As I write this, I’m watching the Closing Ceremony. Michael Buble is running around dressed like a Mounty and the Canadians have just sent a few giant inflatable beavers out onto the ice.  It’s either a sign of the Apocalypse or the Winter Olympics are drawing to a close.

I will remember Vancouver for its impeccable manners.  Canadians are ridiculously polite.

We’re sorry the weather was crummy.

We’re sorry we had a few glitches with the Cauldron.

The only thing we’re not sorry for is kicking your backsides in hockey.

We had a really awesome Olympic Team this time around…probably my favorite ever.  We worked longer and harder than we ever have before on one of these trips. And, to my partner in crime Domi, thanks for everything you do and don’t do, say and don’t say.  You’re a great partner and an even better friend.

Here now is a “gift” I received from a street clown in Vancouver this weekend.  He said it was his gift to America.  Remember, I’m just the messenger!  See you later and thanks Canada!


Stop and enjoy the…Olympics.

February 26, 2010

The Olympic clock is ticking.

Today’s our last day of shooting stories.  From here on out, we’ll grab athlete interviews here and there, but we won’t go out to put together a longer, more comprehensive piece.  They’re all in the can as we say.

So, Domi and I got up early and took a bus to Whistler.  We arrived around 10am and had, as usual a list of things we wanted to accomplish.   And by we, I mean me.  I assume each Olympic assignment is my last so I tend to do some journalistic gorging toward the end of the games.

First on the list:  show me your toque.  What is a toque?  It’s a winter cap and the Canadians have more headwear than the Queen of England. (Click here for a slideshow.)

This guy was my favorite.  Especially after we did some toque trading.

Then it was back to the list. We met up with a volunteer from Sacramento, shot a story to air Sunday looking back at how the 2010 Winter Olympics went…  Oh, and we stalked a cat.

A snow leopard actually.  We did a story with Kwame the Snow Leopard.  He’s not only a member of the Ghana Ski Team, he is the Ghana Ski Team.

We did all of this in just a few hours and by 3:45 we were choking down a piece of tomato and onion pizza (horrible combo, never order it) and running back to the bus, which we made with five minutes to spare.

Once on the bus, I spread my stuff out so no one would sit next to me and got right to work on my laptop.  Downloading. Uploading.  Front Loading.  Heavy Loading.  Whatever.  Gotta use my time.  And use it I did until I looked out the window and saw this.

The Sea to Sky highway was right beside me and I was lost in Olympic whatnot.   So, I closed the laptop and took in the view.  Then I fell asleep.  Bus naps are the best.

Sometimes you get the Olympics.  Sometimes the Olympics get you.  But, when you meet somewhere in the middle on a bus from here to there, it’s pure magic.

Sometimes you get the blog and sometimes the blog gets you.

That pretty much sums up our walk to work the other night.  Domi, Travis (our producer) and I took the train into the city together.  We exited the station and I made the comment, “I need something blog worthy to happen on our walk in.”  It’s only a five block walk so fate needed to step on it.

And so it did.

“Hey Canada, can I hear you?”

It was a rather quiet voice begging to be boomed from a megaphone.  We looked up and saw a cute blonde girl on a crosswalk overhead.

“See ya Trav.  I think I hear my blog.”

Travis took off for the IBC (International Broadcasting Center) and Domi and I went in search of the one woman cheer squad.

And, that’s how we met Sharia Willis Saenz, a volunteer chosen to be an Olympic cheerleader with zero megaphone experience.  Sharia volunteered for the Olympics for a few reasons.

One, she’s a proud Vancouverite.  Two, you get a snazzy aqua jacket.  (And, if you weren’t alive in 1984, you think that’s pretty cool.)  And three, her boyfriend just shipped off for Afghanistan.  Yelling at strangers on the streets of Vancouver is a nice way to keep your mind busy when you miss the person you love.

And so, Petty Officer Martin Peters of the US Navy…this video is for you.  Sharia is doing well and having fun.  But, look sharp Martin, we taught her a few things on the megaphone.  And if she’s still waving it around when you come home safe and sound…well…you’ll see.

Toward the end of each Olympic trip, we treat ourselves to a group morning out and some tickets to an actual event.

We don’t see many if any events during the course of our Olympic assignment.  Strange, I know.

But, we ran into a problem with the 2010 Olympics.  The tickets are either sold out or are the definition of extortion.

So, we decided to do the next best thing and just pretend we were Olympians.  Turns out, we’re good pretenders.

We rented a sheet of ice at the Richmond Curling Club for $72 and the competition was on:  East Coast Vs West Coast.  Our eight Hearst Olympic team members split the coasts.

But who would emerge the victor?  Watch to find out.

Oh the Olympic Humanity…

February 22, 2010

Acrophobia? Not a problem. (fear of heights)

Arachnophobia?  Good with that too. (fear of spiders)

Vancouver-is-jammed-with-people-ophobia.  Oh, I’ve got a raging case of that.

I’m not fond of crowds.  I don’t know a lot of of normal people who relish being jammed like a sardine in a can.

But Vancouver is crowded.  Really crowded.

The city told locals and tourists to dump their cars during the games.  And, everybody listened.

The result?  The trains are jammed.  The streets are packed.  It’s cool in a “I don’t need your stinking carbon offsets” kind of a way.  Actually, it’s cool until you find yourself wedged between a family that thinks it’s the Vancouver Von Trapps and a local kids hockey team chanting “O Canada” for 17th time as you wait for the traffic control to let a mob at an intersection pass.

One of the traffic cops played a game with the crowd the other night.  Picture 300 tightly wedged people and a guy with a badge who suggests “let’s play mother may I” to cross the street.”  Let’s just say the crowd didn’t find it funny and the cop may have felt an urge to call his own mother afterward.

That said, if you have to be playing space invaders with this many people, at least this is a friendly crowd.  Canadians pride themselves on being polite.  So, there’s a lot of  “I apologize for jamming my stroller in your shin” going around.  Here’s a look at life on the SkyTrain these days. -fitz

Twas the night before Ski X..

February 21, 2010

There are very few things you experience in life that you remember crystal clear years later.   And truthfully, a lot of my Olympic memories over the years have gotten a little jumbled.  I’ve been fortunate enough to hang with some really fit folk who share the common theme of “having dreamed of this moment since I was a kid.”  They tend to run together.

But tonight, Brian Hickey and I got to experience a really rare Olympic experience that few on the outside of an Olympian’s inner circle get to see.   It’s one I’ll never forget.

Truckee’s Daron Rahlves and his wife Michelle, invited us to the house where they and the rest of their ski team posse are holed up during the games.  It was the night before Daron and Casey Puckett were going to compete in the debut of ski cross.  They told us to show up at 7pm.  They had to be on the hill at 7:30am the next morning.

If I was competing in the Olympics the next morning, the only one I’d want to see at my house the night before would be someone with a key that unlocks pearly gates.  It would make the non-stop string of prayers prior to competition a lot more convenient.

Seriously, Brian and I were all a little stunned but figured we’d jump in the car before they found common sense and said

they were kidding.

Many teams choose to not stay in the Athletes Village.  There are several reasons for this including:  travel time to venues, distractions, and comfort.

The main reason is:  they want to win.

And, it’s a lot easier to control the external factors that go into a good performance if you know your sleep won’t be interrupted by the Ugandan Curling Team whooping it up because they’ve got a day off the ice.

So, Daron and Casey are staying in an extremely cool, massive house near Cypress Mountain.  The snowboard team had stayed there the week before.  I looked but didn’t see  a “Seth Wescott wuz here” tag anywhere.

Olympic chefs were prepping sushi and pad thai for dinner when we got there.  And Daron and his crew were watching bobsledders crash and Apolo Ohno smash records.  Downstairs, Casey Puckett was getting some last minute physical therapy in a makeshift PT room.

With the exception of the personal chefs, they were doing what you and I would probably do on a Saturday night during the Olympics and that is hang out and enjoy the games.  The difference those guys needed to get up the next morning and ski for gold.

It was really a surreal shoot and one that I’m glad I got to experience with my buddy Brian…because I could tell he got the rareness/ coolness of what we were seeing.  So, thanks to Daron and Michelle for the invitation.  Good luck tomorrow!  Win a medal and we’ll be knocking at that door again tomorrow night!

By the way, we left with some parting gifts.  Watch below. – Deirdre

Olympic Ink

February 20, 2010

I once tried to get a tattoo.

My college roommate Mary and I made it into a Loveland, CO  tattoo parlour and spent a good hour browsing books and pictures.  Then we spent another hour grilling the poor artist staffing the joint about the procedure, pain level, ink quality, needle origin, education, medical experience, creative motivation and general skill level of the staff.

Then, we got thrown out. Really.

I’m probably the only person who didn’t get a tattoo because I got kicked out of the place before saying I’d like a

Well years later, I got one on the streets of Vancouver.  It was painless.  The artist seemed friendly and it counted as an Olympic experience.  I love this country.

The Olympic Sleep Plan

February 17, 2010

You don’t come to the Olympics to sleep.

That said, while you’re at the Olympics, you’d better find time to sleep or you’ll hit the Olympic Wall and trust hits back..hard.

Today, I switch my work schedules for 48 hours .  I’ll arrive at 9 or 10pm and work the overnight doing about 30 live shots for our stations across the country.  Last week, I fronted the live shots with a 2 hour nap and half a 4lb box of Twizzlers  fueling me. (I don’t recommend that combo by the way.)

This week, I formulated  an Olympic sleep plan which included  going for a relaxing run to clear my head and wear me out.

So, I basically wanted to take an Olympic time-out…before attempting to pass out for the afternoon.

No Olympics for 60 minutes.

I headed up the dyke run.  It’s a running/ walking trail along the marinas. Boats in the water. Fighter jets in the air.

Yes, fighter jets.  We appear to be dive bombed every 7 minutes or so.   The locals don’t flinch so I yell out an ‘eh and join them in blowing them off.

But, as it turns out there’s no running from the Olympics.

The path leads directly to the Richmond Ice Oval and those Olympic moments  were everywhere.  Stop #1: security for the friendliest “you can’t come in here” you’ll ever hear.

Stop #2:  a guy who called himself “Glen-O.”

My Olympic time-out flailed out.  But that’s okay.  I’m feeling pretty strong so if that wall comes a knocking, I’ll be ready to hit back….unless I’m napping.