Friday, March 4, 2011

Celebrating A One Year Anniversary

I don't know what the traditional present is for a first anniversary but this year it was Gold. On February 28, 2011 a bunch of us from Twitter gathered at Real Sports Bar and Grill in Downtown Toronto to mark the one year anniversary of the now historic Canada vs USA Hockey Gold Medal game and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony.
We had been talking for some time on Twitter about what to do for the anniversary. @Todd_W finally took the initiative and booked a reservation for us. Most of the people who attended had met on Twitter, some of us were in Vancouver for the Olympics, some were not and just came out to join the celebration.
Its funny to think, out of all the people there, most of them I hadn't even known at this time last year. Now on this day we came together to celebrate an event that we all had shared in different ways.

One half of our group at Real Sports.

The bar was showing the Men's Gold Medal game on their gigantic screen when we got there. I had planned on watching it but then got to talking about my Olympic adventures with all who were there. Shortly after arriving, an anchor man with CP24 came over to our group, decked out all in our Canada gear, and asked us to come join him for a live segment they were shooting from Real Sports. Finally my chance to be on TV! We all said where we were for the game. I was at BC Place watching the game on the screens while we waited for the Closing Ceremony to begin. Most of the group had watched the game with family or friends, some at home, some at a restaurant or bar. I have to say it was pretty fun to be on TV talking about the Olympics again. After the interview I called my parents to get them to watch it and tape it. I have yet to see the footage but I am sure our group came across as die hard Canadian loving fans!

One of the few people from my Olympic days I had not yet met was @MolsonTonia. Her and another Molson person were in contact with me quite a bit last year. Tonia even had Molson lanyards shipped to me to include in my loot bag. Tonia happened to be at Real Sports as well that night and we finally got a chance to talk. She also brought some hockey jerseys for prizes.

The jersey was a prize for Olympic trivia.

A special celebration was also going on at Real Sports in addition to ours. Molson and CTV were also hosting a anniversary party. Some members of the Women's Hockey team were present. For fundraising, bags with various Olympic paraphernalia had been assembled and available if you made a donation, which of course most of us did. A hat, scarf, tee, pin set and DVD set of the hockey games made it the best donation I've ever given! Now I can watch both Hockey Gold medal games in full whenever I want!
Some of the Olympic attendees brought their photo albums and I had fun looking at their photos and listening to their stories. I still don't know too many people who were at the Olympics so it was nice to hear someone else's stories for a change.
It was such a fun night, hanging out with Olympic people always is. Lots of talking, lots of laughs and lots of memories. That is what the Olympics is to me now with tons of new friends to share it with.

Other members of the group. Fun time for all.


Here is the video from our interview on CP24.

If you are on twitter, our hash tag for this event is #Van2010reunion. Special thanks to @The_JMoney for letting me use some of his photos. If footage of the interviews gets posted, I'll be sure to include the links here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goodbye 2010: I Will Miss You

It’s hard to believe 2010; the year of our Vancouver Winter Olympic games is almost over. It’s also hard to believe it’s been about 10 months since those Winter Olympic Games took place. I kind of don’t want it to end, 2010 has a nice ring to it. Even though the year is coming to an end, the memories and the friendships still live on. Recently I’ve met some more Vancouver 2010 fans who were also at the Olympics. For us, we talk about those games as if we just got back from our trips. It’s been great to reminisce and hear about other people’s experiences. I have certainly had my share of telling my stories, ones I never get tired of talking about. I remember every moment of our trip and the experiences leading up to it. This time last year I was getting ready to welcome 2010 with open arms. At last the year of the Olympics was about to start. And now I feel a bit sad that it is almost over. I’m sure 2011 will be a great year but it doesn’t have the same ring to it, or the same kind of significance.

People often ask me what my favourite moment was. It is very difficult to pick only one, the entire experience was incredible. If you were to push me into picking one it would definitely be seeing Canada win the Gold medal in the Figure Skating Ice Dancing final. To go to your first ever Olympic event and watch Canadians like Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skate amazing and win gold, I almost can’t even find words to describe it. For my Mom, brother and I it set off a chain of events that entire week that would be magical and better than anything we could have dreamed would happen. To be there and be a part of it while it was unfolding was amazing.

Leading up to our trip I often wondered if it would all be worth it. Would it be worth the money, the time, the planning and the stress? Yes it was, it most definitely was. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I have absolutely no regrets about any part of our trip. It was worth every single penny. I consider it to be the highlight of my life. When will something else even begin to compare to this I don’t know. When it does I know it will be quite extraordinary, because to have been a part of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games was a dream come true.

Happy New Year. Wishing you all the best for 2011.

Christina Wallaert

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two Months Have Passed

Has it really been just over two months since I left Toronto for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics? It almost seems like a lifetime ago. Two months isn't that long but it feels like forever. I guess with the change of seasons, it makes it seem further in the past than it actually is. I'm holding on to whatever feeble Olympic spirit remains. There are some people that I'm seeing for the first time since coming back. Obviously they are asking about my trip and I get to relive it every time I tell the stories over and over again.

Some great Vancouver people that I met through this Olympic stuff have been kind enough to send me souvenirs that were on sale. I went so crazy collecting pins, I forgot to add to my key chain collection that I've had for years. Thank goodness for kind hearted people like Robert and Gary. Both of them have sent me packages in the last month with some items they purchased for me (which I reimbursed them for) and some other little things that couldn't be bought at retail stores. It's been fun to come home and have an Olympic care package waiting for me. It's great that I had friends who could take advantage of those sales for me.

I also have the problem of trying to figure out what to do with my Olympic leftover's. I have trinkets from the Torch Relay, my Olympic tickets, a various collection of souvenirs, extra pins, tons of photos. What am I going to do with all of it? For the paper stuff a scrapbook is a must. I've had that in my head to do for awhile. Maybe I can do a scrapbook that combines my blog posts, pictures, ticket stubs, boarding passes? When my Mom unpacked she put all that stuff in my bedroom at their place. If I had to stay over there, it would be a big problem. The bed is covered in stuff. For now, I'll pack it away until I decide what I want to do with it. It may take awhile to figure out how I want to document all my memories.

As fun as the Olympics was, the one thing I would love to recreate again is the spirit and unity that was apparent in Vancouver. It is the one thing I make sure to tell people about. Watching their faces as I try to describe it, I can see they get it when they all do a silent "wow". I'm happy to know that this visual of Vancouver 2010 can be painted in their minds.
I feel sad that there are only memories now, the events are in the past and there isn't this exciting uplifting event to look forward to. I try to keep perspective about it. I was lucky to have been a part of it at all. To the degree that I was a part of it is very special to me. I will remember this for a long time. It's been some of the happiest, fun filled days of my life. There are so many elements to it that made it special from the people to the torch relay, Olympic events, our great athletes and my family and friends who cheered on my Olympic efforts with as much enthusiasm as they did the athletes. Yes it was a great time in my life. It is hard to be sad about that.

How long until London 2012?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back To My Real Life

I’ve been home for over two weeks now. Vancouver 2010 is sadly becoming a distant memory. Last week when I returned to work, it was great to relive the experience over and over again as co workers wanted details on what it was like to be there. I find it very hard to try to get across the look and mood of what was happening in Vancouver. Hopefully a bit of it gets across. It was so amazing to be there I hate to think I can’t do it justice in trying to describe it to others.
One of the things I’ve been asked by almost everyone is, “What was your favourite moment?”. I usually respond with it was all my favourite, how could it not be? There wasn’t anything that I would have changed about the trip. But they all want to know what my one most favourite moment was. After some thinking, I finally started to say watching Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win a Gold medal for Canada was my favourite moment. How lucky am I to have seen that? There are so many events over so many days, it is really luck and chance that you will be in attendance at a medal event and see your country win Gold. It was great to see the young couple skate a flawless performance, to experience it with a whole arena full of people who made more noise than you ever thought possible and an absolute thrill to see them awarded their medal and sing O Canada with them and everyone else in Pacific Coliseum. So if you’re making me pick one moment, it is that one. If you haven’t already you can read my previous post about it here.

Virtue and Moir on the podium with the Gold Medal

Flags being raised during medal ceremony for Ice Dance

It has also been interesting to hear from friends and colleagues who watched the Olympics on TV. Most people that I spoke to said they had never watched so much Olympics ever. They were glued to the TV and raced home from work to see what had happened during the day. I’ve also heard stories of people out running errands and everyone they saw wearing Canada apparel. Flags were flying on cars, people were celebrating all of our athletes achievements. It’s nice to know that Olympic Canadian spirit was carried throughout the country. Vancouver 2010 was a great event for our entire country, not just people who were present in Vancouver.

Another question I get asked is if this is the end of my Journey to Vancouver 2010 blog. No it is not the end. Post will definitely be more infrequent now because the Olympics are over but there will be things that I write about. For one, I have a shopping post I need to do, pin traders I need to write about and there will be ongoing stories and posts about the new friends I have made and are staying in touch with. I want to show people that Olympic spirit does last beyond the 17 days of the competition. For one, the Paralympics is going on right now. I’m very interested in seeing all that I can from that. I was at the Torch Relay in Toronto on March 5th and I saw the Opening Ceremony and some Sledge Hockey games on TV this past weekend. And after the Paralympics are over, what will occupy my time? Well it’s time to devote attention again to my Not A Shopaholic blog. It’s the first one I started and it’s been ignored for a long time while I wrote this blog and my contributions to Inside Not A Shopaholic stems from my shopping adventures and a deep desire to find unique items whether in apparel, accessories, home decor or anything. So if you miss me and come here and there isn’t a recent update, visit me at Not A Shopaholic.

Vancouver 2010 was a wonderful experience. It was worth all the money that I spent to go there. I would do it again in a heartbeat. And there is always London 2012. I put my name in to volunteer so we’ll see what happens with that. And it is not the Olympics but the 2015 Pam Am Games in Toronto will be a big event for us. I hope to be involved with that in some capacity, either as a volunteer or in a paid position having to do with buying or merchandise. Don’t worry, there will be lots going on to distract me from the fact that my trip of a lifetime is now over and in the past. I am actually curious to see what future things stem from this Olympic experience. I know there will be something. ;)

Thank you so much for reading. It is a huge compliment to me that people read this and actually like it! I’m very flattered that you enjoy my writing, that you tell me I’m a good writer. Thank you so much for sharing this experience with me and being so supportive. It wouldn’t have been half as much fun if I didn’t know there were all of you cheering me on and coming on this ride with me. Love you all.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Paralympic Torch Relay - Toronto

On Friday, after only being home from Vancouver 2010 for a day, I decided to head to downtown Toronto for the Paralympic Torch Relay.  The Paralympics will begin on March 12 in Vancouver, BC.  The Torch Relay and Celebration was held at Nathan Phillips Square, same location as the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration back in December.

Guests of Honour included Toronto Mayor David Miller and David Onley

This Torch Relay is a bit different from the Olympic Torch Relay.  For one thing is it smaller and shorter in duration of time.  It began on March 3rd in Ottawa and will end in Vancouver on March 12th at the Opening Ceremony.  There is no ancestral home for the Paralymic flame so Vancouver 2010 has created their own ritual for the lighting of the flame. There will be 10 community celebrations up to March 12th. "Ashes from the 10 community Paralympic Torch Relay fires will form the foundation for the final fire to be lit by a Musqueam First Nation fire keeper. The final Paralympic Flame will be lit from this fire and will be used to light the Paralympic Cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games at BC Place". (Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay)

In Toronto there were 40 Torchbearers who carried the flame around Nathan Phillips Square. I met up with Cindy, a Torchbearer from the Olympic Torch Relay, who I met through my blog.  She came down with her son and we all showed our support for the great athletes about to take part in the Paralympics in just over a weeks time. 

Cindy chats with Cynthia Mulligan from City TV

Luckily it was a beautiful, sort of warm day in Toronto so we were able to stay outside for the duration of the celebration. Entertainment was  provided throughout the entire Torch Relay and you could try out Sledge Hockey on the ice rink.  RBC had a booth where you could get your photo taken with the Paralympic Torch. It differs in colour from the Torch we saw during the Olympic Torch Relay. It is blue in colour, with the Torchbearer uniforms matching the colour of the Torch.  The red mittens they wore also had a different design on the front.

Paralympic Torchbearer uniform and Torch

I really wish I could also attend the Paralympics as I think their events would be amazing to watch, especially that Sledge Hockey! That looks so hard.  Ticket prices are very reasonable and there are some left for certain events. You can check out the Vancouver 2010 site to see what is available.
If anyone is going to be attending the Paralympic Games and wants to send me posts on the experience, I will publish them on my blog as guest posts under the senders name.

For all photos from the days events, click here.

Trying out Sledge Hockey at Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON.

Making Friends at YVR

On Wednesday when we were at the Vancouver International Airport waiting for our flight back to Toronto, I thought I would check out the Coca Cola Pin Trading Centre. Either I'm a glutton for punishment or my curiosity gets the better of me. I had decided not to try pin trading any further, those traders don't seem to like my wares, but I wanted to check out what these traders had. I do find it interesting to see their collection of pins up for trade. It is cool to see how many different ones are out there.

The last gentleman trader I spoke with was very nice and we chatted for awhile. After a few minutes and I swear this actually happened he said, "You look familiar. Do you write a blog?". Seriously. I was recognized as a blogger at the Vancouver Airport. There are tons of bloggers out there and I was certain he must be mistaking me for someone else, but he knew my blog very well. We chatted some more, he gave me a pin, I gave him Ontario and Gastown pins because that is all I had with me. Where were my Canada Loot Bags you ask? Packed in my checked luggage! Dumb me. I did still have my camera with me and made sure I took a photo. This may never happen to me again and I had to capture the moment. Plus Andrew was a really nice guy. It's too bad I only met him as I was leaving Vancouver. I definitely would have traded pins with him. So he is added to my list of Vancouver Olympic friends. If and when I make it back to Vancouver (maybe this summer?), we will have to have a reunion and break out our pin lanyards for old time’s sake.

Andrew and I at the Vancouver Airport location of the Coca Cola Pin Trading Centre.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Good Bye Vancouver

March 3, 2010

This will be my final blog post from Vancouver, but I hope not the final post on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics themselves. We are leaving for the airport in a few hours. Unfortunately the Olympics are over and it is time for us to return to Toronto. Even though the Olympic events have ended, I really hope the spirit of them has not. Coming into the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, I had no idea what to expect from Canadians. We are known as modest people, quiet in our love for our country and support of our athletes. I really thought I would go to events in Vancouver and there would be a minimum amount of cheering. Was I ever wrong about that. The energy and noise from Canadians at events and in the streets of Vancouver was huge! I think the entire world and Canadians were taken by surprise at the level of enthusiasm we exuded during these games. Countless people had Canada flags draped around them, maple leaf tattoos on their faces, Canada apparel on pretty much everybody and a complete willingness to show and tell others how much we love Canada. Complete strangers in the street were your friends, so many high fives, hugs and “Go Canada” passed around the streets of Vancouver. I have never seen anything like it and may not ever again. I don’t even think I am doing a good job of portraying what it was like. It was so special to be here and be witness to these Olympics Games, the athletes involved and the people who supported them.

To be in an arena and have the noise level drown out an announcer is something I never thought I would see. I have sang O Canada more times the last two weeks than I can even count. I sang O Canada in the streets of Vancouver, on public transit, at Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Robson Square, at Olympic events when Canada won Gold medals and even when we didn’t.

Any where we went, we spoke to the people around us. People were so thrilled when I gave them a Canada Loot Bag. I’m happy I could provide them with another memento of the Olympics in Canada. I will miss the friendliness of people at the Olympics. It is one thing I hope continues on. For a short period of time, we made an effort to talk to those around us when we were in line ups, on transit or at an event.

This entire experience has been a special part of my life. I miss it so much already. I’m not sure that I will ever experience anything like this again. There will be other Olympics but I don’t think they will be like this one, at least not for us Canadians. To have been a part of it is an honour. I hope everyone can experience the level of Canadian pride I saw and felt during Vancouver 2010. Yesterday on the news headlines I saw the IOC had praised the people of Canada and Vancouver for “extraordinary embrace of the Olympics”. I think that describes it brilliantly.

I leave for home sad that this is over yet thrilled that I was able to be here and participate. There isn’t anything I would have done differently. To the City of Vancouver and all the people who were a part of my Olympic experience you will always have a very special place in my heart.