CBC British Columbia
Bob's Blog

Olympics Category

Medal Money

bc-gold-bonus-030210.jpgOh it's a hard scambling life being an Olympic athlete.  Or most of them anyway.  Either they dip into savings, beg from Mom and Pops - a corporate sponsor or two helps as well -  or work to get some of that government Own the Podium or Excellence money that became available for the Olympics. 

But if they were lucky enough to win a medal - and those 26 medals for Canada translated into 88 individual winners - the Canadian Olympic Committee was passing out the cash.  A total of $1.61 million dollars this year to our athletic heroes who made the podium.  That compares with just over half a million given out to athletes at the Beijing Summer Games. 

Mind you, not every Olympic athlete needed the cash.  Take the men's hockey team - which if they were an NHL team have contracts that would exceed the league's salary cap by about $67 million.  U.S. dollars too, if you're counting.  

What to do, what to do with the dough the COC was passing out?  That's a question to take to the streets.  What do you think?  Olympic Green icon_video.gif

 

Hockey History

bc-crosby-030310.jpgAs I pondered what to do one day a man came into our newsroom draped in an Olympic flag, wearing a hockey helmet with a flashing red dome glued to the top and carrying a monster Canadian flag attached to an extendible golf ball retriever.   At the time I was reading a story about the missing gloves and stick that Sidney Crosby had used to score the winning goal in Canada's now historic men's gold medal hockey win against the United States. 

The fellow in the hockey helmet is named Dave Ash and he had come to do a satellite interview with my buddy Costa Maragos, the host of the Regina CBC TV news show.  Dave is from Regina, but went to every hockey game the Canada's men and women played during the Olympics (all thanks to his job as a long-standing tour operator in Saskatchewan).  Every time Canada scored - he turned on his flasher, waved his flag and went nuts like everybody else in the arena.  

Now get this, he sat right behind the net when Crosby scored his winning goal, as close to the action as anybody there.  So I asked him about what he saw when Crosby scored - and who might have had the chance to 'misplace' the now-famous equipment.  He was not the only witness, of course, and the story fleshed out nicely as the day progressed.  Crosby's Mementos icon_video.gif

Autographs Anyone?

bc-authographs-030210.jpgStories sometimes change when reality strikes and this one is an example.  If you watched any of my Olympic stories for that Gold Medal program "The City" hosted by Ian Hanomansingh, you might have noticed I often visited the Olympic flame on the waterfront where people tended to congregate.  Congregate is a nice way to describe big, huge, crowds drawn like moths to the Olympic flame. 

After the Olympics ended, we gathered in the airy palace of light that is the CBC newsroom to consider mind movies.  Those are ideas in which we imagine how a story will look on television before we ever shoot a frame of video.  Some ideas are difficult to demonstrate, and the mind movie concocted for my story proved a case in point.   Find the post Olympic mood.  Mood.  Mood?  

What does a mood look like?  A glum face that the games are over?  A serene, satisfied demeanour?  Tears?  Joy?  Dancing in the streets?  Fury?  All of these were possibilities I prepared for as I headed back to the flame.   What I found there was mostly - emptiness.  People had abandoned the place.  What mood was that? 

But then I met the subject of my story - still cheerfully engaged in a project he had worked on diligently since the games began, and long before.   As he told me his story - and you really need to watch this one because it is quite a tale - I thought this is one Olympic mood there for anyone to see.  Olympic Record icon_video.gif 

Hello You Must Be Going!

bc-guests-nixon-100225.jpgI got the idea for this story from personal experience.  Friends from the Yukon called me up, oh, five years ago and asked if they could stay with us during the Olympics.  I checked my schedule and discovered that, yes, we had an opening during that time.   We put away all dreams of renting out our home for seventy-five million dollars, which probably turned out to be a wise move since there is no worse hope than a vain one.  Besides, they are not just friends, they are good friends.  

On the appointed day they arrived, the snow not quite completely melted from their parkas.  They bought us gelato and paid for sushi and Thai food take-out which, we learned, is not as readily available north of 60 as you might think.  They stood for hours in rainy line-ups for buses to take them up Cypress Mountain so they could spend one hour watching aerial skiers emerge from the fog, wandered about downtown to see people wander about downtown, gave us an extra couple of tickets that they had bid for on the 2010 sales site, but did not expect to win.  In short, they had a great time and they were the perfect guests.  Fun, friendly, generous.  Boy, am I glad they're gone.  

Out of that, I questioned people about their own guest experiences during the Olympics.  Purely unscientific, understand, but perhaps represenative of what makes for a good stay.  Guest Etiquette icon_video.gif

 

Nordic Pals

bc-scandanavian-nixon-100224.jpgEver since my first story about the Norwegian Codfish Club, I have liked the Scandinavian Centre in Burnaby.  The idea of organizing monthly meetings for people to chow down on cod drowning in butter confirms my belief that frivolity is a most worthy human trait. 

When I wandered by the other day and saw banners proclaiming the Centre as the headquarters for all things Scandinavian during the Olympics, I knew I had to head back to see what's up.  This became essential when I noticed Norway - a nation with only a few more people than live in the province of British Columbia - has amassed more medals at these games than Canada. 

But the Scandinavian Centre represents people with roots from five countries that speak five different languages - all of them competing for medals.  How well do fans of one country get along with fans from another?  Scandinavian Fans icon_video.gif

Saskatchewan Day!

bc-saskatchewan-nixon-100223.jpgI like Saskatchewan so much that when a Regina neighbour once told me he did not enjoy his trip to BC because the mountains spoiled the view, I understood his point.  I did not agree with it, but I certainly did agree with what was implied by his comment.  There is a wondrous majesty to the views one can see on the prairies.  South of Regina, the mighty Dirt Hills rise perhaps a hundred metres into the sky, by B.C. standards a wart on the landscape.  But from the very top you can see the Queen City, Weyburn and Moose Jaw at a glance.  It is, in the old sense of the word, awesome. 

I am sure I have opened myself up to ridicule by those comments.  But people like me who have lived in Saskatchewan have developed buffalo thick hides.  It is a province that fosters strong loyalties, even amongst those who move away.   So when the Olympics marked Saskatchewan Day, I had to hustle down to the Saskatchewan Pavillion to see if anyone other than the provincial faithful - those of us in the know - would show up.  Prairie Connection icon_video.gif

No Crowds?

bc-street-nixon-100222.jpgYou could scratch your head over this one.  Here was yet another glorious dry night in Vancouver.  It was the kind of evening that had brought out hundreds of thousands of people all weekend long.  But on this Monday, the streets suddenly emptied out the moment the sun went down.  I do not think this is a case of Olympic fatigue.  Either almost everybody who wanted to head downtown had already done so, or they were seated in front of their own TV sets watching Moir and Virtue win gold in Ice Dancing.  I suspect the latter. 

  In any case, the only crowds about were watching another kind of performance that was worth the price of admission.  Free!  Though these folks were so good you would feel guilty just enjoying the show and walking away.  Street Performers icon_video.gif

Big Crowds

bc-granville-nixon-100219.jpgHere's something that happened on Friday night that we did not report.  The Vancouver police called CBC news and asked us about our microwave truck.  That's one of the vehicles we use for live hits with reporters and it is pretty big with one huge satellite dish on the top.  We had parked the thing on Granville Street near the Commodore Ballroom in preparation for our late night news. 

The police were worried.  Olympic crowds were not just big.  They were gigantic.  Tens of thousands of people were flooding into downtown.  So many people wandered about that the police had to expand the number of pedestrian only streets so they could find room for them all.  That move meant that unless we got our microwave truck out of there, chances were we would have alot of trouble doing it later in the evening.  Suggestions were made that if the situation got unruly, as sometimes happens with big crowds, our truck might become a target. 

So we moved the truck.  But all the while this conversation was happening, I was out on Granville Street having my own conversations with people in the big crowd.  They were anything but unruly - as friendly a bunch as I've ever met.  And those people ruled the day, and the evening too, as the much feared unruly night never materialized.  Street Walking icon_video.gif

Camera Crazed

bc-camera-nixon-100218.jpgThis is my first Olympics, and I'm sure it's a first for many people in Vancouver.  Even though they are in the city where I live, I confess that I watch these Olympic events the same way I have watched every single Olympics since Tokyo in 1964 when I was but a wee jasper.  That is - on TV.  I suppose some people are glued to their handheld pod gizmo, or streaming in the events via their computer.  I would too - if the pod was the size of my TV and my computer screen was positioned directly in front of my sofa.  But they're not and so I don't. 

But I notice wandering the downtown streets that people must be acutely aware that these games are being watched around the world on the tube.  So when they see a TV camera amongst them - it becomes an opportunity to, well let's say, reach out.  People do that in quite predictable ways, in ways that many might consider at odds with their usual behaviour, and that might cause them some embarrassment years from now when their grandkids pull up those images on whatever 3-d pod gizmo brain implant people will use in the future.  But for now, it is enough for me to ask these people "Why do you do that?"  Wahooooo!!!! icon_video.gif

Complaint Department

bc-complaints-nixon-100217.jpg

Have you read any of these articles in foreign newspapers deriding the Vancouver Games as the 'worst Olympics ever'?  I have met plenty of Olympic fans in the past while, and the most number of games any of them have attended is 15.  While that is quite a few (CBC's own Steve Armitage has covered 'just' 13), there have been several dozen more than that over the years, 21 Winter Olympics alone.  So worse than Squaw Valley?  Worse than St. Moritz?  Short of producing a 110 year old sports nut who has attended every one, this sounds to me like so much journalistic hyperbole.   Hyperbole in journalism?  Say it ain't so!  

Of course, an event like this is bound to create a certain amount of grousing, from the big questions like whether the Olympics is money well spent in the first place right down to whether the Bratwurst at the German Beer Garden is as tasty as promised.  Some complaints have even brought 'results'.  So I wondered - on the streets of Vancouver - do Olympic revellers have any other other complaints about these games.  Some surprising responses.  Thumbs Up icon_video.gif

Flag Fashions

bc-flags-nixon-100216.jpgIt troubles me that I was unable to film a fellow someone saw as I headed out to do a story.  This guy left his apartment in Vancouver's West End in a complete Batman costume, replacing his cape with a Canadian flag.  People hardly gave him a second glance and why should they during these costumed Olympics?  Everywhere one goes in Vancouver, people have adormed themselves in their national flag. 

Given that people ordinarily do not wander the streets with such paraphenalia, the question arises why do they do it now?  And more to the point, does it cramp or enhance their style in some way?  Because if it enhances, should we not all wear Batman costumes all the time?   These are issues I ponder as I head out onto the streets.  Patriot Parade icon_video.gif

Medal Hunter

bc-medal-nixon-100215.jpgEarly on in these Olympic games, I decided the time was ripe to search for people from other lands.  After all, for years we have heard about Vancouver welcoming the world in 2010.  Sure we have plenty of news crews from other countries reporting all about the sporting contests and how wonderful we Canadians are.   But I wondered just how many actual people from foreign countries are wandering our streets. 

I discovered, in a survey that is as unscientific as they come, that Canadians overwhelming outnumber foreign tourists.  That was the case, even when those tourists have something to celebrate - medal wins.   Now it could be these folk are trying to blend in by disguising themselves in sweaters that say Canada.  Or it could be they were all attending actual sporting events rather than strolling about cheering their nation's success.  Some countries might discourage actual displays of exuberance, much like this country used to do.  In any case, I was surprised with my findings.  Are you meeting many tourists during these games?  Tourist Chase icon_video.gif

 

Hats Off to Hats

bc-hats-nixon-100212.jpgI wandered around downtown Vancouver today going from pavillion to pavillion like the rest of the Olympic tourists.  One couple I spoke to had waited in line for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS to get ride the zipline in Robson Square.  Was it worth it, I asked?  "Best 30 seconds of my life," she replied.  I suppose if you're dividing your life into 30 second chunks, there are not too many standouts that would compare to dangling above a crowd of a few thousand people. 

Standing in line is a big part of this Olympic Experience.  At the Canadian Pavillion, people waited for ages to get through security.  Then once inside they got to look at some sports memorabilia.  Most headed over to wait in another line - the beer garden.  There are plenty of beer gardens to wait in line for. 

So I notice an awful lot of people decide not to stand in line, but wander about on streets where cars normally rule.  That is a pretty good 30 seconds, let me tell you.  It just feels so strange, seeing so many people about.  It struck me that Olympic crowds are mostly composed of people who are drawn to the action to see people drawn to the action.  We're all thinking everybody else is going to be interesting.  Once grouped together, we become mighty interesting.   Curious, no? 

So what interested me wandering one night amongst the crowds were the hats people wore.  Some people have strange headgear - strange enough to be drawn to the action.   Polish Cowboy Hats icon_video.gif

Protester Protester

bc-protest-nixon-100211.jpgIt would be hard to imagine an event whose cost could exceed eight billion dollars (according to the generally reliable Vaughn Palmer) that was held without people protesting.  We live in a world of limited resources and so people can come up with all kinds of perfectly reasonable ways to spend that money that does not include the Winter Olympics.  As the games neared, protests against the games escalated, and that could be expected.  Now most people who support the games probably took the position that they agree to disagree with the protesters.  But not one fellow I met, who decided to try to convince them not to take to the streets.  Video Appeal icon_video.gif

Canvas Paintings

bc-art-nixon-100207.jpgI once read a rather literary defence of drinking alcohol that pointed out that beer and wine were, along with bread and cheese, the very first processed foods, with a history extending back thousands of years.  "When I drink beer," intoned the writer, "I commune with the ancients." 

I mention this because I have a similar desire for such a communion.  I've long harboured the desire to paint on a canvas.  Their history does not extend back so far as booze.  Still, who does not want to be at one with their inner Leonardo Da Vinci?   But the knowledge that I would create something truly terrible to look at, and be such a waste of stretching canvas across a wooden frame, prevents me from seriously considering it.  It's a mental block, you might say. 

What a revelation, then, to meet the woman in this piece, an art instructor foccused on helping us discovering the artist within no matter who we are.  To her, there is no such thing as a bad canvas.  She volunteers her time helping those with mental illness and the work they do shows that she is right.  Art Show icon_video.gif 

Say Cheese!

bc-photo-nixon-100205.jpgWith the countdown on, Olympic revellers are getting a taste of what the next three weeks might look like.  Some streets are closed already and public art installed.  Folks wander about getting a sense of what a pedestrian friendly downtown Vancouver will look like.  Maybe it's the strangeness of walking on a street that bans traffic, or maybe it's just the thrill of being part of it all.  Whatever it is, the camera buffs are out in force, sporting everything from big expensive SLR jobs to cell phone snappers.  One thing you can say about the city during these games is that it will be well documented.  Camera Craze icon_video.gif

Olympic Berry

bc-cranberries-nixon-net.jpgWho does not want to make a splash at these Olympics?  I am not speaking here of mogul and half pipe skiers up at Cypress Mountain, where melting snow means splashes are possible but not desired.  No I am referring to that Holy Grail of all Olympic activies - marketing.  Even before the games begin, Vancouver is awash with billboards from the Olympic Committee thanking official sponsors for pouring big bucks into these games.  Call them good corporate citizens, but they clearly hope for a payoff in sales somewhere down the road.  There's no sin in that, I suppose.  Even poverty activists are using the games to highlight the ongoing housing, unemployment and social service problems the city faces.  There's no sin in that either.  From a marketing standpoint the Olympics help to focus the mind, offer up a stage that can be seen around the world.  But I ask you, is it a sin to use food to make such a marketing splash?  Not just a little bit, tons and tons of food.  Whatever you think, you have to admit, it's pretty good marketing.  Floating Cranberries icon_video.gif

 

bc-100206-rings-olympic1.jpg

 

 

Hey, an update on this one.  Turned out the current of the Fraser River as it empties half of British Columbia was too strong for the berry structure.  Yeah, I scratched my head on that one too.  But, not to worry, they found a football field that provides a nice green background.   Not quite so impressive, but that's showbiz.  It's big, it's red, it's big red cranberries!!! 

Toothy Dilemma

bc-mammoth-nixon-100201.jpgGiven the kind of lifestyle stories I do, you would not immediately think my world suffers from that most pressing of reportial issues - deadline pressure.  The TV news biz is designed to avoid the disaster of a reporter missing their assigned slot - especially if their story is the lead item.  It follows that top story reporters get resources assigned to them early, so they can start filming, writing and editing in time to make their spot. 

Now the last time I led the news was shortly after the great Vancouver fire of 1886.  So when I ask for camera time, I am usually met with laughter and great guffaws, before my tears soften their hearts and off I go.  This often means I get back late and must rush the writing and editing in order to make my slot.  This item, involving a rather interesting item, is a case in point.  Let's just say that if you watched it on TV, you saw a few elements presented out of order, which no doubt only increased your usual level of confusion from my pieces.   I have fixed the problem for this blog, and hope it's less confusing now.  Mammoth Sale! icon_video.gif

Let's Make a Deal

bc-combo-nixon-100127.jpgRemember the good old days when people spent hours on their computers trying to get their hands on Olympic tickets in the hopes of flipping them like so much Vancouver real estate?   The idea was that those tickets were gold, and big premiums to actual ticket prices were guaranteed.  Even Vanoc has got into the act, offering ticket holders a website where they can sell them.  Go to Craiglist and you will see thousands and thousands of tickets available.  And then there are the folks who have apartments and houses to rent, hoping for cash in during the games.  I'm sure some people are buying some of the tickets and renting some of the homes.  I'm no realtor, but it looks like an awful lot of supply is out there - and the clock is ticking down.  Then there's this guy pictured above - who thinks he's got the right package that just might find a buyer before the games. Combo Play icon_video.gif

Zipline Test Pilot

bc-zip-line-nixon-100126.jpgZiplines have been strung out all through old growth forests over the past decade, delighting and occasionally terrifying eco-warriors who get a thrill as they zing through the woods.  So it makes sense that a province that wants to showcase its assets would come up with a way to bring this tourist attraction to the thousands of visitors expected to swarm Vancouver during the Olympics.  Sure enough, a zipline has been constructed right in the heart of the city and no doubt this will be a popular attraction.  But as the crew stringing the 164 metre (not 52 metres as I said in the story - a mathematical miscalculation for which I offer profuse appologies) line finished the job, I began to wonder who would be its very first rider? Zipline Right Stuff icon_video.gif

Olympic Facelift

Thumbnail image for bc-welcome-nixon-100125.jpgI confess that this Olympic welcoming of the world thing is turning out to be much more comprehensive an operation that I expected.  It is not just all the temporary pavilions popping up on every parking lot.  That did not surprise me.  It's the smaller changes.  Stuff disappears - like garbage bins (remember the Atlanta '96 bombing?) - and stuff appears - like clear plastic garbage bags.  Pizza sized round country flags are appearing on sidewalks, and signs directing people to venues make their way to lamp posts.  In the eternal construction site that is Vancouver, changes to the city might no longer surprise.  But it can sometimes confuse.  Witness the guy whose job is to put up some of those new signs on Vancouver streets.  Welcome Guy icon_video.gif

Dance Limits

bc-streb-nixon-100122.jpgI have never admitted this to anyone in the past decade or so, but I may as well come clean for the sake of a blog intro.  Back in the 1970s, when I was just a wee jasper, I really liked slam dancing.  When the Damned were playing over the speakers, there was nothing quite like bashing into some other fellas on the dance floor who also did not know any real moves.  It satisfied some inner need to avoid the humiliation that I believed would ensue when a woman turned down my invitation to dance.  Ahh, youth.  Such fond memories!

If only the Streb Extreme Action Company existed back then.  I could have bashed my body for art, and maybe been a better man for it.  30 years on, this still looks like fun. 

Streb Extreme icon_video.gif

Fan Support

bc-sledge-nixon-b-100118.jpgI know it was only an exhibition game, played on a Monday afternoon in a rink that did not have many seats.  But some might find it surprising how few people came out to see Canada's gold medal men's sledge hockey team take on Korea's national team.  Those who did show up watched one heck of a match - and one can see why Canada is the class of the world at this remarkably fast and skillful game.  By the way, the Canadians swept all three games against Korea. 

Sledge Hockey icon_video.gif

Frozen Paint

bc-ice-nixon-100117.jpgWhat Canadian has not made at least one snowman during their lifetime?  Even if you live in Vancouver, the winter generally provides ample opportunities to play with snow and ice.  Not so much this year, but as the Olympic folk keep reminding us, the snow is not over yet.  But one group of folk have been working in sub-zero temperatures for more than a month - right here in the lower mainland - creating a unique Olympic display.  It about coloured ice for a giant painting at Richmond City Hall.  I did not understand it either, so I headed down to see what was going on.  Ice Art icon_video.gif

Bike Valets

No doubt you have heard all the warnings about the traffic schmozzle Vancouver expects during the Olympics.  Road closures, tons of tourists, oh it can make a commuter's blood boil just thinking about it.  The solution?  Well, there is none.  But the city of Vancouver is spending 100-thousand bucks on metal bike parking racks and offering a free valet service to cyclists during the games.  Think of the luxury, folks, when you drop that two wheelers off, dust off the tuxedo and head off to the Gold Medal game.  Olympic Bike Service icon_video.gif

Olympic Coincidence

bc-street-nixon-net.jpgI'm not going to give away the punchline on this one.  But let's just say it's in the same vein as the story about a fellow who leaves his town, travels half way around the world, moves into a house and discovers his next door neighbour used to be his next door neighbour in the first town.  I'm talking about coincidences, friends.  Strange little symmetries that make us scratch our heads and say "hmmm, that's odd".  Or "My, what a remarkable coincidence."  Usually it means nothing - and that's certainly the case here.  But still, I find coincidences fascinating all the same.   Don't you?  Odd and Fascinating icon_video.gif

Olympic Hosts

bc-olympic-nixon-net.jpgVancouver's Tourist Board has issued a 10 point list suggesting how people can become good hosts to the tens of thousands of tourists who will arrive for the Olympics next month.  It's a good idea, since many of those tourists will have no idea where anything is, so helping them out is a very friendly thing to do.  That is providing we know more about the Olympics than they do.  I went to find out just how Olympic informed our citizens are.  The results - well what do you think?  Venue Confusion? icon_video.gif 

Pressure Washer

bc-cleaning-nixon-net.jpgI wonder how many of us had New Year's resolutions that included pressure washing the mould and muck off the back fence.  That's some big job.   But not nearly as big as the one a fellow I ran into had.  Cleaning the entire side of a building of decades worth of grime, all because of one night's worth of grafitti.  But this was no garden variety tagging.  It was Olympic sized.  Graffiti Be Gone icon_video.gif

Field of Dreams

bc-hammer-nixon-net.jpgThis is a story that fulls under that "things you stumble across when you're just wandering around in the rain" category.  Zac, my cameraman, and I were out in Richmond futilely pursuing some imagined hot story when we saw a couple of fellows acting strangely in a field.  What are they doing? I wondered.  We drove around the block and it all became clear.  Or rather as clear as a rainy day in Richmond can be.  One of them in full storm gear, the other in sweatpant.  A story about youthful perserverance and a dedicated coach.  Hammer Throw icon_video.gif

Olympic Mittens

bc-mittens-nixon-091215.jpgAfter this story ran on TV, people started coming up with all kinds of conspiracy theories as to why shoppers have trouble getting their hands on these popular Olympic souvenir - and darn warm winter wear too.  Sure everybody wants to buy some for their Grannies in Florida.  But the theorists speculate that maybe the Bay has deliberately kept them off the shelves so that anyone coming looking for them will buy some other Olympic bauble instead. 

One Olympics

Stacy Kohut has known alot of success in life.  A ski racer, he's collected his share of gold and silver medals at the Paralympics.  But now that he's retired, he says the time has come for the Paralympic Games to become integrated into the other Olympics. 

Bearer of Bells

What with all the mascots, mittens, pins and such - you just know the Vancouver Olympic folks will leave no retail marketing stone unturned.   Witness the latest from the Spirit of BC (North Shore) Committee. 

Olympic Medals

2010 Olympic announcements are becoming a near daily event as the February games get closer.  But unveiling of the medals to be awarded to athletes surely ranks as a big one - maybe almost as big as the decision to close half of downtown to traffic when competition starts. 

Olympic Elbows

Talk about wearing your emotions on your sleeve.  Canada's atheletes are being asked to alter time honoured Olympic behaviour so they don't catch Swine Flu during the 2010 games.

Wrestling Camp

Sport camps are a part of many kid's summers. If you're going to learn a sport, it's not a bad idea to learn from the best.