So much going on at Olympinskiy Park leads to less frequent blogging.
Gone are the 14 hour work shifts with the end of the round-robin, and I think everyone working at the Ice Cube Curling Centre can appreciate that. The semifinals have been set following this morning’s tiebreaker game between Great Britain and Norway on the men’s side. That game has really set the bar high for the rest of the play-off matches. While it was a close game, Norway controlled the hammer. But Thomas ULSRUD’s (NOR) final stone was just a few centimetres off and it led to one of the most impressive game-winning shots that I’ve seen in person. The crowd was quiet because the Russians have been eliminated from the curling competitions, so I can only imagine how loud the Ice Cube Curling Centre would have been if STUKALSKIY (RUS) or SIDOROVA (RUS) were throwing the final brick.
You’ll have to excuse the caps and NOC references in this blog when I mention a name. It’s the ONS style we use, and it’s been engraved in my mind.
Between the long work days, I was able to take in many things that helped make this an Olympic Winter Games experience. I’m happy for that, because once the round-robin started it really just felt like working any other curling event at the past. The Sochi 2014 rings in the venue don’t add any extra incentive, or add any more value over any of the events I’ve done before. But once I step into Olympic Park, that changes.
I managed to grab a last-minute ticket to the Opening Ceremony. Sitting in Fisht Olympic Stadium and counting down the minutes to the start was overwhelming. We were seated in the press area and I had a moment where I looked around in disbelief of what I was about to witness and how lucky I was to be there. I think I could have let a happy tear or two out, but then remembered I was surrounded by a bunch of hard-nosed journalists who have all been there and done that before, and I kept it together. Watching the torch light up, and having my ear drums rattled by the sound of proud Russian cheers and who knows how many Roubles worth of fireworks explode is a moment I’ll never forget.
But I’ll have this picture, taken shortly after leaving the ceremony, to remember it.
I managed to get in to the Canada House and it felt like home. I was there in the afternoon and so it was a lot of friends and family of the athletes relaxing (some sleeping) between games and events. The beer was free and flowing, and I also received some free tickets to the Sweden v. Latvia hockey game, which was surprisingly closer than I expected. I went with my new pal Dustin, who just so happened to be on Dragons’ Den, pitching his start-up hockey app called Shnarped which I recommend you hockey fans download. Dustin and his crew did quite well and received offers from all of the Dragons. I’ve yet to have some time to look for his segment on the show, but I can’t wait to see it.
This has been a really special experience. I’ve been wearing some pins on my accreditation lanyard and it’s really cool to have someone stop you and start trading pins. It’s a strange tradition and doesn’t sound very exciting. But it’s rooted much deeper than that. I believe it’s about sharing a moment with a stranger, sometimes one who doesn’t even speak your language, and bonding under what the Olympic rings and sharing an experience with the world. Pins have more value than Roubles here, I swear. I’ve been handing out many Manitoba and Canada pins to volunteers and spectators, and they all get so excited to receive a pin. It brings a big smile to my face (like the one in the picture above).
Enough talk. Here’s some photos to wrap up this blog post.