Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

Vancouver, you have some pretty amazing people in your city but you probably already knew that. I have been the recipient of your kindness, generosity and Olympic spirit the last few weeks and am very touched and grateful.

If you have been following my posts for awhile, you will remember a few months ago I wrote about coming up with this crazy idea to fly into Vancouver for the weekend of the Opening Ceremony, maybe even getting a ticket for the Opening Ceremony. Our original trip is planned for the second week of the Olympics. This Opening weekend trip would be in addition to that. The deal I made with myself was I would do it but only if someone let me stay at their place. I shouldn’t even be spending money to fly out there again, much less pay for a place to stay. If I could stay with someone I knew in Vancouver then I would spend the money on airfare to get there for opening weekend.

As time went by, it looked less and less likely that I was going to be able to go. No one had offered to let me stay with them and I didn’t feel I knew some well enough to ask them outright. In updated blog posts I made casual mention of this fact and was resigning myself that maybe this wasn’t meant to be. My Olympic karma had run out. Then an amazing and unexpected thing happened, the offers started rolling in. Vancouver people started emailing me, sending messages on Facebook and Twitter offering me their couches, second bedrooms and sofa beds. A fellow blogger from Inside Vancouver even offered up her mother’s place to me! Some of these people I knew through my blog and was corresponding with on a regular basis. Others were frequent readers of my blog but I had never heard from them before their offers of accommodation. In total, I had 6 people offering to let me stay with them or with people that they knew. At first it was pretty disconcerting to be getting invites from complete strangers but after awhile I wasn’t even surprised. I realized that these are Vancouver people, proud of their city, honoured to be hosting people from all over the world and wanting to share the experience with Olympic fans like me. These people are spreading Olympic spirit and Vancouver spirit all across their city and country.

Thank you for letting me be a part of it.

And in case you were wondering, I have found a place to stay with an acquaintance in Yaletown. I will be in Vancouver when the Olympics begin and couldn’t be happier. There is no other place I would rather be that weekend. See you in Vancouver on February 12, 2010.

Olympic Flame Lives On, Long After Leaving Ontario

When I started planning this trip back in Fall 2008, I knew in my heart that the people I was going to meet through this experience were going to be the highlight.  With a few weeks to go before our amazing Vancouver 2010 Olympics begin, I have had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people from all over the world. When people leave comments on my blog, they are available for all of you to see.  What you don't see are all the emails, Facebook messages and text messages I get from friends directly. I encourage them to go back to my blog and post as comments because the things they say are really beautiful and inspiring to me. Usually they don't and I keep all of their messages to read them again.  When you get so much encouragement and feedback from those around you, it makes it easier to keep up with doing all of this blogging!
All of that is a very long intro to an email I got this week from Cindy Legare. Cindy was a Torch Bearer in Oshawa, ON on December 16th. She came across my blog while searching for some material to use in a presentation. I loved her email so much I asked if she would mind if I used it as a blog post. She didn't mind in the least and I am publishing the email in full that she sent to me on January 28th. 
I am publishing it because it is a great reminder of how this Olympic experience will live on long after the Flame is extinguished in Vancouver, long after the Torch Relay has been completed and long after the athletes have won their medals and travel back to their home countries.  It is an example of how the children of today, our next generation of Olympic athletes are going to be inspired by these events and by the actions of people like Cindy.  I think it is such a special honour to be a role model to children. Cindy is lucky to have that honour and it sounds like she is making the most of it, and loving it!

Hi Christina,
Good on ya!!!!! I love what you are doing - I wish I could be doing this with you - I so wish I could be in Vancouver for it (I was there in Sept 09 though and got to see all the messy construction they were doing and see the 'before' places)!!!! I love the Olympics (my dream was to be a soccer player in the Olympics - but they were too late making that an olympic sport so I missed my chance) so the next best thing.....I was a torchbearer. I was honoured to do this in Oshawa on Dec16 and since then I've been treated like a 'celebrity' visiting many schools, classes, senior centres, women's groups, Brownies, a library reading group, the list goes on. Why keep my torch locked up in a box where as I can share it with many other people so that can feel apart of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic history!

I'm volunteering my time to go talk to these people about the olympics history and info about the 2010, my experience as a torch bearer and then I let everyone hold the torch individually and I have my camera and get a picture of them and give it to them.I'm filled up right until March doing talks...all volunteer so I'm not profitting from this (I have my own business so I kinda put that on hold - we make sunprotective and other unique clothing/accessories - which we'll be getting busy with soon). Its so funny seeing peoples reaction to me and the torch and especially when I ask them if they'd like to hold it - wow, their facial expression is priceless!!!! I've even had two classrooms of students line up and ask me for my autograph - how funny is that....I've never signed messages and my name this much at one time in my life.

Anyway, I came across your blog because I'm putting together a power-point slide show for a couple schools where I talk to about 700 students each and I was searching for photos...and up popped you!!!! I will now keep reading your diary blogs and this way you are filling me in on what I'm unfortunately missing. If you need me to do anything for your blog then I'd be happy to help out and fill in any empty spaces (if that is possible) on your diary...

Keep blogging - Go Christina Go!!!!

After that email she sent another one to me describing what was going to happen during one of her talks at a school. I thought this was so cool and I have included the excerpt below. Wish things like this had happened at my school!

I'm doing a talk this Monday at a school in Oshawa and it sounds pretty cool how we are doing it. I'm leading a group of children in the gym (me holding the torch and in uniform - they were chosen from a random name draw in each class) and we'll be doing a figure 8 around everyone who is seated then go to the stage. The coke, Open Happiness song, will be playing while we are parading around. Then by the stage, kids will each say a word of two about what the Olympics means to them. Then I will have a power-point slide show showing how the flame got lit in Greece to where it arrives in Vancouver and I'll talk about the torch design, logo, other olympic facts, who other than myself carried the torch (they'll go crazy when I say 'Sidney Crosby'), my experience, my uniform design and how my mitts differ from their 'red knitted mitts'. Then after the talk, I will be going to each class room to let all 600 students hold my torch and then get their picture taken with it.....its an all day event!

When I started my blog, it was meant to be a diary of my adventures leading up to and at the Vancouver Olympics. I have since come to realize that it is not only my story.  The people that I am coming into contact with all have stories too.  They may not be making the trip out to Vancouver, but the Olympics is having an impact on their lives that is worth telling. I am thrilled to be able to share their stories with you. I am going to try to make it out to one of Cindy's talks when I am back from Vancouver.
If you were a Torch Bearer I would love to hear if you are having experiences similar to Cindy's. Please leave a comment and share with all of us what has been happening to you since you carried the Olympic Torch.
Cindy gives a presentation to high school students in Whitby, ON.

The woman holding the Torch in this photo was sending a copy of this to her brother in Afganistan.  Cindy with a women's sorority group in Port Hope, ON.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Canadian Olympic Spirit Photo Album now online

I have finally manged to put together my Canadian Olympic Spirit photo album. It will be a work in progress that I will add to as I find images or others send to me displays of great Canadian Olympic Spirit from anywhere in Canada. I think I have a few photos on my parents computer that I will have to upload on the weekend.
Here is a preview of some of the images you'll find there.

I have my spies everywhere to capture photos for me! This one was taken in Toronto on Front Street in front of the Globe and Mail office. They are the official newspaper of Vancouver 2010 so I guess it is not surprising that they would decorate their newspaper boxes. A great display of Olympic Spirit. Thank you very much to Hardeep Gosal for submitting.

This one was posted on Twitter by my favourite GM guys GM_ArtAndSerge who I did my Torch Relay ride along with.  This is an image they captured in Moosomin, SK.

This is also an image I originally saw on Twitter that was posted by one of the cool Molson people I follow. I believe it was MolsonFerg who tweeted about this and MolsonTonia who sent me the link to the photo. Thank you so much both of you and to Molson. What great Canadian and Olympic spirit from Molson.

Thank you everyone for letting me use your photos. Keep checking for updates. As we get closer to Vancouver 2010, I have a feeling I'll be adding to this frequently.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reaction from Friends and Family

A few weeks ago I asked some friends, co-workers and family if they would write a short paragraph on their reaction to all of my Vancouver 2010 Olympic hoopla. I was curious to see if my experiences and adventures were having any effect on their outlook of the Olympics and if it was getting them more excited about these Vancouver games.  I told them they could write anything they wanted, I would publish as is and only edit for spelling and grammar. It is probably no surprise to you that I got teary eyed reading every single one of these.  There are a few people who I am still waiting to get a paragraph from but I thought I would publish the ones that I have as of today and then add the others as I get them.
I would like to thank them very much for taking the time to do this. Some were hesitant about trying to write something and I appreciate the time and effort they took to do this.  I think they did a fantastic job!

Jennifer Pinheiro
Co - worker

As a new mom I take the time when I can to get things done. I often keep up on Christina's Vancouver 2010 blog and Twitter updates on my Blackberry late at night and I look forward to see her getting to experience something that she has always dreamed of doing.
I have missed the daily chats with Christina at work, getting to see and hear first hand all the updates leading up to the big event. Thankfully we get to email often to still be in the loop. Everyday there seems to be something new going on and she is becoming quite the celebrity. I can say I knew her when.
Christina has a passion for the Olympics and I have to say it has inspired me to watch and be much more informed, since sports has never been a huge interest for me. Her passion is contagious, I love it! I am getting excited!!! watch and for Christina :)
I think this is a life changing event and I tell her all the time, can't wait to be proved right lol. I can't wait to read the next blog but more so to hear all about her trip. She will be an inspiration to my new daughter that you always have to follow your heart and do what you want and be happy!
I can't wait to hear all about it Christina and will be watching the Olympics and hope to spot you!
Represent Canada, you do it so well!

Amy Samad
Co - Worker

Olympic fever is in the air and Christina is chiefly responsible for infecting the locals! Working daily with Christina has given me a front row view of all the happenings around the Vancouver 2010 Games. Following her blog posts, scrolling through event pictures, and getting the direct behind-the-scenes inside scoop has been a thrilling experience. I'm 4,000 km's away from the Olympics, but following along as Christina is interviewed by The Washington Post, blogging for Inside Vancouver, and riding with the GM envoy allows me to feel directly involved as my country proudly shows off it's natural beauty, outstanding hospitality, and best of all our world class athletes. Christina's enthusiasm is entirely contagious - I hope other Canadians get the chance to have the games be made as personally relevant to them as I have - I'm bursting with Canadian Olympic pride! Thanks Christina for continuing to share your adventure with us here.

My Mom on some of her Olympic Preparations:

In 4 weeks we leave for Vancouver 2010. After months of reading info and studying maps I hope I am ready. Trying to stay dry in steady rain will be a challenge.
Almost finished packing but will have to take some stuff out. Too heavy! Hope I haven’t forgotten anything but I probably have. Looking forward to our trip. Hope Canada wins a lot of medals. Hope USA wins some too.
Go get those medals Canada!
(Mom is American and will be cheering for both Canada and USA)

Jen Finnigan

Christina has been talking about the Olympics since they announced the Vancouver games, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to be so enthusiastic about the Olympics. It seemed only natural that she would extend her “Not A Shopaholic” blog into the 2010 games. Well, little did we know how far her enthusiasm would take her! From blogging, to being quoted in the newspaper (The Washington Post) to getting to ride a long in part of the Torch Relay in Southern Ontario; it seems every time I talk to or get an email from her she’s got a new “in”. I’m constantly amazed at how far she’s gone with it I can hardly keep up! I’m sure Christina feels like she’s living in a dream most days, I hope her “Road to the Olympics” is the ride of a lifetime – who knows where else it will lead?
Awesome job Christina!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Post by Erin Stanford, An Olympic Torch Bearer

I came across Erin through Twitter after seeing many posts from her about carrying the Olympic Torch in Calgary on January 18, 2010. We sent messages back and forth for awhile and then I got the idea to ask her to do a guest post for my blog about her experience. The following post is from Erin as she describes what that moment was like and the time leading up to carrying the Torch.  I am so happy she accepted my invite.

A day in the life of a torch bearer

I sit here, just shy of 68 hours past the time when I held the Olympic flame for a few, far too brief moments. You would think that by now I'd have no difficulties putting my words to paper (or at least to a Google document) and yet, I still am having great difficulties wrapping my mind around the fact that I *was* a torchbearer for the Vancouver 2010 Games. Wow!
Something you need to know about me is that I'm a Calgarian. Born & raised. I'm old enough to have a good memory of the spirit of the Calgary '88 Games and the fever with which they took over the city. I was just barely old enough for my parents to consent to my girlfriends and I heading down to Olympic Plaza to watch the medal ceremonies, without parental supervision. Attended a few events, as well as both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Sadly I did not have the opportunity to participate in them. My mother was a volunteer and the oldest of my younger brothers was in the Opening Ceremonies. I was stuck babysitting my other two brothers to allow my mother and brother to have their parts. So beyond that of a spectator and a Calgarian, I did not have an Olympic legacy of my own to share and pass on through stories and photos.
The most frequent question I've been asked is how did I end up being a torchbearer. On a whim, I entered my name a few times into one of the torchbearer contests Coca Cola ran in 2009. Of course I could not just enter one where they drew a name and that was it, but rather I went for the Coca Cola Live Positively program. I was one of the lucky Canadians to have their name drawn, which allowed you to move on to the second portion of the competition, which was to submit a short essay, illustrating your commitment to active living or the environment. I wrote about a life-changing journey that led to the loss of 120 lbs and how it impacted my life and those around me. Very humbled and honoured that Coca Cola and their panel of experts deemed me worthy of representing them and bestowing upon me the opportunity to carry the Olympic torch. That is the extremely condensed version of the story.
Just over six months passed between my being selected and my run date. For the most part it was just a little morsel of information that was tucked in the back of my brain. I would get the odd email, reminding me of what I would soon be doing. December rolled around and on December 2, 2009 I received an email with the details of my run. Until this day, I knew that I was running on Day 81 (January 18, 2010) and somewhere along the leg from Lethbridge, AB to Calgary, AB. I fully expected to be running in one of the smaller communities between the two. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be running in Calgary. Had not even entertained the possibility. Then on December 16, 2009 my torch relay package arrived, complete with my uniform and cheer kit from Coca Cola! Finally fully hit home. Media requests, interviews, amazing packages from friends and thoughtful cards really got me ramped up, emotional and excited about the big day! The outpouring of support I received was absolutely tremendous. It got to the point where tears were frequent and plentiful when thinking about what was about to happen in my life - so much so that I started to worry that I was going to be a basket case come the day of the relay!

The night before the relay, I got everything prepped and ready. Paranoia struck because I was just so worried that I was going to forget something! Had my outfit hanging, with my hat and mitts. My small backpack packed and sent with a family member, for the Calgary celebration after the relay, another bag with my running gear, shoes and lunch for work. I started wishing I had taken the relay day off completely, instead of leaving a few hours early. In hind sight, I'm glad I went in, as it helped the first part of the day pass quickly.
I am amazed that I had no issues sleeping the night before. I usually do when I'm excited, nervous or worked up about something. Woke up a grand 10 minutes before my alarm and leisurely got ready for the day. A nice surprise is that my sons got ready with little drama. We were all out of the house on time - them to school, myself to work. As the morning progressed and I received more and more messages of support from my amazing friends and questions from my co-workers, nerves started setting in. Around 11:30am, I looked at the clock and started thinking about lunch and realized that I had no desire to eat - I did though, as we all know the importance of eating.
2:00 pm arrived and it was time for me to start getting ready! Hauled all my things to the bathroom at work (let me tell you how nice it is to be the only girl at my office when it means I get a bathroom all to myself!) Got changed into my torch relay uniform, hat in place (I cheated and used a bobby pin to keep it just so, as the hat is somewhat oddly shaped, teamed with the fact that I hate hats.) I had wanted to touch my makeup up and realized that while I had brought my makeup with me, my makeup brushes were sitting on the bathroom counter at home. I guess if I were to forget something, that was probably one of the few things I could have survived without. Stopped at Macs on my way to get a slurpee to drink enroute (I'm an addict) and had the music cranked loud. Just wanted to enjoy the moment and get hyped up and not spend my time starting to worry and fret about what was coming up.
I took a very small detour on my way to city hall, as my leg of the relay was on my way from my office to city hall, as long as I took a few side roads as opposed to all the major intersections. Found my route marker that had my torchbearer number on it. Of course I had to get out of the car & take the opportunity to send a photo to Twitter for my friends and followers to see. Things really started sinking in right about then. After a few minutes to think, I was back on my way downtown. Pretty awesome driving along Macleod Trail, seeing a few Torch Relay flags flying from traffic light standards. Traffic got heavier the closer I got, as a three block stretch of Macleod was closed to traffic due to setup for the Calgary City Celebration. Started getting nervous that even though I had left myself enough time, three times over to get there, that I would be late because traffic was that slow. They had a police officer directing traffic at the intersection closest to the parkade I needed to get to and he saw me in my torchbearer uniform, smiled and waved me through the intersection, stopping cars coming from the other direction. Was parked and on my way in no time.
One thing I noticed, as I made my way through the parkade, through the walkways and into city hall, was that while people wouldn't stop to ask questions or talk, I got a lot of smiles from people as I passed them. Impossible to miss those uniforms! Although I was a little early, there were a few others milling around as it was easy to spot the relay staff. Got pointed in the right direction for my group and entered the room. There were at least eight others in there already, but it was so quiet! I was amazed. You could have heard a pin drop in there. I do not know if it was nerves, people reflecting or what. I sat down and waited a minute or two before starting to converse with a woman sat near me. Before long others were talking as well and the room was filling with energy. It was amazing to talk to people and find so many different stories as to who people were and how they got there. Staff started placing torches on an empty table and things just started buzzing! Throughout the time when talking and mingling occurred, we each went up to check in and have the sticker with our torchbearer number applied to our jacket. Once everyone was accounted for, we were on our way...
We all stood in a semi-circle of sorts, ordered by our torchbearer number. Our shuttle hosts (Sarah & a sweet young man who's name I cannot recall right now) shared their story with us, as to who they were and what this experience meant to them. How awesome would it be to be able to work on the entire relay?! That has to be one of the best jobs ever! They told us about the torch, the flame exchange and all kinds of other cool little things. Reviewed safety facts about the torch, how to hold it, what direction it faced and all those cool little things. Also learned about the flame keepers. A group of Canadian Aboriginal youth, who were entrusted with the job of keeping the flame with them at all times - day or night. Immediately to the left of each runner, you'll notice a teenager next to them. It is their job to keep watch over that flame. If a runner is tired, they are there to help bear the weight of the torch (it felt a lot heavier than expected), while letting the torchbearer still be the one to be carrying the torch. I spent a few moments talking to the young lady that was with me and she was telling me what an honour it was to have that responsibility. I can only imagine!
We then spent a few minutes talking to those on either side of us - those that we would receive the flame from (Lana for me) and who we would pass the flame to (Kelly.) Went around and introduced the person we would pass to the group - their name, where they were from and what they love most about the Olympics. It was wonderful to learn these little things about each other and to find out that we had several former Olympians within our group, covering both the summer and winter games (including Kyle Shewfelt, who was so sweet!) Also several that were affiliated to the Games through various ways, be it media covering the event, regional people and someone that worked directly for VANOC. Very inspiring! I was blessed with an amazing "torch family." The realization that we were about to do something, where each of us would be the ONLY person in the world at some moment soon to do what we were doing (carrying the Olympic flame) was just a breathtaking and humbling realization! Wow! What else can you say about that? You think of all those things you do in life. No matter how unique, someone somewhere is likely doing the same thing. Sure different people around and surroundings. But this, THIS was something that only one person could do at a time, other than at the flame exchange where for a few brief seconds, you shared that moment with someone else.
Quickly time was approaching! A quick break for last minute bathroom trips and then we were gathering our things and being ushered out to the shuttles to head out for the time of our lives. We stood as a group, while our hosts took our picture, outside of the shuttle bus. I am hoping that this group shot one day gets into our hands! Then on the shuttle and away we went (4:25pm, with the first person due to start right around 5pm.) You could feel the excitement, anticipation and some nerves building. Such a surreal feeling! Music matched the mood. As we pulled away from city hall, "Where The Streets Have No Name" by U2 was playing, followed by "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas. At this point people were almost bouncing in their seats. We had pretty much reached the first drop off point for the first person on our leg of the relay. Amazing to see the crowds building & the cars backed up on one of the major routes during rush hour. Even the Hooters girls came running out in their outfits to check things out, which brought some levity within the group. A few of us started chatting about how hot we were. Those uniforms do not breathe! I get cold easily, so I had layer upon layer on, making me feel (& look in some of my photos) like an overgrown marshmallow. *lol* I was starting to wish I had skipped the hoodie I was wearing, on top of a few layers of tops under my shell.
The drop of shuttle is at the very beginning of the very large cavalcade. As each torchbearer gets off the bus, they get cheers & best wishes for the torchbearers waiting for their turn. A high 5 and encouraging words from the shuttle driver. A big hug & reminder to enjoy the experience from the other group host. Suddenly you're standing there on the side of the road, with family and friends that have gathered. Waving as the shuttle pulls away. I had a few moments to reflect on what was about to happen. One of my brothers & a friend were there waiting for me. The rest of my family and my sons were part of the way up the route (my drop off point was very icy and difficult to walk to, so made sense for the others to wait up where it was safer to stand and cheer from.) Chris Wheeler (@TorchReporter) was at my point as well & it's awesome that I made his recap video for day 81 of the relay. We noticed in the background that the City of Calgary had lit the Calgary Tower. During the '88 Olympics, the torch had been based on the shape and design of the Tower. They turned the actual tower into a real life torch with a flame burning bright above the city. Since then, it's only lit for special occasions. To see it burning bright in the background just sent shivers down me. At this point, I just became overwhelmed and quiet, taking everything in. In the days leading up to this, I thought for sure I would be all teary, but I wasn't.
From this point, everything seemed to happen both at light speed and in slow motion. A very bizarre feeling. The Coca Cola relay twitterers had sent me a message saying that once the torch is lit it becomes weightless. I was glad they did, because that torch was far heavier than we'd been told. A wee bit nervous about that. Parades of people started to come down in the relay parade. The Coca Cola wagon was alive & announced who I was over the mic to the crowd. I don't think I've been high 5'd as much as I was that day. Everyone who went by gave me one. At some point (it may have been before the whole parade of people - I don't quite remember) a police officer rode up on a bike and took his key to turn on my torch. All of a sudden there was this huge hiss of gas and I was surprised by how loud it was. This meant that my turn was just about there! I looked up the road and could see Lana running my way with the flame. Before I knew it, I was being placed in position to receive the flame.
That moment where I was stood there, facing my family & friends, waiting to receive the flame and start my turn was incredible. Just knowing that this was a momentous time and that I was responsible to carry this incredible symbol of love, sportsmanship, and spirit was inspiring and was a great reminder of the things I had done and overcome to be where I was at that very moment. Lana came near, tipping her torch towards mine and suddenly there was this big arc of fire, as the flame quite literally jumped from her torch to mine. I remember looking up and watching the amazement of it - nothing quite like I have ever seen before. In person, that flame is a heck of a lot bigger than it looks on TV! It was time to turn and start my run with the torch.
My section was short. It was also uphill (HA! Figures that would be my luck!) Obviously, I did not want my time to pass to quickly, so I opted to do a slow jog rather than run. Can you blame me for that? The torch was both heavy and weightless. Fortunately, with crowds gathered on both sides of the road, I was able to pass the torch from hand to hand, so that I could wave to everyone. I was in my own little world. It's amazing how the faces of complete strangers are burned into my memory. Cars were lined up and honking. People were lined up, waving flags, cheering! It was awesome! I know that they were there to see the flame, not me in particular, but I was the one that was carrying that. By nature, I'm fairly quiet and do not seek out the spotlight, preferring to step back and allow others that want to be there to have their time. But this, this was my moment. Nothing could have wiped the smile off my face.

Came up to where my family was and saw my boys smiling, proudly, holding their sign to cheer me on. Other family members were also holding banners, waving flags and holding a poster that my oldest son's class had made for me. The looks on the faces of my sons is something I will treasure in my heart forever. I yelled out to them, blew kisses. No doubt my oldest was embarrassed by that (the age!), but I did not care at the time. I was just so happy to have them there, for them to be able to see and share in my moment, as they have been with me step by step through this journey.
Once my family were out of site, I spent a few moments chatting with the girl that was running beside me and she shared with me how incredible of a job she had being one of those chosen to attend the flame. Wish I had gotten her name!
Rest of it all was just a blur of waving, smiling, honking and cheering! I had not really prepared for the volume of people that would be out for the relay and to share in this magical moment. Being in Calgary though, I should have known!

My moment was over far too soon! Before I knew it, it was my turn to pass off to Kelly. We had a few moments to stand there, waving to the crowd and having photos taken. I can't help but wonder just how many random people in this city now have my photo in their collection. Such an odd and funny thing to think about. Then Kelly was off on his way to have his moment. The same officer that turned on my torch then approached me and turned mine off. Did not have time to blink before the shuttle was there, picking me up. One last wave to the crowd and then I was back on the shuttle, with my torch family that had run before me, cheering and asking me how it was.
When a torchbearer gets back on the shuttle a few things happen. Your new shuttle host (ours was Heather), greets you and takes your torch. Having just been lit, it is obviously very hot. As it cools, down, your torch is opened, the fuel canister is removed and fuel line is disconnected. It is a really neat thing to watch. Also, there is a memory book that you fill out about your experience. I cannot even remember what I wrote. Some people are rather eloquent and introspective. I am not naturally one of these people, so I am certain I did not write anything beyond your typical yearbook drivel. However I was still absorbed and reliving what I had just done.
The shuttle was relatively quiet for the longest time. I think we were all just so busy internalizing and reflecting on things. Once the shuttle was half full, things started to buzz again. We were also just enjoying the moment - waving at the crowds that had gathered, watching the magic of the flame travelling in front of us. Being the group that got to carry the flame at dusk and through into darkness was a special treat. Definitely the best time to experience it all! Watching the flame glow so brightly!

By the time our last torchbearer was done, the shuttle was buzzing and alive again. That last torchbearer got the biggest cheer of all of us! A few reasons for this. Being the last person dropped off, they did not get the volume of fanfare the rest of us had gotten. Also, just that realization of what we had just experienced and were now done. At this point, we dropped away from the parade of the relay and returned back to city hall. Our host thanked us for allowing them all to share in this moment with us. Shared with us her favourite quote in the memory book, from a young boy out on the east coast (I cannot remember what it was right now, but I was amazed at the time that such a young person could write something so insightful & eloquent - look forward to getting my book in a few months so that I can look it up.) We all filed off the bus, got the box and bag for our torches and just slowly drifted off to resume our normal lives.
I headed over to the Calgary Celebration across the street, to meet up with a few of my family members and my sons. We took in the party and energy that had built there. So many people stopped to ask questions, pose for photos. My sons were troopers through it all. One of our Olympic speed skaters stopped us to chat for a moment and allowed my sons to hold his medal. The awe in their eyes at this moment was incredible. We were allowed into a special VIP area to watch some of the celebration and the lighting of a cauldron. The crowd was huge, so we were grateful for that opportunity as we wouldn't have been able to see anything without it. The spirit of the Olympics was definitely alive and well that night. The love, spirit, pride and happiness could be felt all around. A magical way to cap an inspiring, amazing and surreal day.
Just want to say how amazing the torch relay team is. Everyone I met and interacted with was so upbeat and positive. The fact that they manage to run this show not just on time, but ahead of schedule completely baffles me! Hats off to them. What a fun & talented crew they have put together. One day I hope they too are able to share their stories. I know I for one would love to hear them!
Proud! Go Canada Go!

Photo Credits: @Ubermoogle and Kristy

Thank you so much Erin for sharing your story with us.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Vision for the Olympic Games

One of the most exciting things about telling people about my trip is seeing their reaction after I’ve told someone for the first time where I am going. Their entire face lights up and they always say some kind of version of “That is so amazing. You are going to have such a good time”. It’s hard to put into words how happy they look and all the nice things that have been said to me. I’m excited that so many are excited for me that I am going on this trip. It will be unlike any experience that I’ve ever had and I intend to enjoy every second of it. I feel like I’m experiencing this trip for all those who won’t be there. Hopefully through my blogs and pictures, they’ll get a feel for what Olympic fever is like in Vancouver.

In addition to attending all the events and cheering on our great Canadian athletes, I can’t wait to talk to people from all over the world who will also be attending this Olympics. Canada has always had a great international reputation and I’m looking forward to hearing visitors thoughts on Canada and Vancouver. Can you imagine what the energy will be like in the city for the duration of the Games? I can’t wait to see what that feels like. I’m expecting everyone to be in a great, friendly mood. Open to meeting others from different countries and cultures. I envision walking down the street and seeing perfect strangers’ high fiving each other, and Canadians yelling “Canada Rocks”. I’m sure the Olympics will bring out a huge amount of pride in people. I will get to see that firsthand.

Canada Day celebrations on Robson Street. I think these people know how to party!

Everyone will be in such a great mood, I can see spontaneous breakouts of song and dance happening all over the city. Can you imagine, shopping on Robson Street and all of a sudden people start singing and dancing in the street? It would be like our own episode of Glee! Hey Vancouver, is there some kind of theme song for the city? If so, someone please tell me what it is so I can start putting some moves together. If there is singing and dancing going on somewhere I want to be a part of it. Maybe we could even get Michael Buble to grace us with his presence and smooth jazzy voice!
By complete coincidence, I was invited back to my old dance studio this past week for a class. My dance teacher invited me to see “if I’ve still got it”. Little does she know, I never lost it and I’ll be practicing my moves for Vancouver 2010!

It is sure to be a fun and exciting time. Canada is host to people from all over the world. Let’s be sure to show them a good time, whether it’s singing and dancing on Robson Street or blowing them away with how many medals we are winning! I am sure I will scream myself hoarse. That’s just the nature of the Games! What is your vision for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics? Leave a comment to share it with everyone.

Excuse me while I go practice my double pirouettes!  See you on Robson Street for singing and dancing!

Vancouver, we will soon be together.

A very special thank you to Tomarra Walker from Robson Street Business Association for providing me with the photos in this post. Photo credits are as follows: Photos 1, 2 and 4 -, Photo 3 - Tomarra Walker.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Past Week's Events

There is a lot going on as we get closer to Opening Day of Vancouver 2010.  To give you an idea of some of things I have been up to, I thought I would put together a list of things I was working on last week.  It's a flurry of activity, anything from tracking down souvenirs, meeting new people, writing blogs and finding accommodation, again!
In  no particular order:
  • Find a place to stay for Olympic Opening weekend. If my plan works out, I can't afford to pay for another place to stay so someone I know will have to invite me to stay with them.
  • Met the wonderful Hardeep Gosal, who does an amazing job at running the Cold FX trivia contest on facebook and twitter. We met up for drinks and appetizers. I'm not even at the Olympics yet and I'm already meeting great new friends.
  • Heard the Olympic theme song "I Believe" for the first time on CHUM FM. Shed a few tears listening to it, it is such a beautiful song. I'm sure you will hear it a lot. It is sung by Nikki Yanofsky who is from Montreal.
  • Decided I wanted a few of the Olympic souvenir glasses from Petro Canada. Found the Capilano with no problem, really really wanted the Garibaldi. After my Mom checked 3 locations in Brampton, I was lucky to find one today in Toronto. Phew!
  • Have a list of a few more things I would like from the Vancouver 2010 store. Finalized the list and will be ordering this weekend.
  • Would also like some items from the Canada Post Vancouver 2010 collection. If you haven't seen it, check it out. Really nice stuff. Need to find the time to put in this order.
  • Find Canada flag lapel pins to give out to my new international friends I meet in Vancouver. Someone finally sent me a link to a place in Toronto (Globecraft) that I can order these from. (Thanks Hardeep)
  • Ordering some Flag Walk pins (buttons) in case I can't find Canada flag pins. These are nice because I can order countries in addition to Canada. I made sure to get a USA one for my Mom.
  • Researching where to go and what to  do in Vancouver when we have spare time, if any. Checking out and bookmarking the LiveCity sites and making notes on locations of the country sponsored houses and pavillions.
  • Try to find images for a future blog post. Robson Street Business Association helped me out and I have everything I need. Thx Tomarra.
  • Final condo payment went through. Now working on final arrangements for arrival and key pick up.
  • Entering lots of contests so I can win free stuff and have to spend less money on buying things. It is also a great way to learn more about the Olympics and meet some people along the way.
  • Plan next few blog posts. Trying to make sure all the ones I want are done before February 12th.
  • Work on uploading all my photos to online albums. I got a late start on this and hope to be caught up soon. This will be ongoing until I get all my pre Olympic photos uploaded and update my blog posts with links to the corresponding album.
I swear all of that happened last week.  I'm not sure what this week will be like. It is likely to include frequent blog posts so that I get all of my pre Olympic thoughts and activities documented. I have a few guest posts coming up that I think you will really enjoy so stay tuned.
I would love to hear about your Olympic preparations, whether you are making the journey out to Vancouver or getting ready to host an Olympic party at home. What are you doing to get ready for Vancouver 2010?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Canadian Tire Has Olympic Spirit

I just got back from running some errands that happened to include going to Canadian Tire. As I drove into the parking lot, I saw a huge GO CANADA GO banner hanging on the outside of the store. I actually gasped out loud and was very thankful that I have decided to carry my camera with me at all times. I don't have one of those fancy phones or blackberry's that do a million things. I use my trusty Canon Powershot to take all my photos. 

It was a good thing this banner was outside the store.  I would have tried to take a photo if it was inside the store but I worked in retail for a number of years and that is really not allowed. Can you imaging me getting thrown out of Canadian Tire for taking a photo of something I needed to include in my Canadian Olympic Spirit photo album? That would have been really embarassing. 
I'm really glad I got to see this. I go to Canadian Tire a couple of times a year so it was really lucky I had to go today so I could see their huge display of Olympic Spirit. For the record there was a GO CANADA GO sign inside the store.
On my way out I also noticed a display of some Canada apparel. I'm not sure if this was for sale in the store? Does anyone know if they sell stuff like that?  I'm very happy and proud to start to see some displays like this.  Thanks Canadian Tire.  It's great to see Canadian companies showing support.

Haiti vs Molson Canadian Hockey House

Ever since I heard the announcement of Molson Canadian Hockey House in Vancouver for the Olympics, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get there. When I first looked at the ticket prices they were way out of my price range. I had already spent so much money on Olympic tickets, not to mention all of the other costs associated with this trip, that it seemed impossible. I really wanted to take my younger brother to Molson Canadian Hockey House at some point during our Olympic trip. I figured it might be the one thing he would actually be excited about. I was also interested in checking it out, just to see what it was all about.
I gave up on the idea until last week. Fan zone ticket prices started to be sold at a reduced rate. It was becoming slightly possible that I could actually buy them. At the same time, I was wrestling with the idea of how I could give money to Haiti. I am so heartbroken to see what has happened to that country and its people as a result of the earthquake. Watching the news about it makes me teary eyed, not only for the people in Haiti but for their relatives here in Canada, anxiously awaiting news. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t in a position now to donate money to this worthy cause. I am covering the cost of our trip to the Olympics all on my own and it has definitely been a stretch. I couldn’t see that I had any money to spare right now.

Then I came to my senses and realized if I could consider spending money on tickets to Molson Canadian Hockey House, I could donate to Haiti. I decided instead of buying the tickets I would donate the money to help the people in Haiti. All the money I would have spent on tickets to the Hockey House will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross. I can’t afford to do it all at once so it will happen in instalments. I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I had gone through with purchasing tickets and not have given anything to charity. Right now those people don’t even have a home to live in. I’m not going to die if I don’t make it to some place in Vancouver. Those people will die if they do not have water, food, shelter or medical attention.

I am not in any way saying that everyone else should donate to Haiti instead of buying tickets to the Hockey House or any other events. I think it will be a great place to hang out and make friends at the Olympics. I have decided to do without it, to spend my money elsewhere because for me I feel that is the right thing to do. I want to show people that money can be found somewhere if you are willing to do without some things.

For example, if you buy coffee everyday and spend $1.50, make your coffee at home and save that money. In a month you will have $45! That is a very decent amount of money to donate. Another idea I had was to visit sites where you can download grocery coupons. If you take $5 worth of coupons with you every week when you do your grocery shopping, you will have saved $20 over a 4 week period. That is money you can donate. If you can save $10 through coupons, you will have $40 to donate. Canadians have been extremely generous already with their donations. I am so proud of them.

As for Molson, I follow some pretty cool Molson people on Twitter and I know they would be very supportive of this decision. I see them tweeting about their company’s initiatives to raise money for Haiti so I know we all have the same goal, help others who need it. Maybe I’ll get lucky and win a pair of tickets or have someone hand me a pair when we are in Vancouver. Olympic karma has produced some really unique things for me so who knows! If you are going to be at the Hockey House, enjoy it! I’ll wave when I pass by.

If you have any other tips for how people can find money to donate to Haiti or other worthy causes, feel free to leave a comment and share your ideas with all of us.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm Official! The Card Proves It

I got the brilliant idea a few months ago to have business cards made up with the information for my blogs for when I am in Vancouver. It wasn't for vanity reasons that I decided to do this. I don't have any notion of getting mistaken for media, and will certainly not present myself as such.  I wanted to get them for the simple reason that it proves that I write a few blogs.  The way I see it, there are going to be many wonderful people to talk to, many moments that will make for great photos. I am going to want to capture all of these for my blogs.  Of course I will want to let people know about my blogs and ask if they mind being included in them. And then I thought, what am I going to do, recite the URL for them? Write it down on a napkin that may get thrown away? No,  it would be much better and look more professional if I had something to present to them. So was born the idea of a business card promoting my blogs. There were actually a few times at the Torch Relay that I wish I had them, again because I was asking people who I didn't know if I could take their picture to include in a blog post.  I happen to be a massive procrastinator and really only got on this after Christmas, but whatever, I have them now. I also have a disgusting fascination with stationary so I may have just been looking for an excuse to have something printed with my name on it!
After researching a few options, I decided to go with Vistaprint. They have a facility in Windsor, ON which was great because I didn't have to worry about exchange rates or customs. The process was very easy, the rates very reasonable and I got my cards within two weeks.  A friend of mine also uses them so I considered that as good as any reference I could get.
Check out the image of my card below. The only thing I might have changed was the finish. Now I'm thinking that a glossy finish may have looked better. It's too late now and regardless, I am happy with how they turned out (also happy I seemed to have spelled everything correctly).  
And now I am issuing myself a challenge, to not come  back home with one single card! All 250 of these will find their way into the pockets or purses of fellow Olympic lovers, new friends from around the world and contacts.  Can a shy girl like me make it happen? If there is any where that it could, it is in Vancouver!

I'm still collecting photos for my Olympic Spirit Across Canada photo album.  If your out and see a unique display of Canadian and Olympic pride, take a photo and send it to me to be included in the album. Make sure you tell me where the photo was taken. If you want to read more about this, click here to review my earlier post. The album will be up soon and I'll add to it as I get pictures.

Thank you so much for reading everyone. You have no idea how much it means to me to know others are enjoying my blog. Stay tuned for much, much more! I also invite you to leave a comment. Let me know where you're from and what you are looking forward to during the Vancouver Olympics.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Props to my Fellow Bloggers

One of the things I’m looking forward to the most about the Olympics are the people I will meet and the friendships that will be created from this experience. I didn’t think leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics that I would have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people but I have, mostly because like me they are bloggers and writing about their experiences around Vancouver 2010.

I admire all of them. If anyone knows how time consuming a task this is, it is me. There are several nights I’ve been up to midnight working on a blog post. We are not paid media; we are not doing this because it is our job. We do this because we are passionate and excited about these Olympic Games being held in our home country. We do it out of pure love for an event that is sure to be memorable and life changing. We are people who write from the heart and are truly appreciative of others taking the time to read our thoughts.

Here is a list of some of my favourite blogs and why I like them so much:

2010VanFan-A great blog written from the perspective of Andrea, a Vancouver resident, Olympic volunteer and fellow blogger. Andrea is on a quest to write a post for each of the 210 days leading up the Olympics and so far hasn’t missed a day. She gives the lowdown on all the latest preparations happening in Vancouver. As an avid Olympic fan, I would love to be there to see all of this, but since I can’t I rely on Andrea’s updates. It is great fun to follow her adventures from pin trading, Vancouver walkabouts and impromptu interviews with various locals involved in some way with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. I have to admit, she has me addicted to reading every day! She is also supposed to do a guest blog post on here for me.

2010 Olympic Volunteer’s Blog-Written by Joyce who is from Scotland, she is going to be a volunteer in Whistler during the Olympics. Yes she is coming all the way from Scotland to help out during Vancouver 2010. I don’t know how she arranged that but good for her! She already has her red mittens so she will fit right in. Her blog currently covers items of interest in Scotland and provides helpful information on Vancouver 2010. I look forward to hearing about her days as a volunteer once she arrives in Canada. I am not going to Whistler for any events so I’ll be relying on Joyce to provide me with the scoop on what is going on up there.

We are all Mukmuks-I have to admit I may be kind of biased to this one since Mukmuk is my favourite mascot even though he may not be as visible as the rest. This blog is written by Tasha, who in addition to being a blogger is also going to be a Torch bearer! So envious of her for that. Have fun running with the Torch Tasha. We’ll all be thinking of you. In addition to be a Torch bearer, Tasha is also going to be volunteering at Vancouver 2010. Her story about her volunteer backpack woes are pretty funny. I look forward to seeing more from her.

Other Blogs of Note:


Art & Serge’s 2010 Road Trip


The Excellent Olympic Adventure

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Visiting Medals of Olympics Past

Back in mid December before all the Olympic Torch Relay hoopla started, I dragged my poor mother to the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto. Why, you ask, would a fashion lover, Olympic crazed person like me ever want to attend the Hockey Hall of Fame? Well because they have the most fantastic exhibit ever. I don’t know how they did it but they managed to get together a collection of Olympic medals from every single Olympics. Yes that is right, every single one from 1896 up to Beijing 2008. For an Olympic lover like myself who has been planning her trip to Vancouver 2010 since October 2008, this seemed like a must do for me. It was also a great thing to see in anticipation of what Vancouver 2010 will be. You see I am really annoyed to be out of the loop as to what is going on in Vancouver right now as they get ready to put on the greatest Olympics ever. This trek to the Hockey Hall of Fame to see all the medals from Olympics past was one small thing I could do as pre trip homage to the Olympics.

Medals of our past Canadian Olympic Host cities.

It was neat to see them all together listed by year and host city. It was also interesting to see the variety in the style of medals. Early on the medals kind of looked the same. Once they became more artistic, you could see how the art styles of the host cities influence the design of the medals.

The Hockey Hall of Fame has this exhibit on display until January 15, 2010 if you are in the Toronto area and want to check it out. I spent most of my time looking at the medals but they have other exhibits and hockey paraphernalia that is fun to look at too. My Mom loved all the Detroit Red Wings uniforms they had.

I took pictures as best I could. Flash photos were strictly a no no. And just because its there, we posed for a picture with the Stanley Cup.  To see all the photos, visit my online album of the medals.

Hockey Hall of Fame
Precious Medals: The Complete Olympic Collection
Brookfield Place-30 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON

The Stanley Cup.

Most recent medals.
Earliest medals.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Future Guest Posts

I wanted to quickly introduce you to two people I have asked to do Guest Posts on my blog.  I thought you might be getting a bit tired of me so I've invited others to give some different perspective on the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
First there is Erin, who I came across on Twitter.  Erin is from Calgary and will be a Torch bearer on January 18th! How lucky is she? I love her Twitter updates on her thoughts and preparations as her day to carry the Olympic Torch gets closer.  Her latest Tweets have been about media and the interview requests she has been getting.
I have asked Erin to write a post to give us some insight into what it is like, what it means to them and what it feels like to run with the Torch.  As I said, Erin runs on January 18th and I hope to have her post up by the following week.  I am so happy for her!  What an amazing experience it is going to be.  I'm so happy that she has agreed to share it with my blog and my readers.  Really looking forward to hearing from you Erin.  Have fun running with the Torch.  You can follow Erin on Twitter @enms.

My second selection for a Guest Post is the infamous Andrea from 2010VanFan.  I think of her as my Vancouver counter part.  Andrea is the author of the 2010VanFan blog where she writes daily about her adventures leading up the Vancouver Olympics in her hometown.  I personally love getting a first person viewpoint of everything that is going on in that city right now as they head into their final preparations.  I would love to be there myself but since I can't, Andrea's blog is the perfect way to stay informed. She has lots of exciting things to share with us. I don't want to say to much so I think I'll stop here! Hopefully Andrea will have her Guest Post done for me by mid January.  You can follow Andrea on Twitter @2010VanFan.

A very special thank you to each of these women for accepting my invitation.  We are all busy in our daily lives as well as our preparations for the Vancouver Olympics so I appreciate them taking the time to do this.  I love that I'll be able to share some different perspectives from people taking part in the Olympics in different ways. Stay tuned for more.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Riding Along with the Torch Relay – Part 2

I have to admit that following the Torch with the convoy is pretty cool! I especially enjoyed waving to all the people who lined the streets to see it. It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear I could have stayed with it forever! The best part of the trip though was getting the behind the scenes look at what happens, at least with what Serge and Art deal with, in working to keep the vehicles in the convoy rolling along throughout Canada.

Wow, who is that cool girl in the GM Silverado? Imagine all the shopping bags I could fit into the back of this truck!

When Serge first greeted me, one of the things he showed me was the detailed schedule they receive every morning. I’m not exaggerating when I say detailed. It has every Torchbearer stop outlined by intersection or address, it states what time convoy mode or Torchbearer mode begins and ends, lunch breaks and pit stops are also scheduled. Majority of the time, the convoy is running exactly on time. Pretty amazing when you consider the convoy is made up of approximately 240 people and over 100 vehicles. In Ontario the convoy was travelling on average 200 km a day. In Northern Ontario and the Prairie provinces, it will be 300-400 km a day. One person is responsible for keeping the convoy on schedule. It is a huge job and I really don’t know how they manage to keep it on time every day.

Serge and the GM Silverado. I guess he looks cool too.

Serge also told me about some of the problems that have come up along the way and what they have needed to do to fix them. He said their average turnaround time to have something fixed is 5 hours! I guess that is ok if it is something minor, but for something major that seems almost impossible. But Serge and Art have become masters of the impossible. There aren’t many extra vehicles so they need to keep the ones they have moving. Serge told me one story about a vehicle needing a new door. He worked out a schedule and arranged to have a new door available in a city ahead of them. By the time they arrived everything had been done including the paint, all they had to do was take the old one off and put the new one on.

The morning was quiet for a bit and then the calls started coming. They ranged from needing to change a flat tire, radios not working and the before mentioned generator needing repairs. Serge was working on getting a generator expert to meet them at the evening dealership to help solve the problem. Serge referred to me as his “secretary” as I helped him navigate through the routes and towns. It’s a fun job, I could get used to it (read here GM-HINT, HINT).

The Silverado is kind of like a Command Centre. Serge manages the workload with 2 cell phones, a blackberry and a GPS. There are over 100 vehicles in the convoy that need maintenance, cleaning and repairs. Every night there is a designated dealership to perform any  required maintenance and repairs. Serge also has a small crew with him on the road. When someone calls in with an issue, Serge can dispatch which ever crew member is closest to help out.

I asked Serge if it ever gets tired of seeing the Relay and the convoy. His answer: never. His favourite part is seeing all the kids lined up along the route waving the signs they have made. He also said his regular job may seem boring by comparison when he gets back to it. Completely understandable, how can anything compare to an Olympic Torch Relay? He also told me he is making notes on places he wants to return to. I would like to see that list when it’s complete. Who better to recommend places to see in Canada but someone who has seen them all?

I also asked Serge about their blogging and posts on Twitter. Did Serge and Art need Twitter and blogging lessons before heading out on the Torch Relay? Serge laughed when I asked him this and admitted that yes, indeed he did require and get lessons about posting on Twitter and blogging. For people who have just been introduced to these methods, I think Art and Serge do a great job. It certainly lets us follow along with them and makes us feel like we are right there with them.

It truly was an amazing experience to be a part of it for the short time that I was. I am grateful to have had the opportunity. Serge was a great guide and gave me insight into what goes on behind the scenes. Thank you very much Serge for answering all my questions and having me ride along with you. A very special thank you to Michael Allison from The Wilcox Group for inviting me to do this and getting it set up. Hey GM, if you need an extra body on board to help out Art and Serge, well, they know where to find me!

Enjoy the rest of the ride Art and Serge!

To view photos from the day, please visit my online photo album.

Serge's Vancouver 2010 credentials.  I want one of these for my car!

The Hamburgular from McDonalds.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Riding Along with the Torch Relay – Part 1

Some pretty amazing things have happened to me since starting my Journey to Vancouver 2010 – Diary of a Fan blog. The best yet was an invitation to do a Torch Relay ride along with the GM guys from Twitter, GM_ArtAndSerge. I mentioned these guys before in my Mississauga Torch Relay blog post. I’ve been following their adventures with the Torch Relay on Twitter and through their blog, Art and Serge’s 2010 Road Trip: Adventures With The Flame.

Imagine my shock and surprise when I received an email asking if I would be interested in doing a ride along through one of the Torch Relay routes. Without hesitation my answer was yes. A few emails to figure out logistics followed and on December 26th I found myself making my way to London, ON, 2 hours west of Toronto, to meet Serge and the GM Silverado on the 27th at 8am. Serge arrived a bit late, having come from repairing a generator that is used on one of the media vehicles. It seems that problems can and do happen at any point during the day. I jumped in the truck and we took off down Dundas Street to catch up with the convoy. It was making its way out of London that day, the final destination being Kitchener, ON, about an hour west of Toronto on our glorious 401 highway.
We caught up with the convoy on the last part of the London route. Immediately I was amazed by the amount of people out on the street to greet the torch. When you’re driving through it and seeing the constant amount of people, it is pretty impressive. We kept up with the convoy through Thamesford. I swear there were more people here than in London. There were tons of people lined along the streets. Happy faces looked back at me smiling and waving to the convoy and Torchbearers going past.

People come out to see the Relay in Thamesford, ON

From there, we jumped ahead of the convoy and made our way to Woodstock, ON. We found a spot along the route and watched the convoy come off of the 401 and make its way North on Norwich Street. A band from the Salvation Army was set up in a parking lot and played O Canada when the convoy came into view.

When the convoy passed, we got into the flashy Silverado and followed it to the Community Centre where there was a scheduled break. They almost didn’t let us onto the road leading to the Community Centre until Serge flashed his Vancouver 2010 credentials. This has an Open Sesame effect, and let us access the Community Centre for a break as well.

Coming out from the washroom, I saw a Flame attendant holding the lantern that the Olympic Flame is carried in. After waiting for her to finish a conversation, I pounced on her and asked if I could take a picture. One gentleman asked to hold it. Now that I think of it that would have been a great photo, me holding the Olympic flame. Too late now!
After Woodstock it was onto the mid day Celebration in Stratford. Serge had some business to attend to. I wolfed down some pizza and went outside to see the Torch come through and onto the stage to light the cauldron. Shortly after that, it was time for Serge to drop me off. He had to get some things arranged for their evening maintenance and wouldn’t be following the convoy in the afternoon. I stayed in Stratford long enough to see the end of the route of the Torch. From there my Mom, brother and I went to Cambridge for one last look at the Torch. And then, it was time to go home. The next time we see the Olympic Flame will be in Vancouver.

Photos above of Stratford, ON. Right: Coca Cola truck in Woodstock, ON. It just makes me happy when I see it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome to 2010

To all of my readers, loyal and new, I would like to wish all of you a Happy New Year. I can't believe we are finally here at 2010, the year of our Vancouver Olympics.  For me this journey started in October 2008 with Phase 1 of tickets.  2010 seemed so far away, a year and a half at that point.  It felt like it would take forever to come.  Now we are just over a month away from the Opening Ceremony on February 12th (I'm still trying to get a ticket for this but coming to terms with the fact it may not happen).  It's kind of unbelievable to me.  I've had so much fun during this time leading up to the Olympics, I'm not sure I want it to end, even though I am very anxious to go to Vancouver and experience the Olympics in my home country.

I have been very fortunate for the experiences I have had.  Who knew when I started this blog it would lead to such incredible things like being considered for a CTV Olympic promo spot, be interviewed for a Washington Post article, invited by Inside Vancouver to blog for them about my journey, asked to contribute to a Visual Art project, and be invited to ride along with the GM guys in the Torch Relay.  It has been an unbelievable time for me.  Never in a million years would I ever have expected any of this to happen.

Along the way the support of family, friends and co-workers has been amazing.  They are also one of the reasons why this has been so much fun for me.  They are genuinely interested in my blogs and thrilled when all of these exciting opportunities are given to me.  It makes me so sad that they won't be in Vancouver with me to see all of this come to fruition.  I know they will be keeping up on our daily adventures though my blogs and photos.

Adding to the experience are the people that I have met so far.  Fellow bloggers like Andrea from 2010VanFan; Olympic fans that are as excited about Vancouver 2010 as I am, and various people from Twitter.  It is like we are our own special group, looking forward to this in a way that some others don't understand.  I started this blog because I had so much excitement and enthusiasm about Vancouver 2010, I needed a place to put it.  I also thought it would be a good way to meet others like me, if there were any out there.  I have met more people than I ever thought I would and I love to see that others are as big Olympic fans as I am.

I could go on but I was trying to keep this one short.  May 2010 bring wonderful things to all of you.  It is going to be a great year for Canada. :)

Wishing you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2010. Go Canada!

Remember the Olympic Spirit challenge Canada.  I'm looking for images of displays of Olympic Spirit from all across Canada.  For more information check out the previous posts I've done: the one that started it all and the display I found in Brampton, ON.