Sunday, March 28, 2010

Home at Last! Home at Last!

I'm not sure if it is a Vanoc policy, a B.C. policy or just a venue policy but all of us at the Athlete's Village received a CPR doll before the Olympics even started. My CPR training was completed a short time before my trip to Whistler, so what to do with that CPR doll? Didn't feel like brushing up, so I just threw it into the top shelf of my closet. Serious decisions had to be made however when packing my suitcases and the CPR doll would have had me overweight. Finding the maids in the hallway, I decided to donate my CPR doll to them but I did it in my own way!

We had one last job to do on our trip home. We had to deliver our Bell vehicles to the Livingston warehouse in Delta. Everybody else was scheduled on a bus directly to a heavenly sleep at the Westin. It was weird to drive by our venue and not make that left hand turn at Function Junction. All the smurfs were gone, yet we still had some security staff on hand. Our venue had been the Whistler Athlete's Village but it was already quickly becoming Cheakamus Crossing. Although we were trying to stay ahead of our bus, there was always time for a last stop at Tim Hortons in Squamish. We considered one last trip to Fields but were afraid that Nadine and her other handsome friend with the bad brunette wig would be in a hugging and worse, kissing mood. Straight to Delta with no incidents.

We tried to get everybody together on our last night in Vancouver but there were three trains of thought for the perfect evening. Hot tubbing, Earl's or The Keg were on the list. Most of our village team opted for The Keg. Joe decided to accept a challenge set by our server at The Keg. Twenty four ounces of prime rib (which was a special order and is not on the menu). He ate it but that didn't leave much room for anything else. He had already started on his meal by the time we took the picture with Liz (who visited us for a drink only). I wished more people had returned later to my room for a last shot of "Paarl" but everybody had their own way of saying farewell. Since I still had practically a full bottle of brandy and I had no way to safely pack it, everybody said that I should just make somebodies day by leaving the bottle on the curb. That just didn't feel right to me. I left the bottle in my Vancouver hotel room, just like we had left all of our left over food and drink in our Whistler hotel room. At least our Coast hotel in Whistler took all the unopened food and brought it for us to the shelter. Maybe one of the staff could have used it!

We all went to the Olympics to do our little part in providing the world a "flawless games." There were a variety of other reasons we went though too. Some of us, like Larry and Tony were there as their swan song. They will be retiring soon after. Some of us went for the adventure and some of us were there for the ride merely to escape a "numbers only" manager. We collectively gave the world their "flawless games." There would be no medals or parades for us on our return but I would gladly do it all over again for the chance of meeting all those people who struggled beside me. Those people I hadn't known before on the Bell team (like Joe, Maurizio, Jeff P, Rich, Remo, Mark, Predrag, the two Brians, the two Alexs, Jean, Dave, Ken, Tony, George (from Kazakhstan) Franco, Fernando, Werner and Leslie) but also those that got thrown into the "Technology trailer" (Alexa (it's her fault), Tatiana, Germana, Andy, Magda, Melissa, Erwin, Lucas) and let's not forget all the rest of those lovable "smurfs" (you really couldn't have an Olympics without those smurfs, Christian, Laura and Adrian (Pat--my day wasn't complete unless we got a good look at Pat and found out if we had enough courage to try the "Crocodile Dundee" male/female sexing maneuver etc). We worked hard but we had a blast doing it. Although I couldn't be everywhere nor could I record everything on this blog site, I hope that at least these pages will trigger your own memories (since I'm not flawless) and those memories put a smile on your face.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Journey Home

The time clock is counting down but it is still measuring in "days". It takes a few moments for me to convert to hours and by that time I have to start the whole process over again because I am getting more and more of these "old age moments." Joe will soon understand this as he is turning 40 today. Just in time as I still have a bottle of "Paarl" and I'm not afraid to use it. We have gotten through Joe's meat locker and I'm kind of happy to be going back home and not being so much of a "meatatarian."

Although we spent months building our network at the "Athlete's Village," it has taken the Bell team two days to take down. We removed all the IP phones, HDTV's, projection TV's, DVD's, WAP's (wireless access points) and LAN/WAN switches. All this hardware was packed and wrapped by our "ARCes" team (Bill and Jeff P) in the Logistics tent. They told me they were the founders of the "asset recovery crew" but preferred to be known as "arses," not "arcs."

Guy from Opti-net has come back and will remove all the temporary wire that was laid down (which is now exposed on green grass) as well as the overlay wires that were placed in the HPC (high performance centre ie gym), lodge(lot 5), lots 6, 7, 10 and lot 8 (pointy building) and the hostel (lot 13). It's funny now to hear these areas as places designated on a drawing because from the Olympics we know Canada owned lot 3. Sure Great Britain was there with Japan, but Canada owned lot 3. The USA was in the lodge, Italy was lot 10 and for reasons that only the "Village People" can truly appreciate, Finland was in lot 4 and France was in lot 11.

We found that although we might have had the best medical staff with us on site, we also ended up with the most colour blind medical staff. Our "Games" network was totally separated from internet access and our "Admin" network. The Admin network would give you access to the internet. The Games network was dedicated to the Olympics only for timing, scoring and for our purposes at the village, results reporting. We used green cat 5 cables on the Games network so everybody would know that you would not be able to surf the net on it. Most everybody understood this. Most of our visits to the Polyclinic however, were for Games port violations (where the port would shut down on unauthorized use) and not because we wanted to chat or because we were feeling ill.

Getting back to the Paralympics, you have to love those Swedes and of course, our Canadians. Both of these countries over-estimated the amount of beer they could consume (safely or otherwise). In our hardware sweep of lot 6, the Swedish team left us one can of Heineken and many cans of Coors light. Somebody bought a combo pack and drank all the good stuff. The Paralympic Canadians who were in lot 8 (pointy building) of course, left Canadians! A number of us drank a few in the team Canada offices until Tim the VGM (venue general manager; not fond of Bell techs drinking "illegal" McDonald smoothies) saw me (and probably a few more of us) as he lurked past the hallway in front of the team Canada office. Apparently, it is cool with Tim that we drink a beer in a Team office but not okay that we drink a "smoothie" outside in front of the athletes. Maybe he was just not cool with one of us!

Somebody, (won't say who, so don't ask) felt that he got sweet revenge by shoving a pin into Tim's keyhole followed by copious amounts of instant glue. Not feeling that was enough, this person proceeded to take Tim's "Gator" for a one way trip into the forest which surrounds our venue. I'm not sure how this will affect Germana and Maurizio as they will remain on site for a few weeks and this "somebody" made sure Tim knew who the perpetrator was!

I'm not sure if that will be this "somebody's" highlight of the Games. I look back to the Calgary Olympics and one of my fondest memories was watching Karen Percy receive her bronze medal. That for me defined those Games but that was from the perspective of a spectator. There have been many highlights at these Games and I'm not sure yet what the defining moment will be. I'm working on it as there are many to choose from in the spectator's perspective.

There are also many to choose from in the workforce perspective. Just the other day, Joe and I were driving our Bell van up the hill toward lots 11 and 17. There was a Croatian athlete at the side of the road with his thumb out looking for a lift up the hill. Once I convinced Joe that he wanted to latch on, we backed up and our Croatian athlete grabbed hold of our mirror with his left hand, continued smoking with his right hand (yes smoking) and shifted his body to steer his wheelchair up the hill. The few remaining "smurfs" that witnessed this sent one of their representatives up the hill to take pictures. Although we were all laughing, I had to shout protests to this "smurf." I was going to be in this picture as was our Bell logo. That might not look so good on Facebook!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Two hundred and ten hours and counting

The Paralympics feel like such an afterthought. There is now more coverage of St. Patrick's Day than there is of the Paralympics. The media is more concerned with what we are doing for this Irish celebration than for covering a blind skier (and guide) skiing down the same run our Olympians competed on. There is limited coverage here in BC but I understand that there will only be highlights for the rest of the country. I feel lucky that we have camera coverage from each venue (with just "satisfactory" commentary I might add--no big guns here). The "secure" village has shrunk as two lots (3 and 4) are not being used by athletes and only half of lot 17 is being used. Even the Canadian moose is gone! Flags are the only decoration the athletes use to liven the place up.

As for the Bell team here, we have changed from looking at the number of shift cycles we have left, to the number of days we have left, to the number of hours we have left. Some of us have even downloaded a countdown clock. Things are pretty slow during these games otherwise. It looks like the people in VSS are responsible for the increased usage of condoms but not in the way you would expect. They must be bored as well.

Remembering what Annlou's school does in Belgium in their final year (where her school marked the 100th day left with a party), I suggested we have a 100th hour party and what the heck, a 200th hour party. I know I still have a bottle of red, a bottle of brandy and a couple of shots of vodka that I am not going to pack! That should get the party started!

The 200th hour party was celebrated a little early on the evening of St. Patrick's Day. The dining tent even gave us cheese cake as a dessert with an offer of "green" topping. I took the cheese cake with special Baileys topping, thank you! ("Tweedle-Lee-Dee Potatoes" as the Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy would say!)

Joe and I were on the fence this morning as to whether we should go skiing or play golf. Since I brought all my ski stuff home I would have had to borrow gloves and used my one free ski rental. Too much drama! We decided to play golf since it was going to be 12C, sunny and calm in Squamish. We were in our short sleeves all day, shot a good round and apres, found out how tasty "15 16" lager was. When I placed my order, it sounded to me like I couldn't make up my mind on how large a beer order I wanted. The bartender didn't think that was so funny! I guess she hears that all the time!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Olympic Fever Alive and Well, Thank you!

I have been down to Vancouver twice since the Winter Games ended. It has been very different to see so few people in Whistler and Vancouver still wearing the red and white. It was almost like everybody forgot that we had the Games here. Amnesia seemed to take hold so quickly once the torch was extinguished.

But then I started to get asked whether or not the Paralympics would be televised. I told everybody the same thing I was told, "No, probably not!" I guess the outcry was not just from my family and friends because I just finished watching the Opening Ceremonies for the Paralympics and they did not disappoint. CTV decided to broadcast the Opening Ceremonies tonight in BC and rebroadcast tomorrow to the rest of Canada. On a sidenote, those of you with Bell TV are already saying "I know that!" Maybe a little more push from viewers and the whole Paralympics will be televised.

The Athlete's Village is bustling again. Although our work is completed (not including the 'change orders' and 'games port violations' that still seem to trickle in), we still manage to get out of our technology trailer (mainly to try to stay awake). We generally hop into the "Gator" and take a quick drive down our main street. What is different this time around is that the athletes in wheelchairs give us a good run for our money. These people are zipping around the venue at mach speeds and seem to be challenging us to hit them (or maybe they're just trying to race us)! The Olympic athletes were reserved and more cautious around our motorized equipment, but these Paralympians are fearless! These athletes also seem to be more pleasant and are more approachable. I think I will probably get my Canadian flag out and try to get autographs.

We were told that we would be eating in the "Promised Land." That of course made us very happy, however, what wasn't said was that we would still be eating "workforce food." The food seemed to improve for a bit before the athletes arrived and the chefs were looking for things to do but the food now seems to have reverted back to Mickey D's as the more palatable choice! The reason workforce was allowed into the athletes portion of the tent is strictly logistics. The number of athletes have decreased and since support staff (ie. smurfs, security etc) have been moved into our venue from other temporary accomodations (ie. Mona Lisa cruise ship in Squamish), our numbers have increased! There are not enough chairs at this moment in the workforce dining area for all those extra people. Joe and I still find ways to enter the "Promised Land!" Let's just say that we ensure optimal performance on our IP phones, computers and HDTVs in the Athlete's dining tent! Then once we're in, the taste of an 'illicit' smoothie or cappuccino is that much more sweet!

The weather seems to be co-operating for the Paralympics this time around. I of course, decided to bring my skis home. We received about six to eight inches of new snow at the base but I am now in golf mode. It will be hard for me to decide to ski if the weather is agreeable for golf in Squamish! I might have to do the ski in the morning and golf in the afternoon, that is of course, if I can convince Joe to stay away from "Fields" in Squamish and his "Paesano" discount.

Joe might be more agreeable to that now though since he took one for the team on our last visit to "Fields." Joe promised his "paesana" an Olympic pin on one of his prior visits. It turns out that one of the more handsome female cashiers (the one that isn't our paesana and wears a very bad hairpiece) was so ecstatic to receive an Olympic pin, that she hauled off and gave Joe a big celebratory kiss. Maurizio and I backed away as a cautionary measure and were relieved to find she was satisfied with stealing just one kiss from Joe. Maybe it was the look of shock on our faces but we all agree that we might have to resort to tackling (or at least a pick), paesana or not, should that scenario play out again. Chalk it up to good oral hygiene!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Olympic Hangover

The Athlete's Village has felt very different this week. Part of it was because only half of our village team remained while the other half went home for a well deserved rest. All of the athletes were gone, with some leaving even before the closing ceremonies. We lost McDonalds for the time being which will improve our diet but forces us to stand in a cue for food that can at times be repugnant! We're all wondering when the boxcar of sausages will be emptied and if "they" believe "they're" tricking us by calling them bavarian sausages one day and italian sausages the next etc. We even lost our Olympic rings this week. As far as I know, they have not been replaced with anything for the Paralympics. Our "smurfs" have been busy removing all signs of the Olympic rings and the 2010 Inukshuks from our venue and replacing them with the Paralympic logo (part of the logo reminds me of somebody swimming in ocean swells).

The Love Lounge is different too because although many people left we also gained a few people that transfered from Vancouver. The poker games are all but over and one of the guys that transferred is a hunting channel freak! This guy is always in front of the TV and since our TV is first come first served, we have been watching alot of TV in our rooms! You can only watch so much deer, moose, duck, rabbit, gopher, crocodile, gerbil (pick an animal) hunting. God I miss the days when I would bring a bottle of brandy, Tony would bring a bottle of scotch and Ken would bring a bottle rye and we would all be drinking bottles of beer and/or finishing our bottles of wine from dinner!

Many days ago I said that we were ready for the Paralympics. We knew then that we still had to move a few IP phones, HDTV's and computers to new locations and box all the extra hardware that these Paralympic games would not require. Enter the "smurfs!" We have not yet conclusively found out who it was that directed these loveable beings to remove all the HDTVs and IP phones to our trailer, but when I saw all this hardware, all I could say (in my best Russell Peters accent) was, "Some buddy gonna dead!" Our four days were spent trying to ready all the buildings by undoing most of what the "smurfs" had done.

Many actual rock-pile type inukshuks have been made by people with too much time on their hands at our venue and all along the Sea to Sky highway as well. I would like to blame the "smurfs" for the inukshuks but I think some have been built by our security forces as well. There are many officers (with stripes) at our venue and there have been no incidents where we required them. I'm not sure but I think it would be too difficult for a "smurf" to build an inukshuk while juggling an IP phone, a computer and an HDTV.

There are rumours that we will be eating in the "Promised Land" for at least part of the Paralympic games. We were treated there for an Olympic Wrap-up party. I had third helpings because one never knows when one will ever be entertained in the "Promised Land" again. First course, two slices of pizza and caesar salad. Second course, chinese stir fry with two types of dumplings. Third course, a skewer of shrimp, mussells and half a piece of steak. Oh yeah, I forgot the piece of celebratory cake. It was nice to eat food that was tasty and not cooked to death on a steam table (or containing sausage in whole or in part). We even had beer tickets and when the beer was done we started drinking wine. Suddenly, the transgression committed by the smurfs didn't matter so much. After all, they are all so cute!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The After Gold--My Olympic Moment

I'm not sure if anyone will still be reading this, since the Games are over. As usual, I didn't know what to do with myself after the Winter Games and their televised coverage were over. The "Closing Ceremonies" left me disappointed and scratching my head! We had such an excellent "Opening Ceremony" that I thought we could do better with the closing. Maybe the farcical ending was meant to entertain the rest of the world. I know many people here thought the only thing funny was the look on the faces of William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara and Micheal J. Fox as they each were unceremoniously flushed down the centre of the stage. The music later on was good though, for the most part, if you stayed tuned that long.

In recognition for all our hard work toward a flawless games, our entire Bell team was given the day off and we were driven down to Vancouver for a party (in our honour) at the Bell Ice Cube. We were given a $25 gift card at the door which went toward the purchase of drinks for the rest of the night. The place was packed and it became immediately apparent that it was easier to purchase drinks with cash (and save the card for later, hopefully, if the cash on the card doesn't get dissolved)! Our CEO George got on stage to congratulate us and later Justin (our "chef du mission") got up as well. He shared his "Olympic Moment" which he said was going out to each of our venues and meeting "the Team!" We got to meet Clara Hughes and shortly after my picture with her, she found her bronze medal and began posing with it. She was asked to speak and we were informed of her "circle of strength." She impressed me with her eloquence and her ability to speak in front of a large audience. We were also treated to a live band which I didn't think was that bad until the lead singer looked out and said "we don't normally play to a room full of guys!" "Hey, these guys are family!" I thought! Of course, I can't forget that the entire Bell team from Whistler was also treated to a night at the Westin Grand on Robson Street, which meant we all got to sleep on one of their "heavenly" beds!

In the end, it was all bittersweet though as we had to say goodbye to a "goodly" number of our team.  Kristin asked that I never quote "Lord of the Rings" in this blog but she has since told me that she has had enough of the Winter Games and I think she doesn't read this blog anymore. So, in defiance of my daughter, I will quote Bilbo Baggins from his eleventy first birthday party speech (and I hope I get this right)! "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." I hope that a day will come when we can all get together again and reminisce over a glass of Paarl (or whatever) and rekindle some of the good times we had here. The new friendships I made here were my Olympic moment! I think that is the same sentiment Justin was trying to express!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gold in Hockey

WHEW!We can hear "Oh Canada" from the "stroll" all the way to our hotel on Blackcomb Mountain. There is yelling and screaming and horns and whistles and I can't wait to get down there.