Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vancouver - Take 6

Two weeks tomorrow and the fun begins!

This weekend they will be closing a number of major roads, particularly in the downtown core.  There are signs everywhere warning of the difficulties of driving into the centre of town or to any of the venues.  Fortunately, on Monday, I will be moving into the apartment I'll be renting for the next month.  It is close to English Bay and it should make it easy to get to BC Stadium (for the Opening, Victory and Closing Ceremonies) or to Canada Hockey Place (GM Place before and after the Olympics).  To get to the other events, the SkyTrain and bus will be the means of travel.

For the various sports venues, all seems to be in place.  Cypress Mountain (just north of Vancouver), where the Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding will take place, seems to be the only one where there is some concern.  It has been relatively warm lately with the usual liquid sunshine that Vancouver gets at this time of the year.  I bet the Olympic organizers wish it was last year with all that snow.  Not sure what the weather forecast holds for the next two weeks but I guess they will do what other winter olympic sites have done, try and make as much snow as possible at night and, if necessary, truck in more snow.

I wish to thank my former CMS colleagues and those in the CMS Executive Office for making sure Vancouver realized that a special volunteer was in town.  While visiting Granville Island I could not miss the store that had a special window display.  I made sure a picture was taken as an official record.

I also took a ride on the Olympic Line - the new Bombardier tram that runs from Athletes Village to Granville Island.  A friend is a Bombardier volunteer and take turns driving the tram.  Luckily he was not driving it when I took the ride! (The Bombadier volunteers are in red and the City of Vancouver volunteers in blue.)

My horoscope, reported on in last week's blog, knew there was going to be a special role for Graham.  My "exceptional capabilities" have been acknowledged and the organizers have realized that I should have been a VIP at the Opening Ceremonies.  To make up for this oversight, I have been asked to stand-in for one of the real dignitaries as part of the ceremonies rehearsals.  As close to the real thing as I will get!

I will be working almost every day from January 29th to the Opening Ceremonies on February 12th.  Some of the days will be very long so the energizer bunny will need to make sure his batteries are fully charged!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vancouver - Take 5

For the flight to Vancouver on Monday, I lucked out and got upgraded again.  For the evening flight, which includes dinner, wine etc., it is a good one for an upgrade.

While in lounge in Ottawa, I exercised my brain and solved the Post's Sudoku puzzle - yes in 10 minutes!.  Adjacent to the Sudoku was the horoscope section so I decided to read what the fates had in store for this Olympic traveller as he headed to Vancouver for his six weeks of volunteering and seeing some events.

"For the next six weeks, the Sun is at high noon in your chart acting like a spotlight, calling attention to you.  Bosses, parents, teachers, and VIP's not only notice you, but they think you're exceptionally capable.  The police will notice you too."   (National Post - January 18, 2010)

While certainly accurate about my capabilities, I am not sure what I am going to do to get the attention of the police.  Several out here have ideas!  The former Osprey Captain expected that the Opening Ceremonies would be cancelled by now.  In addition to his numerous other talents, perhaps he can see into the future as well!

On Wednesday evening I received my BC Stadium Induction, so I am now cleared to volunteer there.  Even though a great deal has already been done, with only 23 days to go, it looks like they will be working around the clock to get everything ready.  As we left the stadium at 11 p.m., the night crew was getting started.

I now have a few days clear before my shifts start again on Sunday. I had better take this time to relax as I will likely be working almost every day from Sunday thru to the Opening on February 12. For the Opening Ceremony and, possibly, for the Closing as well, the main role they have in mind for me is linked to the Athlete Marshals.  It would involve coordinating this group and a good chance to experience this part of the Opening from ground level. 

They have some other roles in mind but nothing definite as yet.  One would require me to stand quietly for some time.  I am sure some of my golf partners would appreciate Graham developing this skill.

As an Opening Ceremonies volunteer, I will get some free tickets to the two main dress rehearsals.  I have to work at both rehearsals, so some lucky friends will get a first chance to see what is in store.

If it works out with the weather and my shifts, I will go to Whistler next week and see how these preparations are going.

Stay tuned for Take 6 and maybe more pictures!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ottawa - Take 4

I made it back to Ottawa and, as I managed to get upgraded to business class, it was a very pleasant flight.  Thanks to all those looking after my house - all was great except for some white stuff all around.  For my week in Ottawa the weather was kind - nothing too cold and hardly any snow.  The cold weather should hold off and no major storms appear to be in the forecast before I fly back to Vancouver on Monday evening.

I am now fully accredited (do the realize what they have done!) and I got fitted out with the uniform.  I am not sure who they used for sizing but, for some parts of the uniform, I needed the small size.  I feel sorry for the truly "small" volunteers. I have to start wearing the uniform in February and since the uniform is quite bright, all those volunteering will be hard to miss.  There may be a picture in a future blog!

With nine shifts completed (almost 50 hours), I think I will have done close to 200 hours when everything is finished.  All of the ceremonies volunteers have now completed several shifts so the main coordinators have an idea of where each person would be most useful.  Yes, believe it or not they still think that applies to Graham!  In fact, they have suggested two responsibilities for Graham and both could be very interesting.  Both involve me using a radio and needing to speak quietly - don't you think this is one of my talents!

I am getting an idea of what shifts I will have to do before the Opening Ceremony and during the olympics.  Fortunately, I should be able to work my shifts around the events for which I have tickets.  I expect to be working at both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and I doubt I will get a chance to see much.  I am am sure, however, I will hear everything.  The roles they have in mind should give me an excellent opportunity to experience the ceremonies from a unique perspective.

Look out Vancouver, trouble is headed back!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Vancouver - Take 3

WOW - My first month in Vancouver is almost at an end.  Time flies when you are having fun!

Seven shifts completed and things are picking up with Opening Day fast approaching.  The rehearsals move to BC Stadium next week and I have to complete an "induction" to be cleared to work there.  I'll do my induction on January 20, just after I get back from Ottawa and before I start working at the Stadium. Once the rehearsals are in BC Stadium, all the performers have to wear radios and head phones.  So, even though they are still practicing in a large tent across the street from the Stadium, to get them used to the system, the routine now includes distributing communication devices.

I receive my uniform and accreditation tonight.  Come mid-January the accreditation will allow for free transit on the SkyTrain, buses, etc.  For those with tickets to an event, the ticket will also allow for free transit within Vancouver on the event day.

Vancouver is starting to feel more like an Olympic city - increased signage, road closures, security fences being installed, and more and more event buildings going up.  January 22 marks the beginning of the Cultural Olympics so not long now before things start in earnest.

One of the friends I am staying with, and I use the term loosely, has a rye sense of humor and had one of the chief coordinators very worried.  They phoned last Saturday and wanted to talk to me to confirm a time.  She was shocked when told there was some very unfortunate news  about Graham.   The news was that "Graham had gone mad and they needed to get rid of him!"  When she realized GPW was really OK, my reputation as being "trouble" became even more cemented.

On the non-Olympic front, to keep in shape for the start of the golf season in Ottawa (probably four months away), I signed-up at a local community centre.  It is close by, very reasonable and with a good gym and swimming pool.  I usually go each morning and feel really at home with all the other seniors! 

As I will be gone for week, I have shifts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday before I fly back to Ottawa on Monday.  I'll be in Ottawa from January 11 - 18, and hopefully I will be able to connect with some of you while I am back home.