What was only 17 days felt like it lasted at least 34. And in a way, for myself, it did. I was fortunate that the company I work for was contracted by the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) to produce the Daily Host Videos for vancouver2010.com. 17 unique videos, plus a handful of pre-Games videos, that I either filmed or (mostly) edited. This was something major, and the most important work that I have ever done. These videos were going live every night at 1 a.m. It took a committed team, plus some excellent organizing and planning. Besides a couple of early hiccups, we churned them out each and every day.
While you will no doubt read a lot of lists of best Olympic moments or memories, I am compiling one of a different nature. Working with VANOC allowed me to have some very restricted access, or ability to jump the lines in order to film our segments. And when you had line-ups snaking around city blocks, you really appreciate the power of accreditation and a blue VANOC coat.
Top 5 ways working with VANOC made my Olympic experience:
5) Molson Canadian Hockey House: What was 65,000 sq. ft of hockey cathedral is now empty, soon-to-be-dismantled tent sitting along False Creek. But during any Team Canada hockey game, this was the place to party. Food, beer, major musical acts, beer. So while others shelled out hundreds of dollars for 1 day pass, I got in with a Media pass. And then got to see one of my favorite artists, Sam Roberts, perform. While the penultimate moment was supposed to be a post-show interview for the video, only to see it dashed because of his inept media handlers, the experience was silver-lined with a great impromptu 1-on-1 with one of Canada’s great comedians, Shaun Majumder.
4) Mary: I love a tall, sarcastic woman. Maybe it’s because I think that a shorter, sarcastic woman may use sarcasm as a defense mechanism, whereas women who are of taller persuasion see the world the same way as I. Therefore, their humour is more observational and natural, aligning with my own. That’s just what came to me, anyways, as I needed to justify why I like them so. Mary came from Toronto to assist VANOC, and fell into our lap as essentially an office Production Assistant, except she was basically our contact to wherever or whoever we needed. Her work gave us the awesome access. But her dry, acid-tongue, hilarious candor really made me a fan. Plus shotskies at the Sin Bin. I’ll miss her.
3) Northern Truce Project: So this didn’t happen during the Olympics, but was a pre-cursor video project that we did with VANOC in early January. The short story is that VANOC teamed up with Nike and the Canadian Forces to deliver sports equipment and programs to 17 communities in Canada’s northern territories. For a week long adventure, I flew on a Hercules transport plane from one rural stop to another, and saw what life in the north was like. It’s a lot more modern than you’d think, but it is balanced with the tradition of the Inuit peoples. I was above the Arctic Circle, saw the Arctic Ocean, stood off of the North American mainland (Victoria Island), witnessed a sunset beside a real inukshuk, and was awed by the majesty of the northern lights. Much like the actual Olympic Games, that journey felt like it was longer than the calendar said, and I wished that it would have been. I met some incredible people, and experienced things that few people get to.
2) Zip lining over Robson Square: As part of our Daily Host Videos, we wanted to show the world what else was going on around town. In the centre of downtown is Robson Square, which was a hub of activity. An outdoor ice rink was its focal point, but music and performances, as well as massive screens to view the Games were essential as well. But overhead stood 2 cables, strung from one corner of the area to the opposite. The lines stretched 6 hours at one point, just for 15 seconds of thrill. And though I didnt have to wait, I probably would have. The exhilaration of standing out on the step, 8 storeys up, tethered to the line was in itself a rush. But I was filming, and had a camera attached as well, as I waited for the host Beth to be ready. So there was no self countdown; I was jumping off when Beth finished her line. I was able to keep the camera on her for a few seconds, before I began to spin, which allowed me to focus on the massive crowd looking up and cheering us on. And in an instant, we had made it across, it was over. But that flight will live on in video eternity.
1) Standing at the foot of the Olympic Cauldron: Obviously, I am considerably fortunate to have gotten all the free, no line access that I did. But the most Olympic moment came on Day 16, the second to last. Beth was to interview Lord Sebastian Coe, the CEO of the 2012 London Games, at the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) on Vancouver’s waterfront. When we arrived, we learned that Lord Coe was doing an interview/photo op by the Cauldron with VANOC CEO John Furlong, and we were invited to shoot that as well. We were allowed to step onto the fenced off plaza that housed the Cauldron, to witness Mr Furlong hand Lord Coe an Olympic torch. Beth knows John Furlong, having interviewed him dozens of times over her 3+ years working for vancouver2010.com. And I have had the pleasure of meeting him a handful of times as well. However, seeing him there, at the near end of his decade-long journey, was amazingly poetic. Mr Furlong is a funny, sarcastic individual, so I have always enjoyed my time around him. Prior to our Northern Outreach Project beginning, I was in Winnipeg with a group of VANOCs, at a casual dinner. After introducing myself and my role, Mr Furlong piped up “You’re the only one who can screw this project up!” A different person may shy away from a jab like that, but knowing him and his sense of humour, I knew that he was kidding. I replied, “You should worry about your own job.” Back at the Cauldron, in the closing days of this enormous achievement, I was so pleased to be able to shake his hand and wish him congratulations. Once Mr Furlong, Lord Coe, and the rest left, Beth and I stood alone on the plaza. With hundreds of flame-seekers standing behind a fence, and others standing overhead in the slow line that snaked above the fence, on top of a section of the IBC, taking an unobstructed photo of the symbol of the Games, Beth and I stood beneath it. We were as close as anyone can get. I felt the warmth of the fire, and the tingle of goosebumps rush through my body. This was the perfect Olympic moment.
The moments that I have shared were personal experiences of a global event. The fervor that erupted when Canada won gold in men’s hockey was something that every Canadian was able to share. The massive outpouring of pride, joy, relief and triumph that filled Vancouver’s streets were nothing short of incredible. Had the game taken place in another country, we still would have filled the streets in celebration. But the world was here, saw how much fun it was, and joined in. It became a celebration of a great Olympics, an “excellent and very friendly Games,” according to IOC President Rogge. It was an absolute perfect ending to one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Oh, and it didn’t turn into a riot either.