Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Olympic Dream

We’re now only days away from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and preparations are in their final stages. Workers and volunteers all of Vancouver, Whistler and Cyprus Mountain are busily tying up loose ends to make sure when the games start in full on the weekend, that the whole thing goes smoothly, not only for the athletes who have toiled since the last games in Turin, Italy, but also for the spectators who have paid good money to witness something that is for many a once in a lifetime experience.

My Olympic experience kicked off several days ago, relocating to Whistler Mountain, where I went through my final training, and recently started working in what is undoubtedly the most scenic workplace I’ve ever had the pleasure to work in.

It’s hard not to get carried away with the games too. While I’m working long hours, my spare time is spent soaking up the atmosphere in Whistler Village, and getting to know my new colleagues who have come from all over Canada and the rest of the world to be part of this, just as I have.

While we’re working hard, a lot of credit has to go to the many volunteers who are working just as hard, while many have given up well paying jobs just to have the chance to be a part of the games. Some of their jobs seem to be a lot of fun – many are responsible for “maintaining” the downhill track, which appears from an outsider to mean they just get to ski all day. Tough life huh? I’m sure there is more to it, but it seems like the pick of the volunteer jobs.

Whistler Village has been pumping of late, and its only getting better. I’ve so far managed to have my self photographed in a Swiss bobsled, and seen at least one former Australian Olympian – swimmer Gian Rooney. While she wasn’t a Winter Olympian – I’m not sure I’d know any of the current Aussie team – it was good to see a representative of my home country walking the streets of the village.

AS this will likely be my only chance to be officially part of an event like this, I plan on making the most of it, no excuses, no half measures. For the next couple of weeks, my event is a different kind of Olympic Biathlon – Work & Party.

I’ll add an update at around the midpoint of the games, and will be providing some regular real time updates from my Twitter account, to let you know how things are going as they happen.

Enjoy, I will.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Watching Sport in a Different Time Zone

As a fan of sport throughout the world, I have travelled to a lot of different locations to watch some top quality live action. The problem is, you cant get to all of the events you want to. With so many sporting events happening worldwide, time and financial restraints mean that you have to settle for watching some on TV.

This can be the cause of a lot of sleepless nights, however, as events can happen at any time of night or day and as a result can throw your regular pattern into chaos.

This past week I subjected myself to some late nights while watching the business end of the 2010 Australian Open culminating in the mens final which saw Roger Federer take Andy Murray in straight sets. As the Australian Open is in Melbourne - my home town - it’s an event I go to every year, so it felt kind of weird having to stay up to all hours to watch it.

As an Australian, I’m used to having to watch some of my favourite sport at odd times. With so much top level sport happening in Europe or North America, its common for Australians to have to stay up late and night, or get up early in the morning to watch their favourite team play.

My earliest memory of this was getting up ridiculously early in the morning to watch the Australian cricket team play in matches throughout the Caribbean against the West Indies. As a youngster, it would always make me tired and grumpy for the rest of the day, but it was worth it to see some quality action.

With the Six Nations Rugby set to kick off in Europe on the weekend, expect to see some of the many Irish pubs in the world open past their usual times so that ex-pats throughout the world can watch Ireland, England, France, Scotland, Wales and Italy battle it out in Rugby’s best annual event.

I’ve found that sports fans in the US and Canada are less used to inflicting this sort of punishment on themselves. Not because they are less dedicated fans, but largely because the major sports here – Football, Baseball, Basketball and Hockey – are all sports where the best leagues in the world are based in North America, so there’s simply no reason to.

And even when there is a sporting event of interest to North Americans outside of prime, the money here seems to be able to change that. Many people will remember the controversy of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where a US broadcaster paid to have the swimming finals in the morning sessions rather than the evening, so that Michael Phelps’ record breaking eight gold medals could be shown during prime time in the US.

Lack of sleep isn’t the only issue when watching sport in a different time zone, however. Quite often the sporting event you want to watch is on while you’re supposed to be at work. While DVD and hard drive recorders these days means you wont miss any action when you get home, trying to avoid knowing the result can be torture.

This becomes an issue every year when its time for the Super Bowl, as it is this week. While in the US, the Super Bowl is on a Sunday evening, in Australia it is on a Monday morning. Though American football is not terribly popular in Australia, the Super Bowl always gets plenty of coverage, and it’s the one time of the year most Australians take notice of the sport many have dubbed “throw ball”.

Last year – in what turned out to be one of the most exciting Super Bowl games ever – I had a very hard time trying to not find out the result. All of the TVs in the bristro upstairs had the game on, while others were following the game online. It became like an episode of How I Met Your Mother as I ran out of the room any time anyone would start to talk about it and walked around with my head down any time I was in the same room as a television. Luckily for me, I managed to avoid the result, was treated to a great game.

This year I’m looking forward to watching the game live from a bar in Whistler Village where I’ll be based for the next few weeks during the Winter Olympics – another event I normally have to watch at all hours of the morning.

For the record, I’m hoping to see a win for the New Orleans Saints, as I think they’re city needs this after everything they’ve been through in the last five years.

On the whole though, I’m just looking forward to a good game – and one I can enjoy as it happens.