Vancouver 2010 Olympics Blog: Olympics Security, Currency & Access
In her next Olympic blog, Theresa Corigliano encounters the oddities of a heavily secured host city, and discovers a new kind of currency that only comes out at the Games.
It’s not just me. Apparently, all manner of Olympic fans are perturbed.
Why is the Olympic cauldron, lit by the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, being held hostage?
As we wandered down past Canada Place near the beautiful Vancouver waterfront, we couldn’t help but be dismayed. We couldn’t get anywhere near the water. Everything is currently blocked off.
Maybe, suggested a Blue Person, if you head all the way to Stanley Park and the sea wall, you will find an opening. He cheerfully waved us along past the media center, past Burrard Street.
Theresa’s previous blog: Accommodations, Event Tickets & Olympic Lessons.
We could see the flames, licking at the sky. But when we rounded the bend where we bumped into a group of multi-national tourists, we realized the cauldron was blocked off too, by a very tall and wide imposing chain-link fence.
Folks changed places near the front of the fence, so they could take turns poking their camera lenses through gaps in the links. I then noticed a very tall, and very patient young man holding his very lithe girlfriend on his shoulders so she could shoot over the fence. I first apologized and then asked if she could take a picture with my camera.
I am sorry, tall young man, because I started a chain (no pun intended) reaction. Good-naturedly, the young woman snapped away for those of us without shoulders to stand on.
Marie and I asked two police officers why everything is restricted but they had no insight. We think it’s to protect against terrorists—both the real kind and the drunk/stoned teenager kind, but the officers aren’t confirming or denying.
“Ask them one more thing,” Marie warned me, “and they’ll start asking you some questions.”
Explore Vancouver with our Travel Slideshow: Vancouver 2010 Photos.
Right now, Vancouver is the land of pin traders, wheeling and dealing along the main street. Pins are currency here. People wear lanyards covered in pins, jackets covered in pins, backpacks pockmarked by pins. Merchants are giving them away, transit police, NBC, advertisers … some are harder to come by than others. No one has handed me anything, so I bought a Today show pin and a London Olympics pin, but I lost the chance to buy a moving bobsled pin. I want that pin. I will find that pin.
At venues, the pins are about $11 each. At stores: $7.98. On the street, depending on demand, anywhere from $5 to $35, maybe more. I have not yet checked eBay, but I am betting people are selling them there.
Which leads me to the other thing I covet the most: a Blue Person jacket. We’re talking stylish, be-ringed, beautiful, bright turquoise jackets that only the Blue People get to wear. Apparently, this is what they get for all their hours of volunteering, which I should mention, is at crazy hours—and because this is in Vancouver, means crazy hours in the rain.
Olympics travel can be tough. Get tips with Vancouver 2010 Olympics Blog: Whistler Skiing & Vancouver Skating in One Long Day
While chatting with one volunteer, she told me that tourists are buying the jackets off the Blue People’s backs. Apparently the going rate is $500 and, for that amount of money, she would sell hers. “What do I want with an Olympic jacket in Winnipeg?” she added. These jackets are not meant to be warm, and will serve little purpose when she returns home from the Games. This is a practical girl, not a sentimental one.
We walked over to the Olympic Village, and I was, once again, shocked to see it blocked off. Cheerful Blue People stood guard, a police car behind them. We had to settle for taking pictures of the blocked-off Village in the distance.
Granville Island, however, is wide open, and it’s worth a visit whether you’re in Vancouver for the Games or otherwise. There are the requisite souvenir shops and umbrella shops (three that we counted. How do they stay in business?), but also, thankfully, artists’ cooperatives and a lovely, eclectic food market. You could spend hours here and we did.
A man named Captain Rod offered us a two-hour water tour of Vancouver, on a boat with big screen TVs to watch the Games. It departs whenever the weather doesn’t prevent if from leaving. The cost: $20. I love Captain Rod, the non-gouger.
Get more help from locals with our Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Vancouver.
UP-CLOSE AT THE GAMES
Here is what I have to say about the pairs skating: I like skating, but I really feel that people who fall down a lot should not win medals. I know a little bit about figure skating, but in the short program, I can make no sense of the judging.
It is a relief that I am not losing my mind, because when we get back to the apartment, Scott Hamilton tells us that he and the NBC analysts don’t get it either.
By the free skate, after a lot of falling down (which seems to have no bearing on where teams finish), the last two Chinese teams skated beautifully and China ended the Russian domination of the sport by wining their first pairs gold. Chinese fans were holding each other in group hugs, wrapped in enormous Chinese flags, jumping up and down.
Marie and I favored the French team, and we got to share that with one half of the pair, when she meets relatives in the stands behind us. One of the U.S. pairs, muscled off the podium by Germans and Chinese, sat disappointed a few rows over. They received a standing ovation from the fans in their section. After all, when you blow your chance here, if you’re young, you have four years to train and try again. If you are in your 30, with 18 years of skating behind you, this is it. This is your moment, which is why we were happy that the gold went to Shen and Zhao.
Marie is now watching curling. “He’s got dimples,” I hear her say. “I’m in love.”
Which tells me it is time to collect her and tackle the Olympics merchandise store at Hudson Bay.
By Theresa Corigliano for PeterGreenberg.com.
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- PGW Radio from Vancouver