Labrador's Paul Smith has time of his life as Olympic official

A Labrador man who who served as a key official at the Sochi Olympics says that his experience there went beyond anything he imagined.
Labrador City's Paul Smith is in Sochi, Russia, serving as deputy chief timer for the curling competition. ((CBC))

A Labrador man serving as a key official at the Sochi Olympics says that his experience there went beyond anything he ever imagined.

Paul Smith of Labrador City was deputy chief timekeeper for curling where he was responsible for supervising the work of timekeepers during each match.

"It's unbelievable," said Smith. "I've still got to pinch myself to think that I'm not dreaming."

The IOC treats officials as "part of what we refer to as the Olympic family," Smith said, "which pretty much gives you carte blanche while you're there."

Smith made the most of free access to the events. The women's gold medal hockey game was a particular highlight.

"We were hoping beyond hope," said Smith, speaking of the moments before the women began their comeback from a 2-0 deficit late in the third period.

"We were all sitting up there in our little section with our teeth gritted and our fists bared, and then they scored the first goal and the place erupted."

Smith said he knew at curling matches he could not get involved in the same way, as tempting as it was.

"Being an official there you have to show impartiality," said Smith. "It was kind of tough."

Timekeeping is an important part of the event because if a team does not play all of its rocks before the time runs out, it loses the game.

Smith said he's very grateful he had the experience, but it was never something he set out to do.

"It's a blessing and an accident really," he said.

After a friend finally convinced him to join curling, the club needed a timing system on short notice for a tournament.

"My background is in computer science and people knowing that came to me, said Smith. "So I put something together real quick."

This eventually became the CurlTime software now being adapted around the world. It led to Smith being asked to officiate several other international events, and then the Olympics.

At the games, Smith got a picture of how well his software has caught on.

"It was quite overwhelming," Smith said. He spoke with people from countries including Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Japan, and Korea who said they were using his software.

Smith will be on the road again when he travels to Beijing to work the World Championships for curling next month.