Getting a feeling for the 2010 Olympics in Whistler with six days before Opening Ceremonies

Whistler Village: -5 Days to Vancouver 2010

We made a mad dash this past Sunday to Whistler to snag our media accreditation at the Media Centre near the main village. It was a nice opportunity to get a low level feeling on how things are getting prepared for the beginning of the 2010 games at the end of this week.

Whistler Village: -5 Days to Vancouver 2010

A lot like Vancouver, people are exploring what’s already in place and snapping pics, much like myself.

Whistler Village: -5 Days to Vancouver 2010

Signage is everywhere. What to do, where to go to do it, etc.

Whistler Village: -5 Days to Vancouver 2010

Lanyards are as in force in Whistler as they are in Vancouver. So far, I’m up to having three that I’ll be taking with me where ever I go.

Whistler Village: -5 Days to Vancouver 2010

Ticket sales for events look to be steady. The line here wasn’t too hectic and no one seemed overly disgruntled while waiting in line. That sounds strange, but some prices for tickets are getting way too far out of my range for even consideration. I’ve heard a number of people who are happy to have the tickets but not so much when they talk about how much they paid for them.

Whistler Village: -5 Days to Vancouver 2010

I think it’s safe to say that the fever has started to rise in Whistler. They have all the snow, but getting up there is the tricky part.

Sea to Sky Highway looks great and is ready to handle the people flowing to and from, but we did see an accident on the way up that was enough to raise plenty of concern for anyone I’ve talked to about it. Basically, the road splits into three lanes about five times between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler. Two lanes is for traffic going one way and one lane for the opposite direction.

Speaking to people who live in the area, there is a lot of concern that even locals are getting confused by these temporary barriers and lane changes that the risk of accidents is actually increased by them. Basically it’s the premise of knowing something like the back of your hand, and these alterations, albeit subtle and only for a short period of time, will make driving this road even more treacherous when you combine all the Olympics traffic and people who are even less familiar with how much care you need to take on this road.

Whistler Village: -5 Days to Vancouver 2010

All fears aside, Whistler looks ready for the games. The people will come, but it should also be said that if you get up there to see some events, you can still spend some time skiing and enjoy the slopes while you’re there. Doing the same around Vancouver might be tough because even if you can get up the mountains, you might have a hard time finding some snow. Not so much in Whistler, that’s for sure.

The high tech and the not so much of Vancouver 2010

This is something that has made me chuckle for a number of trips through the Olympic Village Station on the Canada Line. Located right around the corner from the entrance of the station is the Olympic Line streetcar, which is an amazing piece of technology and is, if I might say so, kinda sexy.

Olympic Line Media Preview

Pretty cool, right? But to let people coming out of the station know which direction to go to get to this marvelous piece of transit equipment, you get this dry erase board.

High-tech sign for Olympic Line at Olympic Village Station


It’s just something that makes you laugh a little bit when you think about everything else that has been put in place or built for the Olympics. They could have put some stickers on it or wrapped it with some fancy graphics or something. But no, just this dry erase board that, oddly enough, has never been tampered with.

And the only reason I mention it at all is because when you go towards the bridge, about 100 feet in the opposite direction, you see this.

Olympic Line Opening Day

This is too large to fit on the other sign at the entrance, but could easily be put on that other sign if shrunk down. Still, whatever works. Long live ghetto engineering.

Athletes are starting to take over the Olympic Village

I think it’s safe to say that the Aussies have arrived in Vancouver for the games.

Athletes taking over Olympic Village

I work near the Olympic Village, and there was all sort of chatter about the kangaroo flag that went up at some point yesterday on the side of one building housing athletes in the Olympic Village. We have a couple of Australians working in the building, and they were all pretty pumped to see it. “That’s how we roll!”

Athletes taking over Olympic Village

I kind of feel sorry for those athletes with views not facing out where people can see stuff like this as you drive or walk by the village. I really hope that VANOC doesn’t rear its ugly head and call displays of patriotism like this unacceptable, if not a security concern. That’s why I ran out to grab some photos this morning.

Athletes taking over Olympic Village

And yet another checkpoint to get into the village.

Southeast False Creek, where the Olympic Village, is getting more and more hectic. It’s a non-stop parade of people in blue jackets with Olympic rings on the back and credentials around their necks.

Granville Street with new lights for the Olympics

Granville Street has been under construction for what seems like forever. Since about 2006, the downtown portion of Granville hasn’t been completely open as it once was. Getting close to the opening ceremonies for the 2010 games, these new lights have gone up all the way down the downtown core portion of the street.

Granville Street with new lights

I took this shot last night on my way home. Standing in the middle of Georgia and Granville, this is what it looks like at night, looking towards Waterfront. Not sure if the lights will stay up after the games, but they’re a nice touch.

Photowalk: -20 Days to Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

I know that at time of publishing this post, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are eight days away. The photos contained in this post are from January 23rd, just twenty days before the opening ceremonies. Rebecca and I wandered on foot from the Olympic Village to downtown with our cameras.

A lot of what you see in the post has changed quite a bit, but I thought it would be interesting to have these posted for the sake of Vancouver history.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

This is one of the gates to get you into the Olympic Village. It reminds me of when I traveled to Berlin with my parents, brother, and sister-in-law and visited Checkpoint Charlie. Inviting, don’t you think?

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

I heard this would happen, and no building is too large or tall to put wrap on.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

I pass by the official countdown clock everyday and never forget to sneak a peak of it. And more recently, I too was a tourist in my own city.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

I used to work in the building pictured above. My first radio gig in Vancouver.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

Steps out of Robson Square. While they looked painted, they’re actually wrapped.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

The Robson Square Ice Rink in the opposite direction of the stairs. This will probably be a stopping point more than a few times depending on the mayhem going on here.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

Granville Street with art installations and an ode to Hole In The Wall. Well, not really, but you could just imagine if it was.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

These venue signs went up practically overnight. I’d like to see them keep these with references to popular landmarks in Vancouver after the games.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

What do you do with a building in downtown Vancouver that is under complete renovation? You wrap a huge, Canadian flag around it.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

Canada Place is for the media and accredited guests. Getting down here during the games will be tough unless you’re on foot.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

No one is completely sure what’s inside these walls. It might be a “satellite cauldron” for the Olympic flame. Some even say this is where the actual flame will reside, which isn’t crazy being that the Olympic stadium, BC Place, is a dome.

-20 Days to Vancouver 2010

Finally, the “VANOC Only” signs that are popping up all over the city. Unless you have that going for you, driving should be the last thing on your mind during these games in Vancouver.

Kudos to John Biehler who let me borrow his 35mm lens for some of these shots. You can see the entire set of photos from this photowalk on Flickr.

I’ll be posting more photos over the next few weeks as my adventures with True North Media House will see us doing photowalks among the other various things we get ourselves into. I don’t usually put explanations on my photos, but I’m doing this more for my family and friends who are watching these events from afar. I wish they could all be here to experience this once in a lifetime event, and this is my best attempt to share that with them as well as the world.

Where VANOC got it wrong by going exclusively with Visa

In the scope of the 2010 winter games coming to Vancouver in just over a week now, there are many issues that people are discussing that are probably much more impacting to the large scope of what would be considered important. There’s part of me that feels like the following topic is one that is frustrating enough to me to give it a little bit of attention.

2010 Olympics Team Canada Retail Apparel Launch

VANOC made the choice long ago as to who would be the official credit card in 2010. This went to Visa, who has a long history of being a supporter of the Olympics.

What this basically means is that VANOC got a large sum of money from Visa to use the “official” tag within their brand as well as accompanying images and logos of the 2010 games. This is your standard deal when it comes to sponsorship, and that money from Visa has a hand in making this whole thing actually happen, making this contract a good one for VANOC in the long run.

This is where my knowledge of the contract for being an official sponsor breaks down, but where my aggravation resides in their mutual agreement comes from a consumer’s perspective, not to mention as a local resident in Vancouver.

2010 Olympics Team Canada Retail Apparel Launch

Aside from all of the logos, ads, and commercials you see on TV about Visa being this official sponsor of the games, the other aspect of this deal comes in when you visit the official store of the games at The Bay in downtown Vancouver.

Rebecca and I have made our way down to the store a handful of times. Yes, we’ve bought a variety of things for ourselves and as gifts for family members around the holiday season.

What gets me extremely frustrated is the fact that only Visa debit and credit cards are accepted as payment when you purchase anything from the official, VANOC store.

Why does this matter? Well, as a local resident to Vancouver, the people who are most effected by the overall cost of these games, I cannot use the debit card from my bank to purchase any items from the official store. While cash is also accepted, you’re basically hooped if you think that you can approach the checkout with plenty of money to spend from your bank account.

2010 Olympics Team Canada Retail Apparel Launch

Rewind to when it was Christmas time. I wandered in there a few times to do some window shopping, but as someone who doesn’t possess anything Visa, I couldn’t buy anything unless I walked into the store with a wad of cash in my wallet. During the busiest shopping period of the year, you can almost guarantee that I was not the only one who ran into this problem.

So what do you do? You tell yourself that you’ll come back to the store another time with some cash and purchase whatever it was that you wanted then. But do you actually end up making it back to the store to make said purchase? Why do that when you can pop down to Lululemon or some other store selling something 2010 looking or related item of some sort. And big shocker, you can even use your debit card!

To me, the way the partnership that VANOC established with Visa actually hurts the amount of revenue that could be made at the official store downtown if the way you could pay for their items was opened up. Sure, there are a ton of people already running around the city with all sorts of hoodies, hats, etc. Could you imagine how much more could have moved off the shelves if you could use your debit card from any bank?

Like I said, I’m a local resident of Vancouver. I had money I wanted to give VANOC so I could buy their stuff, pouring more money back into whatever sink hole of a budget these games have ballooned into.

VANOC releases updated balanced budget for 2010 Winter Games

Jan 30, 2009

Vancouver, BC — An updated, balanced operating budget of $1.76 billion, with a contingency of $77 million was released today by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). The updated budget places a priority on athletes, sporting competitions and the spectator experience at the Games and on television. []

But I couldn’t. It doesn’t make economic sense to me. You have millions of people living in the lower mainland, and when the games are over, we’re the ones left to deal with the aftermath of these games. No matter how amazing, awesome, or lacking they end up being, the price tag is what a lot of locals are worried about.

Like a square peg in a round hole, VANOC makes it tougher on themselves to help make revenue back, no matter how little the profit might be from their official store sales. I had money that I wanted to give them, but this decision of Visa being everywhere VANOC wants them to be, in my opinion, prevents more people from helping that billion dollar price tag.

All of this is outside of any knowledge that I have of cost analysis or profit projections that VANOC, Visa, and people who are generally smarter than I am with it comes to dollars and numbers had with each other. However, I doubt that Visa kicked in any extra money to help out with the costs that have arisen as the games approach. Not that people would rush out to buy more 2010 threads just to help with the overall cost of the games, especially in this economy, but why have just one, single funnel for all the official store profit?

Again, I know there are far more serious issues surrounding these games, but this is a look at one that is less addressed than others. With hope, this can raise issues for future games if not for future business decisions.

True North Media House: 2010 independent, self-accredited reporting in Vancouver

TNMH Media Badge
TNMH Media Badge by John Biehler on Flickr
One of the ways I plan to to document my experiences during these winter games in Vancouver is through the various outlets that I have available to me on a personal level. Be it my photography, writing, video, audio, and most likely Twitter, there’s a lot more to share with the world other than what you see on TV during the time between opening and closing ceremonies.

This is where the True North Media House comes in.

I’ve watched this plan hatch from an idea to a project in full motion. Somewhere along the line, and most likely of my own doing, I’ve gotten myself involved with the venture of helping it come up on a quickly approaching horizon.

In order to better explain what TNMH is, here’s a quote from the website:

The True North Media House project aims to inspire social media creation and educate about best practices for sharing content with audience. We’ll do this through a variety of meet-ups, photo walks, field trips, and outings with international media makers and aggregating Olympic culture-related content licensed with a Creative Commons license. []

True North Media HouseLet’s be honest. There are a lot of other people out there in the world who like to create the types of media that me, Rebecca, or like many of our friends do. Chances are, some of them will be coming to Vancouver to follow the adventures of their fellow men and women from the countries coming to the lower mainland.

There are a thousands stories to tell from all sorts of perspectives, and True North is what aims to bring this people together to share an understanding of how to publish, create, generate, or whatever they do with their experiences. And more so, what you should or shouldn’t do to make sure that what you have made still falls inside the guidelines TNMH promotes.

Even further to what True North Media House is, Andrew Lavigne has released this great piece from the documentary he is making entitled, With Glowing Hearts. It’s great back story that gives a better foundation from how this group came about. Webisode #2 ‘True North Media House’ from Andrew Lavigne on Vimeo.

I’m looking forward to what should be some unique experiences as well as meeting new people, local and from afar, who are anxious to see what the lower mainland will be like over these next few weeks.

How are you spending your Olympics? No matter how you roll, whether you plan to celebrate, protest, or observe, my admonition is to document the people’s history about how the Olympics interacts with our communities like historian Howard Zinn would advise. Perhaps you’re skipping out of school to see some events or explore Vancouver’s hidden gems? Good. Recluse J.D. Salinger woulda wanted you to, but wouldn’t let you know it. [Dave Olson,]

If you are interested in finding out more about True North Media House and maybe even getting on the bus, head over to the website for all the details.