PTWA Editorial Advisory Committee member Joyce Middendorp spent some time at the Olympic Games last week and was kind enough to share her experience with us. Sounds like it was a great time!
Our journey started Wednesday when we took the Amtrak up to Vancouver, B.C. What a wonderful start to our experience, it was so beautiful along the sound with great views throughout. Once in Vancouver our first mission was find and get to the hotel, which was 30 minutes south of town and supposedly easily accessible by sky train. With all the helpers and great signs everywhere we were surprised how easy and convenient it really was to find.
Now onto our first adventure–a hockey game. The atmosphere was great, lots of local support, families, and of course both teams were well represented. It was very exciting with scoring back and forth right until the end when goals were being scored with ease for Switzerland. Overall it was a perfect start to our games! Again transit was a breeze with volunteers (or as the locals call them “smurfs,” because they are dressed in all blue) everywhere you looked. You couldn’t get lost if you wanted to. The only difficulty was getting used to being closer to people than you would like on the buses and trains but it wasn’t that bad.
The next day (Thursday) we were off to long track speed skating. After a great walk along the riverfront we enjoyed the speed skating. Being only two rows from the track was amazing… almost as amazing as getting an autograph and picture with Bonnie Blair! Which was a great way to spend the 15-minute break between the skaters! It was a little surprise perk that came with our package deal and I think it made everyone’s day.
We then headed to explore the downtown, take in the scenes and of course see the Olympic Cauldron which was a “must do” on my list. Too bad you couldn’t get very close to it. Later that night we got to see several US athletes get their medals at the Vancouver Victory Ceremony including Shaun White and Scotty Lago for snowboarding, Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick for 1,000 meter speed skating, and the Canadian speed skater Christine Nesbitt who won by .02 seconds earlier that day in the 1000 meter distance. We then ventured down to the Olympic Superstore which we heard could have waits up to two to three hours but we got in 20 minutes. It was not as super as I had anticipated but of course we did spend some money there.
Then Friday (our long day) at Whistler started at 5 a.m. when we took a cab to catch our Olympic bus to the mountain (a two to three hour ride) where we saw ski jumping at 10 a.m. The entire venue rocked with a drum line on the sidelines, crowd trivia and lots of great jumps. Most importantly for me as a physical therapist, no one fell or got hurt! Some of the better European jumpers can really catch some air. This was most impressive. We even got to take some pictures of ourselves on a mock ski jumping setup and backdrop.
After ski jumping we took another bus to Whistler Village where we walked around and saw several teams out and about. Whistler Village has a lot of hustle and bustle. After a bite to eat, we were off again up the mountain on the gondola to the Olympic Sliding Center to see skeleton. The higher you got the colder it was and as soon as we got to our seats (metal bleachers), we were not sure if having seats was such an advantage. The people on the ground standing at various turns, straight-aways and at the end seemed much warmer than we were. We enjoyed seeing the crazy sleds fly by so quick that it was hard to take many pictures. Unfortunately the Canadian (who was a favorite) did not place which bummed the crowd a little. It was not from a lack of support that’s for sure. After a long three hour ride down the mountain, we were able to take a short sea bus back to the train station which gave us more great view of the Olympic rings as well as the city lights and another view of the Olympic torch. Once back to the hotel, we collapsed and decided to sleep in the next day.
Saturday was quite the challenge in terms of taking the train due to MANY more people out and about. We first went to see the Ozone celebration site. There we saw the Olympic rings and a huge maple leaf all made out of cranberries which were unfortunately in a park instead of in the river as first planned due to fast currents. Nevertheless it was impressive. These celebration sites are everywhere in the surrounding cities and have many things to do, see, and partake in including a huge screen TV area where you can watch the events. Most of the day there is also live entertainment. After doing a little more shopping and grabbing our bags from the hotel we did manage to get to the Amtrak station although it did take some effort and some kind people to assure we succeeded.
Overall our experience was priceless. It was highlighted by seeing the Canadian spirit everywhere and across all age groups. The Canadians were full of pride especially after they won that first home turf gold medal. Canadians as a whole were very respectful, helpful, friendly and very polite. Overall it seemed as though the organizers did a great job in having enough buses, trains, etc to get everyone where they needed to be and on time. Of course a lot of our time was spent in lines for security, buses, trains, coffee, food and bathrooms but it was still fun and exciting. Everyone was in the same boat and really seemed to make the best of it. It was also nice to see the all the USA sweatshirts, flags, and memorabilia around the venues as we were well represented as expected. We were lucky enough to stand right next to an American luger and his family at the ski jump, we saw the speed skating team at the skeleton, got Bonnie Blair’s autograph and saw several other family members and USA Olympians out and about during the day which was all very exciting. I am so glad and thankful that we had the opportunity to partake in the games, thank you Canada for being such a great host!
Joyce Middendorp, MPT