Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Brampton, ON Has Olympic Spirit

I'm not about to give all of you an assignment and then sit back and wait for all the photos to roll in.  I've also got my eyes out there to help spot displays of Olympic Spirit across Canada.  This is a photo I took on the weekend in Brampton, ON at Chinguacousy Park.  It was at the top of the mountain they use for skiing and tubing.  I spotted it when we were on our way home from my Torch Relay ride along (blog post coming soon).  I figured out what this was as we passed it so I turned the car around and went back to take a photo.  I ended up hiking half way up the mountain to get the best photo I could.  Thank goodness this side of the mountain didn't have a lot of snow.
So Canada, in case you were wondering what kind of stuff I'm looking for, this is perfect.  If you spot anything, take a photo and send it to me.  My email address is notashopaholic at or you can send me a link to the image if it is already online.  I'll compile them in a future blog post and create an online photo album for them. 
If you want to see the photo that started all of this, see my previous post on the subject.  I heard a rumor that someone in Keswick, ON has built a replica of the Olympic Torch and I am trying to track it down for a photo.  If you know anything about this or know someone in Keswick please let me know.
Happy New Year.

Brampton, ON showing their Olympic Spirit at Chinguacousy Park

Did I mention that I grew up in Brampton?  So proud of my hometown.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay St. Catherines, ON – December 20, 2009

St. Catherines was Torch Relay #4 for me. It wasn’t on my original list of planned appearances. A series of events that unfolded the week previous led me to St. Catherines and their Torch Relay. The short version is my co-worker Mariesa grew up in St. Catherines and goes back frequently to visit family and friends. She got a call out of the blue one day from her cousin, an up and coming TV and radio personality. Mariesa’s cousin had got a call to cover the Torch Relay Celebration on December 20th. Mariesa immediately started talking about me and my adventures with Vancouver 2010. By the time they hung up, it had been arranged that I would go to St. Catherines for the Torch Relay and be interviewed by Mariesa’s cousin for the piece she was doing for local TV.
I met Mariesa the morning of the 20th and we made our way to Market Square, the location of the Torch Celebration. We saw Mariesa’s cousin right away and did the interview. I was kind of nervous because I have not ever been interviewed for TV before. I was able to answer all the questions although I have no memory of what I said. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a copy of the clip so I can see what it is I said.

Hanging out in Market Square before the arrival of the Olympic Torch

We hung around Market Square for awhile and checked out the festivities. St. Catherines had a huge ice sculpture of the three Vancouver 2010 mascots, Quatchi, Sumi and Miga. You could walk behind the sculpture and put your head in the space that was carved out. Of course we took a few pictures. I have no idea how they did that sculpture but it was very cool and very impressive. Around noon we ventured out to the relay route to find our spot. We placed ourselves at the corner of Lake and Welland. A Coca Cola truck stopped and a guy yelled at me to come over. I was the chosen one to hand out the Coca Cola flags to the crowd around me. They went pretty quickly.

 Ice Sculpture in Market Square.

Mariesa was completely on board with running along with the torch so we made sure to place ourselves away from the crowds so we could take off running without hurting anyone. We followed if for awhile and then cut across a street to get back to the celebration. When we got to the top of the street the convoy was coming by again! We ran again and managed to keep up with it. It helped when the Torchbearer slowed down and walked. When it came time for the exchange, they held the Torchbearers in this one spot for awhile which allowed everyone to get a good look at it and take some great photos. Finally they were given the go ahead and the last Torchbearer; a St. Catherines resident carried the Torch into the Celebration and lit the cauldron.

Left: Mariesa cheers on the arrival of the Coca Cola truck.  Right:  Waiting for the Torchbearer exchange.

In all of the Torch Relays I have been to, I can never get over the amount of people that turn out to witness the relay and the Torch Celebrations. St. Catherines is not a big city, population is just over 130,000, yet there were tons of people filling Market Square and for awhile we couldn’t even get close to the stage. I love seeing the community spirit, Olympic spirit and the Canadian spirit from people all along the relay. I can only imagine what the people see who are on this journey every day. I think they are the luckiest people right now. I am proud to be Canadian and more proud when I see people showing their pride at events like the Torch Relay and Celebrations.
To view the days photos, please click here.

Crowds at the Torch Celebration. The lit cauldron is on the left.

Torchbearer who lit the cauldron.  He is a Roots Right to Play Ambassador. Notice our matching mittens.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Guest Blog Post by James Hamilton

When I was at the Mississauga Torch Relay on Saturday, I was able to say hi to my Twitter GM friend Art of @GM_ArtandSerge.  Art and Serge are members of the GM team who are travelling with the Torch Relay Convoy and taking care of all the vehicles.  On occasion they have the opportunity to give guests ride alongs.  On Saturday when I ran into Art, James Hamilton was in the passenger seat looking somewhat stunned that someone was screaming from the sidewalk, "Are you the GM guys from Twitter?" 
James and his brother managed to track me down and I asked if they would like to write a guest post for my blog about their time with Art and the Torch Relay Convoy.
Below is James' account of the day along with the photo he took of me standing on the sidewalk in Mississauga.

Hi, my name is James Hamilton and I am a blogger – my blog is called Toronto Grand Prix Tourist. I met Christina on a crowded street corner in Mississauga, Ontario as I was passing by in a GM pickup truck – part of the Olympic Flame Relay convoy with the Fleet Manager Art Lewis.
My travel on that day was a result of an earlier email asking if I wanted to see the considerable amount of vehicles sponsored by General Motors which are required to support the Flame Relay, along with the Art, during a media event in Toronto. My answer was yes, although I did not get to see that vast amount of vehicles, now about numbering about 110, and was instead given the superior chance to go on an Olympic Flame Relay drive along. It took about a week of negotiations with the team to get an acceptable time to join the convoy as their primary responsibility is to ensure the vehicles receive service and are on the road and his schedules are pretty hectic.

James in the passenger seat and Art of GM in the driver's seat.

The date chosen was Saturday, December 19, 2009 and we finally got together in front of the Bell Campus in Mississauga just across the Toronto boundary. He pulled up in his shiny, fuel efficient, black GM Silverado (for sale after the Olympics) and we got together and went through his plans for our ride along. I say we because I had my fellow photographer, blogger and brother Joe Hamilton along for the event.

The Bell Campus location wasn’t a random location – it was chosen because Bell, a major Olympic Sponsor, had a special Flame Relay event on and the convoy was part of this event. We were told to go out and explore the Bell event and get ready to leave at a moment’s notice when the convoy heads out onto the official relay route. When we received word we jumped into that shiny, fuel efficient, black GM Silverado (probably be a good deal when it does go on sale) and got into line behind a few hundred police escort vehicles.
We headed into Toronto for the start of the Centennial Park leg of the day’s relay. During the Flame Relay we passed intersections blocked off by police on bikes and in cruisers, following emergency vehicles, control vehicles and buses which picked up and dropped off the relay runners. The crowds along the side of the roads were impressive and some of the people even ran ahead with the flame. Each runner was mobbed by eager fans hoping for photos. The wife of one runner I know had said that after he finished his run and taken photos with all his ‘fans’ that it was hard to get him into the car because his head was so big.

As the convoy continued we arrived in the heart of Mississauga, which must be that big ugly mall called Square One, and we were coming up to the entrance into the mall property and I had my window rolled down to take pictures as the convoy went around the corner. As we slowed down a gorgeous lady asked if we were the GM guys. I replied that yes, that Art himself was driving the shiny, fuel efficient, black GM Silverado (it will probably have quite a few miles on it by that time). She said that she was following the convoy on the internet and that she was the “not a shopaholic.” I was intrigued because she looked like the lady from Star Trek, Next Generation – you know, Marina Sirtis who played Councillor Deanna Troi. I thought it was cool that movie stars were out to support the Olympic Flame.

Photograph taken by James at the corner on Kariya Gate and Burnhamthorpe Road. That's my Mom behind me.

Shortly afterwards we departed from the flame convoy and Art drove us back to our car at the Bell Campus. Based upon Christina’s comment we were able to track her down on the infinite internets and I was dashed to find she was not Marina. She does, however, have a great blog and lots of enthusiasm. Good luck at the Vancouver Olympics Christina, James.

I am happy to tell you that I have been contacted and asked if I would like to have my own ride along with the GM team and the Olympic Torch Relay Convoy.  I will join Serge (Art is taking a well deserved break) in London, ON on December 27th.  If I can't be a Torchbearer, this is the next best thing.  It will be quite a day. Thank you very much for your post James.  It is great to get perspective from some other people. Christina.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay Mississauga, ON - December 19, 2009

After an early morning in Georgetown, we rushed home for some breakfast and then headed to Mississauga for their portion of the Olympic Torch Relay. Mississauga is a suburb of Toronto and located 30-40minutes west of the city. The Torch was scheduled to arrive between 11am-noon.

The Olympic Torch is coming!

Again my Mom and I walked a bit of the route to find the best place to be. In Georgetown we learned that the Torchbearer exchange is marked with an orange sticker. We walked around looking for one of these and found one on Burnhamthorpe Road, just west of Hurontario Street. There weren’t too many people here yet but as it got closer to 11:30 more people began to appear.

Orange marks the spot.  If you want to see a Torchbearer exchange, look for these markers along the route.

For those of you who don’t know Mississauga, this intersection is extremely busy. I had no idea how they were going to close this down for the relay. Somehow they managed to do it and it wasn’t long before we could see the convoy arriving again! Burnhamthorpe is a long street so we could actually see it coming from a distance. I tell you, the site of it appearing in the distance and watching as it gets closer is really something. We watched the Torchbearer exchange happen. When this Torchbearer was dropped off, he was crying as friends and family hugged him and took photos. As he ran, he was all smiles, enjoying this proud moment and even joking with his family, some of whom were running beside him.

As the Torchbearer began to jog up the street, my Mom said she wanted to run along with it and that is what we did. So close to it, we ran all the way up to the next exchange. I even got a chance to see my GM friend, Art, from Twitter and his ride along buddy for the day James Hamilton. See the blog post James did on his day with Art and the Torch Relay Convoy.
As the convoy made its way around the shopping mall, we walked up to the Torch Celebration. Many people were there waiting for the Torch to make its entrance to the stage. We found a place in between the people and watched it approach again. It was carried by Cheryl Pounder, a Mississauga resident and a Women’s Hockey Gold Medallist. She carried the flame up to the stage and lit the cauldron. The Mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion, who is something of a legend in the city, made a wonderful speech about Canada being the greatest country to live in and the inspiration the Torch and the Olympics is to the younger generation. The crowd even chanted “Hazel, Hazel” at one point. The gentleman beside me asked, “Is there any other city who loves their Mayor as much as we do?” The answer is no, there isn’t.

Torchbearer heading West on Burnhamthorpe Road.  Notice the cars and people on the other side of the street.

We left the celebration a bit early because we wanted to see the Torch make its exit. It was carried back towards Hurontario on Burnhamthorpe by the Mississauga Braves Hockey team. Each member got to carry the torch 50 yards before handing it off to another team member. If you think one Torchbearer is impressive, let me tell you that 15-20 of them all in those white uniforms is really a great site. Again we went running alongside the Torch. As we were running, I noticed people in cars on the other side of the street, were getting out of their cars to clap and cheer as the Torch was carried by. Others were out of their cars taking pictures and several honked their horns. It was amazing to see. Even as I watched the Torch be carried south on Hurontairo, towards Port Credit, horns were going like crazy. It was unreal. The amount of respect people were showing for the Torch, for the Olympics and for their country is unforgettable. For me it will be one of the most memorable moments of the Torch Relay. I can’t think of too many things that would get this kind of reaction from people. I watched it for as long as I could. I would have loved to continue to follow it but I knew I had to turn back and find my Mom.

Great turn out in Mississauga for the Torch Celebration. Hazel is on stage, standing by the cauldron.

What a day to remember. This was the third Torch Relay I attended. Each one has its special moments and memories for me. I am on a quest to see as many as I can.
To see all the photos from the Mississauga Torch Relay, click here to view the photos online.


Art, my GM Twitter friend, @GM_ArtandSerge, and James in the passenger seat.

Olympic Torch Relay Georgetown, ON - December 19, 2009

My Mom had always wanted us to go to the Olympic Torch Relay when it passed through Georgetown, ON, a community about an hour north and a bit west of Toronto. I hesitated agreeing to go but then finally decided to do it after a portion of the Toronto relay was diverted. Now, having been to Georgetown I’m happy that my Mom pushed so hard for us to go. It was an amazing place to see the torch for the first time and I was touched to see the amount of community spirit Georgetown has for Canada and for these Olympic Winter Games.

Georgetown was an early stop on the route on Saturday, December 19th. I met my parents in Brampton at 6am and we left for Georgetown right away. Driving through the city to get to the Torch route, quite a few store signs announced the arrival of the Torch and invited everyone to attend. Bleachers had even been put up in front of the local arena for relay spectators. As we drove by there, some people were tying a Canadian flag to the top of the bleachers.

My Mom and I settled ourselves on the route at Guelph Street and Queen Street. As we were waiting we got to talking to some of the people around us. Ken Sproule, owner of Ken’s Auto Service and his wife were out earlier than we were and struck up a conversation with us right away. Telling them we were going to Vancouver to see the Olympics, they were very excited for us. My Dad was further up the route and positioned to take video of the relay.

Coca Cola always livens things up, no matter what time it is.

We also met the family of one of the days Torchbearers, Justin Schlupp. Some of Justin’s family had travelled from Kitchener to watch him run his leg of the relay. They parked themselves in front of his post and anxiously waited for him to arrive. There were as happy and as proud as can be to have a family member participating in the Torch relay. My new friend Ken offered to get us pen and paper from his store so I could take down the info of Justin’s family member. Then Ken asked if I would send him copies of my pictures which of course I agreed to.

Justin Schlupp's family waits at his exchange point.

Adding to the community spirit was a lovely woman from the church across the street from where we were. She came around with hot chocolate twice for those of us who had chosen to stand out in the cold to watch this great event happen. I couldn’t help but think this would never happen in Toronto. Everyone was very cheery for an early, cold Saturday morning.

You know the Torch is close when you see this.

The first signs of the convoy arrived around 7:30am with the Coca Cola and RBC trucks getting everyone more worked up. It was a great site to see after being disappointed at the Toronto relay. Soon after, we could see the Torchbearer coming over the hill and running towards us. Carrying the torch proudly and running at a good speed, she stopped as she got to Justin. They posed for pictures and I believe a photo was taken of Justin and his family before Justin was off and running, his family yelling support and running after him. Once Justin turned the corner at Mill Street, my Mom and I took off running. Spotting my Dad running up Guelph Street we followed him and got to the top of the street in time to see the convoy and Torchbearer again. This was the end of the route and from here the Torchbearers were shuttled back to wherever they had started. It was a great morning made all the better by the community spirit of the people from Georgetown. I’m so happy that I was a part of it. Thank you very much Georgetown. What a great event you hosted for the Olympics’ and for us.
For additional photos from the Georgetown, ON relay, click here.

The Torch handoff to Justin.

One of many signs announcing the arrival of the Torch.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Torch Relays Today

I plan to do more detailed posts on this in a day or two so this is to give you a quick summary of the days events.  I attended the Torch Relay in Georgetown, ON this morning.  My Mom and Dad came with me.  We were all up very early to see the Torch run through Georgetown between 7-8 am.  Here are a few photos:

Lovely woman handing out hot chocolate. 
Gotta love smaller cities and their hospitality.

Waiting for the Torch to arrive.  Look at the crowds behind us.
It was around 7:15 am.

The Olympic Flame arrives and is ready to be handed off to the next Torchbearer.

Later on in the morning we attended the Torch Relay in Mississauga, ON.  The Torch arrived at the intersection of Hurontario Street and Burnhamthorpe Road around 11am.  It circled around Square One Shopping Mall and then headed into the Torch Celebration.  Cheryl Pounder, Women's Hockey Gold Medallist lit the cauldron and Mayor Hazel McCallion, gave a very inspiring and rousing speech.

Torchbearer exchange on Burnhamthorpe Road, just west of Hurontario Street.

Met my Twitter friend Art from GM.  I think he thinks I'm a little nuts.
Follow him @GM_Artand Serge.

Torch Celebration on Living Arts Drive.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay Toronto, ON - December 17, 2009

It is very late and I am very tired so I think I'm going to write little and put in lots of pictures.  The Torch Relay route did get diverted right as it got to us at Yonge and Wellesley but you cannot dampen Olympic Spirit.  As we walked south on Yonge Street and got to Yonge-Dundas Square, I couldn't believe the amount of people out there!  So many Torontoians waiting out in the cold to cheer on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  It was great!
We continued on to Nathan Phillips Square where the Torch Celebration was taking place.  We arrived just in time to see Women's Hocky superstar, Vicki Sunahara, carry the Torch down Queen St. into the Celebration.  We got to see the rest of the festivities as well as the fireworks that ended the night.  Overall, it was great.  I still want to see the Olympic Flame run through the street.  Hopefully I'll get to see that on Saturday in Mississauga.  I'm also try to plan at least one more outing to see the Torch before it leaves the Greater Toronto Area.
For additional photos click here.

This nice young man let me take a photo with him and his Torch.  A Torchbearer from earlier in the day.

The convoy at Yonge and Wellesley St. in Toronto.

Celebrating the Torch and Vancouver 2010 at Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto, ON. December 17, 2009

Toronto Torch Celebration ends with fireworks at Nathan Phillips Square.

Waiting for the Olympic Torch to arrive in Toronto! It was a long, cold wait.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On The Eve of the Toronto Olympic Torch Relay

It has been an exciting day as I follow the progress of the Olympic Torch Relay as it gets closer and closer to Toronto.  It will be here tomorrow evening and I will be out to greet it.  I'm really looking forward to this.  I have no idea what to expect, how many people like me will be bundled up to brave the cold, what will it be like when we see it, what will happen at the Olympic Torch Celebration.  Soon I will know.
My Mom is tucked away all snugly in my bed.  She is staying the night so we can head out together tomorrow afternoon.  My plan is to leave my condo at around noon and take TTC (public transit) into Downtown Toronto.  We will be down there very early but I want to walk a bit of the route to see where it is I want to be when the Torch passes by, at the moment I'm thinking of Yonge and Wellesley.  From there, we will make our way to Nathan Phillips Square where the Torch Celebration will take place. 
I'm very excited to be going.  I feel like I have missed being a part of some great moments in Toronto.  When our Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, I was not out there with people dancing in the street.  There was no way I was going to let the Olympic Torch Relay pass me by!  I've taken the day off of work and will be out there taking photos, cheering on the flame and celebrating this great event that Canada is hosting.  I guess this will also be my first encounter with the Olympics.  Its sure to be a great evening.
Now, I don't have Blackberry or iphone or any other fancy device so I won't be able to transmit any updates live from the Celebration.  I'm kind of bummed about that but there isn't much I can do about it.  I will try to do a blog post as soon as I get home, regardless of the time!  I don't think this is something that can wait a day!  On Saturday I will be at the Torch Relay in Mississauga and will post on that as well.
Have a great day tomorrow everyone.  I hope to see a lot of you out on Yonge Street with me.  A special thank you to my co-workers for making today very special. I wish they could all come with me tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Olympic Torch is Coming To Toronto

I was Downtown Toronto yesterday and on the lookout for signs the Olympic Torch is coming.  I know it is here on Thursday December 17th and I wanted to see if my city was putting the word out.  And the answer is, of course they are!  This is a photo I took at Yonge St. and Queen St., the heart of our Downtown core.  People must have been in a good mood yesterday.  No one said mean things to me because I stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk to take this photo!

Announcing the Olympic Torch Relay, in Toronto December 17th. 

I still have to look up the route to see where I can go to watch it.  As far as I know the Torch Celebration is at Nathan Phillip Square and begins at 4pm.  I'm hoping the Torch will be running by somewhere close to there before the Celebration begins.  Its very exciting! I promise to get as many pictures as I can.  I have heard that it goes by very quickly so I'm not sure what I'll be able to get. 
Some of my co-workers suggested I contact Breakfast Television, a local morning show here in Toronto on CITY TV, to ask if they needed any fans to help them cover the Olympic Torch Relay.  I sent in an email but as of yet have not had any response.  I'm sure they get tons of requests like this a day so I won't hold it against them.  It certainly would have been fun and I'm sure they could have got me really close to the Olympic Torch.  So I will stand on the sidelines with all the other Canadian Olympic fans.  After all, isn't that where I really belong?

Remember to be on the lookout for displays of Olympic pride.  If you see a display somewhere that references the Vancouver Olympics and our Canadian teams, send me a photo.  I'll compile all of them into a future blog post.  Check out my post "Is Olympic Fever Spreading" for info.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Is Olympic Fever Spreading?

The other week I was in my friendly neighbourhood grocery store.  As I approached the dairy section to get sour cream for the fajitas I was going to make that night, I looked up and saw this massive GO CANADA GO sign!  I literally stopped dead in my tracks and laughed out loud.  I loved it!  This is the kind of stuff I want to see all over Toronto as well as Vancouver when I get there.  I didn't have my camera on me so I had to go back to the store and discreetly take a photo of it. I know retailers frown upon people taking pictures in their stores but this had to be done.

I'm so excited to see signs of the Olympics around town.  Its probably only going to increase as we get closer and closer to the Olympic Games in Vancouver.  I am going to keep an eye out for anything Olympic/Canadian related.  If you see a sign of Olympic spirit in your city I would love to see it.  Send me a photo with a brief description, your name and city where you took the photo and I'll put together a collage of all them for a later post.

The Olympic Torch Relay will be here next week and I saw a sign advertising this as well.  I wandered out into the freezing cold earlier this evening because I had to get a picture of it for my blog.  I managed to take a few pictures before my battery went dead.  If this one doesn't show up well in the blog I'll be going back out there.  The only thing that sucks about that is a) it is frigging cold outside b) it is one of those digital marquees so I have to wait for 10 different things to come up before it gets back to the 2010 Olympics.  If my camera battery hadn't died when it did, I might have lost a finger.  I could barely feel them when I got back in my car.  Ah, whatever it takes for an effective blog post right?

Go Canada Go!  Looking forward to seeing your images from around Canada showing your city's Olympic Canadian spirit.  Email is notashopaholic at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Help Vancouver Visual Artist with Video of Torch Relay

Last week I posted a tweet on Twitter that the Olympic Torch will soon be coming to Toronto.  I got a reply back from Vancouver Visual Artist Rina Liddle.  She is working on a project titled "We Are Watching".  Rina asked if I would be a contributor to her project.  All I have to do is take some video footage when I go see the Torch Relay and email it to her.  She is going to stream together all the video she receives and show it unedited on a wall outside the Jeffery Boone Gallery during the Olympics.
I think its a pretty cool thing to do.  I love the idea of being part of an art project.  Myself, I am artistically impaired.  I can barely draw stick people.  I love that this is another way to contribute to an event related to the Olympics.
I am going to try to submit video footage from the relay and torch celebrations in Toronto and Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto.  The Olympic Torch Relay passes through Toronto and surrounding area's next week.
If the torch has already passed through your town and you shot some video send it along to Rina. She is looking for footage of the relay from all across Canada.
If the torch has not yet arrived in your city, check the schedule and head out with your digital camera in video mode, or use whatever video device you have.  You will be helping out an artist and contributing to history.  For more information visit Rina's blog.  I hope to see every city represented when I visit this exhibit in Vancouver.  You can also follow her progress on Twitter @weRwatching2010.  Please check her blog for the email address to send video footage.  I don't want to include it here or else she might get overwhelmed with spam mail. 
Please help if you can.  It is a great project and we need to support artists and their visions, like this one from Rina Liddle.
If you will be attending to either torch celebrations in Toronto or Mississauga, let me know so we can meet up for a photo for my blogs!
Merry Olympics!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Building an Olympic Worthy Wardrobe

The rental condo is booked, the flights are paid for and I have more tickets to Olympic events than I ever imagined possible. There is the unfortunate task of having to pay for everything but that is being dealt with. Now that all those things have been taken care of, I can focus on the really important things like what the heck am I going to wear? It’s the Olympic Games! Having never been to an Olympics before I’m not really sure what the apparel etiquette is going to be. It’s like I’m going in completely blind! It’s an important job, cheering on my country; I want to make sure I do them proud.

After much research, I decided to start with a red zip hoody from the Roots Canada Collection. This decision caused massive panic a few months ago when I discovered this item was on sale and in short supply at Roots stores. This Notashopaholic would not be deterred. I raced out that day to claim my red hoody, my first acquisition of Canada paraphernalia. It is now sitting comfortably in my closet just waiting for its debut at the Vancouver 2010 Games. Since then Roots has debuted their new Canada Collection from which I picked up the Canada toque and a T shirt.

Also accompanying me on my journey will be my Lug Eco Shopper bag. With Vancouver being the eco conscious city that it is, this bag, in Crimson of course, will be a fashionable and environmentally friendly accessory. It’s convenient because it rolls into a small pouch for easier carrying when not being used. Besides you never know when I’ll need a bag for all the Olympic/Vancouver souvenirs I’m sure to acquire.

In September, I made my way to my local Bay store to check out the official Vancouver 2010 gear. I have to admit that I didn’t really have high hopes for their collection. I wasn’t too crazy about the stuff I saw for the 2008 Olympics. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the Vancouver 2010 items the HBC crew came up with. The collection includes a good variety of t-shirts, hoodys, accessories and outer wear in various colours and prints. There are separate collections for Men, Women and Children as well as unisex items.

I added the HBC Canada zip hoody in White to my growing Olympic wardrobe and seriously debated about getting Black. Think I’ll hold off on that one for a bit. Some accessories may be in store for me in the near future. I had my mom pick up a pair of the red mittens. At first I said I didn’t want them and then in true Christina fashion, I changed my mind. I am the proud owner of a pair of these hard to find accessories and I will take them everywhere with me while in Vancouver. The HBC collection is sold at Bay and Zellers stores across Canada and as well as online.

Now that my Canada apparel is taken care of, I still need to figure out footwear, do fashionable waterproof shoes/boots exist? I want to be ready for the Vancouver climate. Outerwear is a big puzzle as well. Will it be cold, will it be mild? Does is actually rain as much as people say? How warm do I need to dress? This is a lot of work people. See the stress an Olympics causes? Anyone else would cave to the pressure, but not me. I`ll be there decked out in full Canada red and white.

Christina Wallaert

A version of this post also appears on Inside Vancouver, official blog of Tourism Vancouver.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Crazy Idea

One of my most favourite parts of the Olympics are the Opening Ceremonies.  Out of all the things in Vancouver, it is the one that I really wish I had tickets for.  When I started planning this trip last year, I had to decide what duration of the Olympics I wanted to attend.  My first choice was the beginning of the Games because I really wanted to attend the Opening Ceremonies.  After giving it some thought, I realized that if I was there when the Olympics started, I would never be able to leave half way through to come home and staying for the entire 16 days was financially out of the question.  I made the decision to arrive in Vancouver for the second half of the Olympics.  I would see the Closing Ceremonies and leave when everything was done.  I could come home without feeling like I was leaving the action behind.

A few weeks ago, when Phase 3 tickets were postponed to November 14th, an idea began to form in my mind.  What if I could get just one ticket for me to the Opening Ceremony?  If I could, I would fly into Vancouver the night before and leave the following day.  This is of course assuming one of my Vancouver friends would allow me to crash at one of their places for a few nights.  Is that totally insane?  Of course it is, but that just goes to show you the level of my Olympic addiction.  This way, everything I ever wanted to see at the Olympics I would be going to.  Sadly, I was not able to obtain a ticket.  There were seats available but $1100 and $750 are way out of my price range.  So my original trip plans stand, we will leave Toronto middle of February and attend the second half of Vancouver 2010.  I am very happy with that.

I have not given up on trying to get an Opening Ceremony ticket.  If it is meant to be, then I will be there.  If it is not, then it will happen some other time.  I am lucky to have the events that we are already going to.  The Opening Ceremony would have just been a nice bonus.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Canadians Snapping Up Vancouver 2010 Apparel

I visited my friendly neighbourhood Bay store earlier today.  I wanted to see if they had any Vancouver 2010 keychains I could add to my collection.  I didn't find what I was looking for, I'll have to order some Vancouver 2010 keychains online, but what I did see surprised me.  The area in the Bay store dedicated to Vancouver 2010 merchandise was packed!  There were a ton of people trying on Olympic apparel and standing in line to make a purchase. 

Vancouver 2010 Canada Hoody available at The Bay and Zellers

When the line was released back in September I rushed right out to see what the Bay had to offer.  I purchased the White Canada Hoody for $50.  Even back then, most of the red hoody's were gone and I got the last medium at that store.  That kind of mirrors what I saw today.  Those same hoodys were down to almost nothing.  Red and white were completely gone and Black only had a few select sizes left.
I contemplated buying a long sleeve tee but will leave it for now.  I have quite a collection of Canada gear to wear and now need to focus attention on establishing a pin collection, a long and outstanding tradition at the Games is to trade pins.  Having never been before I only found out this tidbit of information recently.  I am on the prowl for Olympic pins.  I would also like to take a bunch of the Canadian flag pins to hand out to people I meet from other countries.  The next few weeks will be spent scouring souvenir shops for these Canadian pins and shopping for the best price.
The Bay stores I have been to do not have the Pins, Keychains and other items for sale.  There is an online Bay store where you can purchase those items if like me, you now need to buy Vancouver 2010 souvenirs other than clothing.
It was really cool to see the frenzy over Canada Olympic apparel today in that store.  Looks like Olympic fever is spreading and Canada is on board! I can't wait to see all the Canada logo merchandise being worn around town and at the Olympics in Vancouver.  I have never felt so proud to be Canadian and am totally ready to show off my Canadian spirit and pride.  Judging from today, looks like I'm not the only one!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Funding an Olympic Games

Last year when the idea for this trip was still in the early planning stages, I didn’t really give much thought to how much the whole thing would cost. For awhile I wasn’t sure if we were even going to go after getting tickets for two events and facing long term unemployment. That changed earlier this year. After starting a new job and getting more tickets, it was time to proceed with the rest of the planning; securing a place to stay and getting transportation out to Vancouver. As much as some of the plans have stressed me out, it has been kind of fun.

This trip however is not without its sacrifices. One of things people are most curious about is how much it is costing me. For a variety of reasons, I long ago decided not to reveal costs to anyone. My parents don’t even know how much everything really is. Between you and me, the truth is, this isn’t really a trip that I can afford to go on. It is a huge effort to pay for everything plus cover my regular everyday living expenses. As much as I’ve set budgets and stayed within them, it’s still quite a huge chunk of change. The money has to come from somewhere and I will be paying this off for a long time to come. It’s mostly my social life and shopping that is taking the hit. I’ve spent more weekends at home than ever and I am staying away from malls so I’m not tempted to spend money in them. Any extra cash is being set aside for trip expenses. I’m even considering getting a second job to help out the money situation. I don’t mind altering my lifestyle for the sake of my trip. The experience of Vancouver 2010 will be unlike anything I’ve ever had the privilege to attend. It will no doubt be a very special and thrilling experience. And these are the things that must be done so that can happen.

I never expected that seeing an Olympics was ever in the realm of possibilities for me. I’ve gotten some attention from journalists who have wanted to talk to me about this experience for stories they are writing. One of the things they ask is why this is special to me. It’s really hard for me to describe why it is. I guess one of the reasons is that I never thought someone ordinary like me could go see the Olympics. I always thought tickets would cost a thousand dollars and I wouldn’t be able to afford to see anything let alone all the events I have tickets for. It’s so special to me because an everyday, ordinary person like me, through a lot of planning, determination and lifestyle adjustments, can (somewhat) afford tickets to Vancouver 2010, hunt down a condo in a city where no hotel rooms are to be found, and book a flight for February 2010 nine months in advance. And really, there is nothing in my regular life that would draw attention from journalists, so that in itself makes it pretty special! I can’t wait to see who I get an email from next. All I know is that if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for many others like me. I am looking forward to meeting those people next year in Vancouver. It will be pretty exciting to be surrounded by people who love the Olympics as much as I do. It’s been exciting up to this point and I’m not even in Vancouver yet. I can’t wait to see what else the future brings.

A copy of this post can also be found on Inside Vancouver,

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm in The Washington Post!

Awhile ago I spoke to a journalist who was writing a story on finding accommodations for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The story below is what appeared this past weekend in the Travel section of The Washington Post. You'll find the part about me at the very end of the article.
Its really exciting to me to be included in such an article.  I've never been in a paper before in my life! 
This was the second time I had been approached by someone doing a story on finding places to stay for the Olympics.  It is a topic that has a lot of interest.  It was one of the most challenging aspects of our trip.  If money is not a concern, there are more options available to you, but to someone like me on a tight budget, it was pretty difficult.  But I am  not one to settle for anything.  Due to some hard work from myself and my family, I was able to find a place within my budget in the location that I wanted.  For anyone still looking for a place to stay, I sympathize with you.  It's not easy but it is possible.
Enjoy the article.

Hotel shortage sets off an Olympic scramble
By Remy Scalza
Sunday, November 15, 2009

It doesn't take a gold medal in arithmetic to see that the numbers didn't add up.
About 250,000 spectators are expected to pour into Vancouver, B.C., for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in February. Yet according to the city's Olympic committee, only a paltry 10,000 hotel rooms were available to them. With three months to go before the Opening Ceremonies, the pool of rooms at hotels in and around Vancouver -- from highway HoJos to the Four Seasons -- has essentially dried up.
"Traditional downtown accommodation is for the most part booked," says Emily Armstrong of Tourism Vancouver, the city's tourism agency. "And it's been that way for about a year."
The Olympic housing crunch is nothing new: In recent years, Athens, Salt Lake City and Turin, Italy, all faced shortages. (The micromanaged Beijing Games were a notable exception.) It's not just the massive influx of spectators that's to blame. The "Olympic family" -- the tens of thousands of officials, observers, sponsors and media who make up the official Olympic entourage -- traditionally gets first dibs on lodgings. In Vancouver, the family blocked off more than 21,000 rooms, leaving ordinary fans to scramble for the remaining 10,000.
In a bid to avert a housing crisis, the city's Olympic planners have advanced some creative solutions. The 1,100-room Norwegian Star cruise ship will dock in an industrial port north of Vancouver, serving as a floating hotel for the duration of the Games, which will run Feb. 12-28. A popular city beach has been turned into an urban RV park, and provincial campgrounds around Vancouver will open early for fans who choose to brave frigid winter nights in the great outdoors.

"Accommodating everyone has never been a concern," Armstrong says. "People will just have to be a bit more flexible."
For some fans, being flexible might require bunking with strangers. With the housing well running dry, officials have also begun steering visitors to digs normally reserved for youth travelers, free spirits and the transient: backpacker hostels. "You can't find a better deal anywhere," says Del Cook, who handles check-in at the central Vancouver branch of Hosteling International, or HI, a popular hostel just blocks from several Olympic venues. The numbers bear him out: $40 buys a dorm bunk bed for the night and free breakfast during the Games. (By comparison, the airport Comfort Inn was recently offering a rare Olympic vacancy for $465 a night.)
The hostel is on the edge of the city's pub and club district, in a zone where ethnic restaurants and glitzy bars are gradually supplanting tattoo parlors and pawnshops. Inside the busy lobby, international travelers ask for directions in halting English while hip-hop plays in the background.
"We're the best hostel in town, and I've stayed in all of them," Cook says. For those to whom the word hostel brings to mind grungy showers and pots of instant ramen bubbling away on a communal stove, HI might be a pleasant surprise. Apart from traditional dorms, there are plenty of private rooms, and daily maid service, linens and towels are part of the deal. A former hotel, the historic building also comes with a roguishly checkered past: In 1971, undercover Mounties seized a record haul of 300 pounds of Japanese pearls from businessmen staying here; they'd been stolen from Seattle's airport in a bungled plot straight out of "Fargo."
Still, the charms of HI's chill-out lounge and raucous pub crawls presumably will be lost on certain Olympic visitors. Two blocks from the hostel -- on the 29th floor of a luxury apartment building -- is an entirely different accommodation alternative.
"I've never, ever rented before," says 44-year-old Randall Weaver, who has decided to lease his one-bedroom condo to Olympics fans for the Games. "But I'm an entrepreneur. I thought if I could get some money out of the Olympics, then why not?"

Weaver is not the only homeowner hoping to cash in on the city's housing crunch. In the prelude to the Games, dozens of temporary-rental Web sites have sprung up listing thousands of private Vancouver homes, from sleek, high-rise condos like Weaver's to suburban houses.

"For Vancouver property owners with space to rent out, the Olympics are a mini gold rush," says Tsur Somerville, a professor at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business.

But so far, Weaver has yet to hit it big. In his sunroom, with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of the Vancouver skyline and the snowcapped mountains beyond, he explains that his condo has been booked for only three days. At $550 a night, however, it's enough "to help with the mortgage."

If anything, his rates are a bit on the low end. One-bedroom downtown apartments are going for an average of $4,000 a week, according to Rent for the Games, a realty agency that has booked more than 400 temporary Olympic rentals and lists another 710 properties on its Web site. Hefty prices have led some fans to raise cries of price-gouging.
"People are being asked to pay exorbitant amounts," says economist Somerville. "But we're not talking about poor people who need to eat. It's not clear to me that people flying halfway around the world can be gouged."
That is cold comfort, however, for Olympic fans still searching for an elusive bed in Vancouver.

A true Olympic die-hard from Toronto, 35-year-old Christina Wallaert, remembers not only the names of the 1988 Calgary ice dancing medalists but also the background music from their programs. After securing Olympic tickets in a lottery last June, she spent six weeks scouring the Internet before finding accommodations in a downtown condo. She won't disclose the exact price, but says it was in line with prices at other rental condos in the area.
"It's more than I've ever paid to stay anywhere else," Wallaert says. "But I think we got a very good deal."

Scalza is a freelance food and travel writer based in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics. To see more of his work, visit his website.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brian Williams - How I love thee

For me the Olympics is synonymous with TV's Prime Time Olympic host, Brian Williams. When I saw that the Olympics had moved to CTV, I was wondering what it would be like to see an Olympics without Brian Williams. It was a little bit later on that I learned Brian had made the move to CTV. I thought that was fabulous news. I just can't imagine an Olympics without him. He was strangely absent during Beijing 2008. Those other people did a good job but it wasn't the same. Every night I turned on my TV (the same one that is not working right now) expecting to see his wonderful interviews, thoughtful opinions, and insight into our talented Canadian athletes. I really missed seeing him during those Olympics. He has a real love and appreciation for Canada as well as the athletes that are representing us in their sport.
I am so happy that Brian Williams is going to be exactly where he should be, hosting Prime Time Olympic coverage on CTV. The only thing I'm sad about is that I won't be watching as much on TV as I usually would because I will be there! That's ok though, the rest of the country can enjoy his hosting coverage and I will catch as much of it as I can.
I hereby nominate myself as President of the Brian Williams Fan Club!
For Brian's bio, check out this link to the CTV Olympic website: Brian Williams Profile

Image from CTV Olympic website.

Christina Wallaert

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Olympic Torch in Canada

Catriona Le-May Doan and Simon Whitfield, first torchbearers for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics
Image: from The Toronto Star, Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

I was watching the news last night and saw coverage of the Olympic Flame arriving in Canada. There was a big ceremony in Victoria and I loved listening to the comments from the people they interviewed. One person said it was the first Olympic related event they had attended and they were now starting to feel the excitement. How I wish I was there! This is the kickoff to the whole Vancouver Olympics. I am so envious of the people in BC. I wish I could be there to see and feel everything being built and prepared for the Olympics. What a special time this is for all Canadians and especially those in Vancouver. I know there must have been some inconveniences and there will probably be more to come, but it must be so exciting. Vancouver and Whistler is in the news all over the world!
It's like I can't get enough of the Olympics. Its pretty obvious to me that this will probably be the only one that I attend, so I am going to make the most of it and take in everything that I can. I will follow the journey of the torch across Canada. I will also do my very best to be in attendance when it passes through Toronto in December. Those lucky torch bearers, enjoy the experience. I can only imagine what it must be like!
Come on Canada! Are you catching Olympic Fever yet?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Memories of a Year Ago

It was around this time last year that I got serious about going to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and started to build my ticket request. Many nights were spent going over the schedule, ticket prices, events and dates. When I was finally happy with the schedule, it was submitted and then I sat and waited to hear the outcome. Had I known what the future would hold, I may have decided against the trip. About a month after submitting that ticket request, I was laid off from my job. Not knowing when I would be working again, the Olympics were the last thing on my mind. Days were spent job hunting with little or no results and all I did was worry how I was going to pay bills. In December, a few weeks after losing my job, we got the results of my ticket request. Two events, out of all that planning, is what we were awarded. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if I would ever get to the Olympics. Selling those tickets and calling off the trip was looking like a strong possibility.

Fast forward to April of this year and it was Day 1 of my new job. I was so happy to be working again, and more important, I was happy to have landed a good job. In May when I got notice of Phase 2 tickets going on sale, I knew that this trip was going to go forward. As I said in a previous post, I was going to make sure we got enough tickets to justify going to Vancouver. That phase of tickets was very successful for us and I was able to move forward with planning our trip. I’m very lucky and fortunate to be able to experience this. I really feel as though I am a part of a very special group of people. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience.

If I didn’t get a job when I did, none of this would be happening. When I look back on the last year, so much has happened and I wouldn’t change any of it. These last few months have been so much fun for me. I think I appreciate this experience more because I did lose my job and thought that this would never be possible. It goes to show you that dreams can come true and I am living one of mine.

Christina Wallaert

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Olympic Torch Relay

I've been hearing a lot this week about the Olympic Torch Relay as celebrity participants are announced. Back in June my mom told me about a website where you could enter your name to be a torch bearer. Being the Olympic fan that I am, of course I entered the contest. Unfortunately I wasn't one of the random winners chosen to participate in this exciting event. I assume someone must have told them of my inability to run. For all the people that did win, congratulations. Have fun. What a great event to be able to participate in. I guess for this part of the Olympics I will have to stand on the side lines and cheer on those who won. No problem. I'll get lots of pictures for my blogs.
If you want to know who the winners are and who will be carrying the torch in your area, go to Carry The Torch and search by name, day or map. I've marked December 18th and 19th on my calendar. That is when the torch will be passing through Brampton and Toronto.
For the full route and other information about the Olympic Torch Relay you can get information on the Vancouver 2010 website and check out their interactive map.
Bundle up and join me on the route to cheer on the Olympic torch. See you out there.