Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Olympics Wrapup

Today, Sunday March 21, is the first day of spring. It's also the date of the closing ceremonies of the 10th Paralympic Winter Games, and marks the end of a long journey for Vancouver (and for us as well -- the first round of tickets we bought were on October 31, 2008!).

I've always enjoyed by-the-numbers summaries, so that's what I'll do here. Because I went to a Paralympic event on March 20th, the world "Olympics" will include the Paralympics as well.

10,429 - photos taken during the Olympics. This ranged from 196 curling photos to 2,067 short track speed skating photos.
2,285 - photos deleted for blurriness or other problems (22%). This ranged from 54 Paralympic super combined photos to 472 Olympic ski jump and skeleton photos.
270 - number of minutes it generally took to get to Whistler from Seattle during the Olympics, including a drive to Squamish and a bus from there to Whistler (about 30 miles further North).
240 - distance, in miles, between Seattle and Whistler.
188 - photos from the Olympics which I thought best represented the experience. See them here.
48 - the number of tickets I originally ordered in the Phase 1 ticket lottery to 24 different events (the maximum allowed). It took me 14 days to plan this order, which sought to gain tickets to at least one of each different sport discipline and see at least one event in every Olympic venue.
16 - the number of tickets I received from my initial Phase 1 lottery order (for 8 different events) or just 25% of my request.
15 - the number of different sports disciplines appearing in the Olympics.
11 - the number of competitions I attended.
10 - the number of days I was in Canada during the Olympics.
10 - the number of lanes open at Canadian customers.
9 - the number of different venues hosting Olympic competitions
9 - the number of different sports disciplines I attended (60%).
8 - the number of round-trips to Canada which I made during the Olympics.
6 - the number of venues in which I saw competitions held. I did not visit the Richmond Olympic Oval (venue for speed skating), Canada Hockey Place (venue for men's ice hockey and ice hockey finals), nor Cypress Mountain (venue for snowboard and freestyle skiing events). However, I did volunteer in February 2009 for the freestyle skiing world cup events at Cypress Mountain, so I think I have a pretty good idea what it would have been like.
6 - the number of tickets I ordered in Phase 2 (which wasn't a lottery) to augment my initial purchase, for a total of 3 more events.
5 - different people, including Sarah, who attended at least one event with me. (7 if you count people who independently bought tickets to events we attended; 9 if you also count people who used my tickets to see an event we were not able to attend because we were at another event at the same time; 13 if you could people who used my tickets to see events).
3 - nights spent in Canada, all of which were in the trailer. 2 people around us turned around and wanted to know where we found such cheap lodging when a survey-taker in Whistler asked us how much we were paying to spend the night ($100).
2 - the number of medals I could touch (both bronze).
1 - pair general admission tickets that I had were canceled due to lack of snow (at Cypress Mountain). Not coincidentally, CoSport has yet to refund the purchase price of the same 1 pair of tickets. (Boo CoSport, boo!)
1 - ticket on which I lost money (I did not recoup fees as I had to sell last-minute at face value)
1 - event on which I made money by selling the pair of tickets (biathlon on February 14th) for about twice what I had paid. I would have love to have gone, but the schedule just didn't work out.
1 - new world records I personally witnessed (possibly more, but I just wasn't paying attention to the scoreboards all the time!)
0 - tickets that I had which went to waste. If I couldn't go to an event or if I had extra tickets, I was always able to sell the ticket or find a friend to go with me.

See a set of the best photos from the Olympics, along with descriptive captions.

Paralympics: Men and Women's Super Combined

On Saturday, March 20th I decided I wanted to see a bit of the Paralympics while I could, so without a ticket I hopped in my car at 6am, and by 10am I had driven all the way to Whistler, parked my car across the main street from the venue, and had purchased a ticket. (Category A tickets were sold out, but general admission seemed pretty available). I didn't really know what the event was, but it turned out that due to the poor weather forecast for Sunday, all Super Combined events would take place on Saturday. This included three categories for each of men and women (visually impaired, sitting, and standing) and both sports (Super-G and Slalom). See all the photos from the super combined.

Alpine skiing competition has four primary events. In all events, the goal is to get down the hill faster than your competitors while not missing any gates. Downhill is the classic, with the fastest speeds and the fewest gates. Slalom is the most technical, and slowest. It has so many gates there's not even room for the gates, so all they do is put up blue and red poles which the competitors must go around. In between these two extremes are two other events: the Giant Slalom and the Super-G. The giant slalom has less gates than slalom, and the super-G has even fewer gates (but both have more gates -- and thus turns -- than the downhill). Super combined simply combines one run of slalom with one run of super-G. The shorted combined time wins.

I'm really glad I went to a Paralympic event, and I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't go to more. These athletes deserve the same -- if not more -- respect as traditional Olympic athletes. There were definitely fewer of them -- for instance, only six women in the visually impaired category. But skiing blind with a guide is something that is very difficult to overcome and takes a tremendous amount of courage to do. I'm very glad that the Paralympics exist in the first place -- it's a wonderful aspect of society as a whole that we recognize these athletes. However, the events are much smaller, and I'm thankful the Paralympics are attached to the Olympics and as such get to use the same venues which would otherwise never be built to the same scale just for the Paralympics.

Among the many differences between the Olympics and Paralympics the first that's noticeable is the logo. Instead of the Olympic rings we have the three Paralympic swooshes. The existing Olympic logos were covered up everywhere from the backs of the volunteer smurf outfits to the giant sheet covering the Olympic rings on the alpine hillside. The Paralympics have much less interest in them from the media -- I wasn't able to find a single broadcast on TV locally. There's also less interest from the public -- I didn't see any scalpers, and traffic restrictions were entirely gone. I drove myself to Whistler and had no problems parking a five minute walk away from the venue. Security entering the venue was also non-existent. Sure, they checked the ticket, but for the Olympics there were careful bag searches and x-ray machines. Nothing of the sort entering the Paralympics. Another difference is the Panasonic name on many of the banners and the finish line posts -- the Olympics were a bit less commercial in that respect. Additionally, I didn't attend an Olympic alpine skiing event, but in the events I did attend at the Olympics, the commentators did not provide running commentary during the competition like that which you expect on TV (ie, the athlete's history and descriptions of the action) while the Paralympic commentators did just that.

Other differences stemmed from simply being at the end of the Games. Excess maps were being put to use as headwear for the volunteers left and right. With daylight savings time, daylight lasted until 7:30pm. The atmosphere was more relaxed as well -- maybe it was less pressure from the world's media or perhaps just the knowledge that everything was drawing to a close. Of course there weren't the big Victory Ceremonies of the Olympics with A-list bands nor were any of the athletes really celebrities. There were fewer athletes as well, and the differences between them were often measured in seconds and not hundredths of seconds. The Paralympics also had more of a focus on disabled spectators -- more accessible seating and ramps were built over the two week gap from the Olympics.

If I had to pick one, I'm not sure if I prefer the Olympics or the Paralympics. Perhaps I'd just rather think of them as one global sporting event where all kinds of athletes come together from all kinds of countries to compete. It's been absolutely wonderful having both of these events so close to my home that I've been able to experience as much as I have over the past month. More than anything, I'd like to thank all of the athletes -- especially those who didn't get a medal -- who put in so much hard work and dedication because in the end, it wouldn't have been possible without you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now That Is a Happy Cat

The seriously sunny weather here is making more than just the humans happy.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Powder Day at Crystal Mountain

Absolutely great skiing on top of 20 or so inches of powder!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Short Track Speed Skating

On Friday, February 26 Sarah and I went to the Pacific Coliseum to see the only city-based (ie, not in Whistler) Olympic event we would attend together. Apolo Anton Ohno was a very classy athlete, applauding his competitors as they were announced and shaking hands with everyone after the race. Held at the same venue as the figure skating, it had by far the most comfortable seating we had yet experienced. And to top off the entire experience, not only did Apolo get his 8th medal, but one of his relay team ran into the stands and gave his mother the Bronze medal, and she was gracious enough to allow us to pose with it! (And it is surprisingly heavy!) See all the photos from the day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nordic Combined

Nordic combined is an interesting sport. I went to see it with Dawn on February 25th. The sport consists of a single ski jump (or in our case, 30 of the 46 competitors jumped, then they decided to have everyone jump again). Each jump is scored based on a combination of distance and landing style. For each point behind the leader an athlete is, they are delayed by 4.5 seconds (or something like that) in the cross country race. The worst jumpers ended up being almost 5 minutes behind in the 10k cross country ski race. The USA had never won a gold in Nordic Combined before. This year we took gold and silver. See all the photos of this historic event.

Men's Cross Country Skiing - 15km x 15km Pursuit

On February 20th I went to the Men's 15km x 15km Pursuit Cross Country Skiing event. The "15km x 15km" refers to the fact the athletes skied the first 15km of the race in classic style, then switched skis to do the second half in free style, or skate skiing. The racers did a single 3.75km loop over and over, so they came through the stadium 8 times total. See all the photos.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Skeleton and Ski Jumping Photos

Still working through the backlog of photos from the Olympics! Today we are featuring the Men and Women's Skeleton along with the large hill ski jumping competitions which were held on February 19. Pictured above is the women's skeleton gold medal winner Amy Williams representing Great Britain. It turns out a colleague at work from the UK is friends with her parents. See all the photos from these two events.