Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ottawa - Take 12

The Final Take

Back in Ottawa and getting into a different routine.

My 2010 Olympic Winter Games volunteer journey started more than two years ago when I applied on-line.  As one of the 75 Ceremonies Support Volunteers, I had no idea what to expect.  The tasks were many and varied and very different from my previous volunteer experiences.

What I saw was an amazing group, mostly young Canadians, practicing hard in their cast roles, often late into the evening, to deliver the best performance they could for the Opening or Closing Ceremonies.  It was interesting to see how all the components for such a major event are pulled together.  We were given an opportunity to see, first-hand, the imagination, dedication and talent of the excellent production team; David Atkins, Drew Anthony, Steve Boyd, Jane Misovich, and the many others whose seemed to be there 24/7 to fine tune every aspect.

We were very lucky to have an superb group of volunteer and cast coordinators, particularly Antoine, Judy, Michael, Melanie, Liza, Alison, and Chistina.  Not to mention the other cast coordinators, stage managers, and other volunteers who I had the pleasure to work with during the three months. They worked extremely hard to accommodate everyone, deal with many last minutes crises, and provide all of us with a very memorable experience.  Thanks for all the fun.

To all of my friends in Vancouver, thanks for putting-up with Graham.  Amazingly, I may be welcomed back!

So what's next - London 2012 - You never know!

One of the unique memories was as the protocol stand-in for Jacques Rogge.  I am not sure what I did to have 60,000 listening to Graham speaking! Unfortunately, at present, I don't have any pictures celebrating Graham's performance. 

What follows are a few pictures from Graham's volunteer journey.

Graham and some of the support volunteers 
(The Van 2010 volunteers were referred to as ``Smurfs'' - I wonder why?)

Graham and the other protocol stand-ins

Graham, Zoe, and Gary at the Sliding Centre (Whistler) for the 2 Man Bobsleigh

Clara Hughes getting the Long Track Bronze Medal (Ladies 5000m)

Some of the thousand celebrating Canada's win in the Gold Medal Hockey Game as they got ready for the Closing Ceremonies

Backstage at the Closing Ceremonies:

Adding the Gold Medal for Canada to a large table top hockey player

The GBR team getting ready to enter


 Manipulating the mouse!

In the Edmonton Air Canada Lounge (en route back to Ottawa) with Kevin Martin and the Gold Medal

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vancouver - Take 11

Almost Over

For the past month, the Vancouver transit system has been great and made getting to all the venues very easy.  The seats I had for the events were very good, with one exception, the men's semi-final curling.

It was a great game if you could see it!  They used two sheets and because of the number of times Canada had played the various sheets, for the semi-final, Canada had to play on a side sheet.  The good news was that Canada won.  The bad news was that, for those in the closest stands and that included yours truly, you could hardly see any of the play.   It appears the same occurred for the women's semi-final match with Canada once again playing on a side sheet.   I have no idea whey they built the stands in such a way that you could not see the side sheet closest to you.  If they constructed the stands three metres back everyone could have seen the matches on both side sheets.  We managed to move our seats which gave a better view of one end but made looking at the game on the TV screen almost impossible. Some of the spectators were so mad they left to watch the matches at home.  A great atmosphere but not a great spectator experience, particularly as the seats were Class A and supposed to be "the best" with no obstructed views. As you may imagine, I will be pursuing the matter.

The final Victory Ceremony and concert was Friday night (February 26).  The women's gold medal curling game (Canada against Sweden) took place in the afternoon and I wanted to watch it before heading to BC Stadium.  As the game went into an extra end and, unfortunately, Canada lost, it made for a mad dash to the stadium.  Great Big Sea was the headline group and they made it a large Newfoundland style "kitchen party".  At the same time as the concert, Canada was playing Slovakia for a place in the gold medal game.  All of us kept trying to find out the score. When we left the stadium and got to the Alberta pavilion, it was 3-2 and only a few minutes left.  We all stood in the rain and watched Canada hang on for the win.

With Canada through to the gold medal game, the crowds were out in the streets celebrating.  This was my last chance to walk around downtown, so I joined the thousands for the street party.

Saturday was the final dress rehearsals for the Closing Ceremony.  There were two run-throughs with Graham in his Jacques Rogge role.  During the first run-through, I had to stand quietly for about ten minutes while they got their cues and timing all set.  In spite of a brilliant performance, standing still and saying nothing, I was not asked to repeat it for the second run-through.  Instead they wanted me to speak for about four minutes.  I was not given a script, just told that I could say anything I wanted to until they cued me to announce that the 21st Olympic Winter Games were officially closed. Perhaps they realized that asking Graham to stand quietly again would be impossible! It gave me a chance to say a few remarks on my Olympic experience and to thank all those involved with the ceremonies, including the other volunteers and my stand-in partners.  The only people in the stadium were some of the cast, some ceremonies support staff, a few visitors (Russians and others), and some of the other volunteers.  So my remarks were mostly to an empty stadium.  However, some heard they had been thanked which made it worth while. For those who think that me standing quietly is better, I will try to do a few repeat performances on the golf course!

Sunday was the last day and what an experience. My final shift started at noon, just in time to watch the gold medal game with about a thousand cast members.  They were all supposed to be getting ready for the Closing Ceremonies.  Everyone was in a great mode for the first two periods but as the game went on the tension kept building.  As the game went into overtime, with many still to get ready, the production assistants and stage managers were getting very nervous.  When Canada scored the overtime goal, the place went wild.  Certainly a highlight of my Olympics.

My Closing Ceremonies assignment was to help coordinate the athlete marshals and the placard bearers. This gave me a chance to see much of the staging of the Closing Ceremonies as well as the athletes as they prepared to march into the stadium.  When we arrived in the waiting area we could see that only three of the pillars of the cauldron were up.  This was different from all the dress rehearsals with the centre and the four pillars all in place and the cauldron lit.  The decision to have the broken mechanism "fixed" as part of the closing and to have Catriona light the cauldron was a well kept secret.  All of us at the rehearsals had not got any sense that this was planned. It was great way to start the night, particularly as Canadian humour was going to be a major part of the Closing Ceremonies.

When the ceremonies were over, it was time to help give the cast and volunteers their closing gifts.  This was supposed to be the final time we would be together, so everyone took the chance to say goodbye and exchange contact info.  However, a few hours later we learned that a party for the ceremonies volunteers would take place on Monday night at a local night club. I took the chance to go along and guess what, I even won a door prize!

I will post the last blog (Take 12) when I am back in Ottawa and include some pictures.

I logged over 200 hours and my 10 weeks in Vancouver just flew by.  Many thanks to all those who made it a great Olympic and volunteer experience.