellas, which blocked the view of the track. Oh, another day in the life.

I had the biggest team on venue today (15 strong) and they all went home fed, and smiling so I'm counting it a success.

Team Leaders such as myself were given a physical area to take care of and I drew the best one: finish. The big Thunderbird final curve wrapped around the border of my territory and every single one of my team had a banger vantage point to watch luge all day. The cool thing about our venue is that aside from about 1400 grandstand seats, all areas are “general admission”. You are free to roam the entire course from top to bottom and there is very little to separate you from the athletes flying by at speeds up to 150km/h (especially if that athlete is German ... they were killing it today). We were constantly having to ask people not to lean into the track. It’s a pretty intimate experience and I think that’s rare among the Olympic venues.

As for the sliders, I can't BELIEVE how fast those guys get. Luge is a pretty amazing event, but that wasn't the only sport going on: all through the crowd, spectators were cheering themselves on when they *finally* managed to capture a slider in-frame. They go by so fast you almost can't see them. And the luge sleds are much quieter than I originally thought, so there’s hardly any warning when they’re on their way. I was embarrassed a couple of times thanks to my being easily startled.

Before the first event today we all observed a moment of silence for Nodar. Since I was in charge of the finish, there was a lot of curiosity around the site of yesterday's accident. Flowers were placed beside the track but they weren't visible to spectators because a new barrier has gone up. The remaining poles are now padded as well and they have moved the men's start down to the same level as the women's to try and scrub some speed as a precaution.

Thankfully, there were no serious incidents today, although one slider (Swedish I think I heard? I'm sure TV coverage included the clip) fell off his sled, and somehow managed to remount in the Thunderbird and finish his run back on it. Crazy.

So now I'm on the bus, riding home to Squamish where I expect to fall into bed in a dampened heap until it's time to get up -- early -- to go again.

Congrats to Jennifer Heil for her medal today!

Ladies' practice

My team arrives

My lunch ... not bad. Thai soup and Pizza sub.

Slider in the Thunderbird turn

Cdn slider in the Thunderbird turn

The finish area ("MIX" - Media Interview Exchange, ie where you see all the athletes after their races, commenting

"Dot map location 81"

flowers for Nodar.

Coming in hot

Near the end of a successful first day.

Goodnight, WSC

1 comment:

  1. Good morning Kris. Happy Valentines Day!
    Great report and great photos. Whooooooosh!

    Love Mom

    PS. I like your least my boots got to go to the Olympics.