We had planned to experience the Olympics like everyone else in the world does — from the comfort of our couch, watching the events from the best vantage point possible on our High Definition TV coverage. It didn’t really make sense to try and get downtown, fight the crowds and the lineups, pay a tonne of money, and then not be able to get as good a view as we could from our couch.
Then the same thing happened to us that it appears happened to everyone else in the city. We watched the people cheering, the crowds gathering, and basically everybody experiencing something we weren’t, and it felt like we were missing it out.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise when Ling came home the one night, and pointed out that Tim had asked if we were going to any of the events – we owed it to him to go see something. You know, for Tim’s sake. I agreed, but it seemed like there wasn’t much of a chance – after all everything was sold out, and we knew the scalpers were cleaning up. But we had to try.
Based on that, then, it was a surprise when Ling called me at 10:00 the next morning, and asked if I wanted to see some curling! Apparently she had worn her “Canada” gear to work that day, people had got talking about the Olympics and events, one thing led to another, and a few phone calls later she had the opportunity to get 4 tickets to the next day’s curling match at face value! Only my wife is capable of pulling off a deal like that on 24 hours notice.
We talked about who to get as the fourth person – but nobody was available. Mom couldn’t get to Vancouver quickly enough (i.e. call her at 8:00 at night and ask if she can be in Vancouver at 10:00 the next morning!) and Dad couldn’t clear his schedule. So she decided to ask for just 3 tickets – which she got, with the fourth one thrown in, as it wasn’t going to be used anyway.
So far from paying a premium, we were now in a situation where we had four tickets to a match where Team Canada would be playing, and we had them at a discount.
Ling and I quickly booked the time off. We told Tim that night, and he was ready. That morning I dropped Ling off at the Skytrain, went home and called Tim’s school to let them know he wouldn’t be at school today – the conversation went along the lines of “Tim’s not going to be at school today”, “Okay, why not?”, “We’re taking him to see an Olympic event”, “Which one?”, “Women’s curling”, “ohhh, lucky!”. So apparently the day off wasn’t going to cause an issue.
The curling was at Vancouver Olympic Centre, which I have never been to before – it is around Queen Elizabeth Park, so I knew to get off at the King Edward skytrain station, but beyond that I didn’t know – so I had prepared google map directions to be safe.
I needn’t have worried, we got off at the station, and at the intersection a “smurf” (blue jacketed volunteer) was sitting on a platform announcing “Curling, walk *that* way and turn right at Manitoba.” Recommendations were to arrive 3 – 4 hours early, we were there 2 hours in advance and needn’t have worried, there was no lineup at security.
Now that we weren’t rushing, there was a decision to be made about the fourth ticket – Ling wanted to sell it, Tim and I weren’t too sure (it is, after all, prohibited, and what do we know about selling?). So we went to another smurf and asked if we could give it to her, so she could give it to anyone that needed an extra.
“I could do that’, she said, “but it would be much better if you could sell it – why don’t you walk about a block up the road, that’s where the ticket booth is. Maybe you can find someone there to buy it.”
This was the point where I was beginning to realize why all the press was raving about how friendly Vancouver was. We walked up the block (Tim in the opposite direction, mortified at the fact that someone might connect him to these crazies scalping a ticket), and Ling stood there holding the ticket up in the air. On the way up, someone asked about the ticket, looked at it, but said “ho thanks.”
While there, Ling was talking to someone else trying to sell two tickets, but not much was happening. After about 10 minutes we were ready to give up, when the first guy came back and asked if we would be willing to sell it for $40 – if so he had three tickets, and needed one more to sell to a family looking to buy 4 total.
The deal done, we walked back to the entrance, feeling very satisfied – we had just made enough money to (just about) pay for our lunches!
We cleared security very quickly, and were presented with one of the longest lineups we had seen – inside the holding area there was a lineup from the doors, down one side, around a corner and continuing to almost the security entrance! We dutifully lined up, wondering how long this was going to take, chatting with the ladies behind us. About 2 minutes after we lined up another volunteer walked down the line shouting “you don’t need to line up! Mill around! Have fun!” – oops, how Canadian. We had queued when it wasn’t even necessary, there must be more British left in us than we had realized.
As we milled around, we were amazed by how large the crowd was – it was packed about 20 people across, from the doors back 100 yards or more (basically 6,000 people all crowded outside). They opened the gates, as promised, an hour before the match started, and we were inside in 5 minutes. Amazing.
With the memory of the size of the crowd behind us still fresh, we immediately lined up for lunch (that was a good idea, 5 minutes later we wouldn’t have got lunch before the match started!). 3 hotdogs, 2 california rolls, 1 coke, 1 water, and 1 beer and $50 later, we were ready to watch our first ever curling match live (and sitting in a curling rink holding a hotdog, a Canadian – no sippy cup lid though -, and wearing a Team Canada Jersey I felt more stereotypically Canadian than I have in a long time).
Sitting there, watching the match, and listening to the drunk guy in front of us cheering and high-fiving us every time Canada made a good shot (while also hitting on the girl to his right, to the chagrin of his girlfriend on the left) we discovered what we should have known already – sure you get a better view from your couch, but there is nothing like the energy of a live crowd. And this crowd was energetic – legendary even, according to the world press. This may have been the first time a wave actually made it around an entire curling rink.
Team Canada, meanwhile, had to make sure that we got our money’s worth – they took it down to the last rock, in an extra end, which required a draw for perfect weight. As the skip set up, the entire stadium stopped cheering and you could hear a call of “shhhh….” go through the arena (which Bernard later said was so funny that it distracted her more than the cheering would have), and then exploded as the rock came to a stop in the perfect spot. I swear it was even louder than the Lions / Roughriders semi-final we saw at BC place.
Of course, as we found out later, that only whetted Ling’s appetite for the Olympic experience.