Hello from Seattle! I flew out here on Wednesday and on Friday my daughter Heidi and I drove up to Vancouver to attend the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics! What a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The entire day was filled with so much anticipation and new experiences.
In the morning, a newscaster and his photographer from one of the Minneapolis TV stations met up with us and interviewed us. They probably spent an hour walking around with us, filming me making my first trade of Olympic pins; walking to the "Will Call" building to pick up our tickets; and talked about some of the things we were anticipating and of some of the things they've gottten to do since arriving in Vancouver over a week ago. The story was broadcast in the twin cities on Kare 11 Friday night at 6.
Next we spent time among the crowds of people in downtown Vancouver looking at exhibitions of art work and feeling the excitement of people from all over the world. Most of them were wearing some type of hat, scarf, mittens, jacket, or shirt from their homeland. I just loved it! We had our picture taken holding one of the Olympic torches, and Heidi took my picture sitting in a bobsled.
My mission was to find the red mittens that the Canadians had produced to support their team. About a third of the people we saw were wearing them. They have the 5 Olympic rings embroidered in white on the upper part, and the Canadian maple leaf in the palm. They're only $10, but were "out of stock" each time I tried to order them prior to my trip. Well, we learned that they were available in one store only: Hudson Bay. So, that's where we headed - only to find out there was a HUGE line outside the store, monitored by police. It looked like I would never get any.
Being discouraged, we made a change of plans and went to the Sheraton Hotel where the company from which Heidi bought our tickets was providing a beautiful dinner. It was a fancy buffet, and the food was delicious. It was there that we learned there had been a fatal accident by one of the athletes that morning. We didn't know the details because the sound of the TVs were muted, but could tell by the headlines that it wasn't good.
After eating, we made our way back to the Hudson Bay store and got in the line which was now much smaller. In about 12 minutes time, we were allowed into the store and I found the mittens. SCORE! I also bought a darling Canadian hat and was also able to trade more Olympic pins.
Since we had to be in our seats an hour before the ceremony for the audience participation rehearsal, we headed toward the Vancouver BC Place, which is nearly identical to the metrodome in Minneapolis. Because of security reasons, they were using only two entrances for the 60,000+ fans. We walked over a mile in neighborhoods around the area just to get to the security lines. Thankfully it wasn't raining at the time. There was so much excitement and energy in the air! There were probably 10 or 12 security lines. We got in what looked to be the shortest. The security check was like those at the airports - bins for purses, bags, electronics, anything metal, and archways under which to pass. The only difference was that we didn't have to remove our shoes.
Our seats were about 20 rows from the stage, approximately 50 feet from the Canadian flag, and 30 feet stage right. On the backs of our seats was a bound 50 page program. In our seats was a cardboard drum that opened like a suitcase. In it was a poncho made of reflective fiber/paper which we were to put on over our clothes. This provided a scrim for some of the 75 projectors used during the ceremony. We also had an LED flashlight with a gel spot of color over the lens plus a number. Both Heidi and I had number 3. This was used later in a couple of the scenes. There was also a battery operated candle which we turned on during the "Hallelujah" number. Another item inside was a drum stick. And finally, a Canadian flag.
During the rehearsal, a couple of announcers gave us instructions for the various props. There were "coaches" or "cheerleaders" spaced throughout the audience, who held a stick similar to those held by the employees at the airport that guide the plane in and out of the gates. These coaches would signal us as to when we should be prepared to use a certain prop and then would act out the way we were to use it. Thus, we enhanced the particular scene - with small circles of light, large strokes of lightning, drum beats in various moves and rhythms, and then the lighting of the candles throughout the entire stadium. It was really fun - - but kept me really busy! Perhaps you watched the ceremony, so you know to what I am referring.
So many have asked me, what was your favorite part? Wow! I have to say - I loved it all, but first and foremost, I loved spending such a special day with my daughter. I loved being under one roof with people from at least 82 countries and during those four hours, we were experiencing world peace. I loved the music; I loved the whales, and all of the special effects, for that matter. I loved the skaters who glided right past us and a little later had red and white lights illuminating on their arms and legs. I loved the athletes from each country being announced and parading before us. I loved the kindness of the Canadians who didn't seem to mind when we stood during the entire time the USA team made their way across the huge stage, wildly cheering and waving our American flags. I loved the lighting of the Olympic torch.
On the train on our way into the city, I met a dad and his 8 year old son from the tiny country of Lithuania. They had come the long distance to root for their 5 athletes. On the train on our way out of the city, I met the coach of the Italian speed skaters and his wife and 8 year old daughter. I told both families I would be rooting for their teams.
What a great day! I'll never forget it. You can see pictures and read Heidi's impressions of the day here.