Sally and I started the Olympics with a trip up to Cypress Mountain to watch the ladies' moguls. Our tickets arrived with bus reservations from Lonsdale Quay...at 12:25 for a 4:30 start! Not knowing what might happen if we tried to get a later bus, we decided to forgo the opening reception of Canada House in order to catch the bus on time.
En route to the SeaBus, I noticed these old Canadian Pacific railway cars. Are they being used for accommodation? (I thought the wooden walkway connection was a clue.) One of the posts on Frances Bula's blog suggested we should use railway cars to house the homeless. While I didn't like the idea at the time, these sleepers might not be too bad!As we waited in line we learned that no one was paying any attention to the time stamped on the bus tickets...you took which ever bus came along. Had we known that, we would have taken a bit longer to enjoy our lunch at Lonsdale Quay. (Had we known what the food facilities were going to be like on Cypress Mountain, we would have taken more provisions, and urged everyone in the line-up to do the same.As the bus slowly made its way up to Cypress, we were delighted to finally see some snow on the ground. However, we weren't quite so delighted to see the heavy rain. It was hard to know what to wear, since it was so warm and clear when we left the house. Most of the people on the bus were reasonably prepared for the rain and somewhat colder weather, although far too many people were wearing thin pants and running shoes. They regretted it later.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when we arrived. I had never been to a skiing event before and although I knew we had grandstand seats, I wasn't sure how things would be set up. When we arrived, at 1:15 or so, I wasn't sure why we were all lining up in the rain outside...more than three hours in advance of the event start! However, we did enjoy posing for the Italian TV crew from SKY.
Once inside, it became apparent that it was going to be a very long afternoon and evening. There was virtually nowhere to sit down, no beer garden (which I understand is a common feature at similar European events) and huge line-ups to get a coffee or hot chocolate...or anything hot. We lined up for a while, but then the power went off to the food services...Someone suggested we seek comfort in the heat tent. We went into a large tent that was literally jambed with bodies with nowhere to sit and no tables....So we left and decided to take shelter underneath the seating area, but this was not really that pleasant. At that point, with still more than an hour to go, Sally decided that maybe it would be better to watch Jennifer Heil try to win gold in the warm comfort of the Arbutus Club. So off she went.With nowhere else to go, I decided to take my seat on the cold wet metal bench of the grandstand, but soon realized despite a couple of layers and a Gore-Tex jacket, I needed more clothing. So I set off and soon stood in the long line-up for the Olympic store to buy a sweatshirt. After an enjoyable chat with a couple from Montreal, also needing more clothing, I eventually made it inside and found what I wanted
The opening qualifying event was fun to watch, although I sure wish someone had suggested that I bring a cushion for the uncovered and ice cold seat. The qualifying round ended relatively quickly with Jennifer in second place and two other Canadians in contention, and then the dilemma was whether to wait another two hours for the finals or head off to the club myself. I decided to warm up in the Warm Tent, but one of the heating fans had broken, so I decided to get something warm to drink. But by now the line-ups were so great the choice was made easy...I was heading back.
After a long walk back to the buses, it was an easy trip back to Vancouver. I did enjoy watching the finals on TV at the club, and couldn't get over how much easier it was to see what was happening. While I missed the cheering of the crowd, I was happy to be back.
So I hate to complain, but I do have some suggestions for VANOC and everyone heading up to Cypress. First of all, VANOC should rethink how much in advance one must arrive....or add some places for people to sit or gather and enjoy the wait....My advice, check what time the last buses leave...don't arrive too early.
I realize it may be too late for VANOC to add food outlets, but surely it's possible to set up some separate hot chocolate or coffee stations...and let everyone know that food is allowed, and encourage them to bring it, along with a thermos of hot soup or a beverage. Most people I spoke to were under the impression they weren't allowed to bring in food. This isn't true.
For those who have grandstand seats, tell them it's cold and not covered, and to bring a cushion or something warm to sit on. And while it seems obvious, remind people to wear warmer clothing and waterproof boots...I saw far too many people holding their running shoes, with plastic bags over their feet. (I'm told many had to leave early, even before the qualifying round, because they were so poorly prepared for the venue.)
I am not heading back to Cypress, but a lot of people who have travelled a long way, and paid $150 a ticket and maybe more, will be coming. I hope we can get the word out that with more advance knowledge of what to expect, this can be a better experience. As one of the paid workers said to me as I was leaving....we really screwed up today, but it was our first day. Hopefully it will get better.
As Vancouverites, Sally and I were embarrassed for our visitors. I hope things do get better.