Luke Graham: News, notes from the Olympics
February 14, 2010
There's quite the search for the Olympic spirit and what exactly it means up here. During two-plus days of competition, the Olympic spirit came through after the tragic loss of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died on the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre on Friday in British Columbia.
The Opening Ceremonies included a touching tribute, when the remaining Georgian athletes received a prolonged ovation.
There has been, however, plenty of blame to go around. In a standing-room-only news conference Saturday morning in Whistler, officials fielded dozens of questions about what went wrong. The answer? It was mostly human error, and Kumaritashvili's first error led to a second error.
But it speaks to a couple of bigger points at the Olympics. Of course getting here is a huge accomplishment, but there needs to be more regulation of who is allowed to compete in the Olympics. Kumaritashvili ranked 44th in the world coming into the games. There are downhill skiers from Mexico and Austria in their 50s. That's great, but safety should come first. The second thing it speaks to is the quest to make events go bigger and faster.
It's moguls allowing inverted tricks. It's lugers going 150 kilometers per hour or downhill skiers going 170 kilometers per hour. There's always the push to go faster, no matter the sport.
Look at NASCAR or anything else. It's a culture of bigger and faster is always better. I'm not saying that's wrong — in fact, bigger and faster usually is more intriguing. But it will be interesting to see if regulations end up being put in place.
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A few more thoughts:
■ Whistler reminds me a lot of Steamboat, with the vibe and the feel. There are about 10,000 full-time residents, 14,000 with the work force and as many as 25,000 on any given weekend. During the Olympics, they expect to have as many as 60,000 people in the small town.
■ Most Whistler locals appear to be either leaving for the three-week event or taking in as much skiing as possible. Whistler Blackcomb is naked this week. One local reporter said he went up Friday and the only wait he had was for the first lift in the morning. He said it was so bare, he averaged between five and six runs an hour.
■ Weird travel note of the week. Most media — in fact, nearly all — covering stuff at Cypress Mountain are staying in Vancouver. The two places are roughly 20 miles apart. For those of us staying in Whistler, it presents some challenges. One-way buses take us from Whistler to Cypress. After events, we have to go from Cypress to Vancouver and then hope to catch a bus from Vancouver back to Whistler. The last bus leaves Vancouver for Whistler at midnight. Not on it? Grab a pillow and a comfy corner.
■ For the beer lovers out there, Whistler has some dandies. There are plenty of microbrews, but Kokanee has to take the cake. It tastes much different than beer of the States (sounding Canadian already, eh?) It's much richer.
■ The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is a must. The Sea to Sky Highway is one of the real wonders of Canada. One bus driver said this shouldn't be anything for someone from Colorado. Certainly Colorado has the mountains, but driving alongside the Pacific Ocean and seeing islands jut out 2,000 feet is beautiful.
■ There are a ton of Australians in Whistler. It's a mere 15-hour plane ride from Australia to Canada.
■ Quote of the week so far, as expressed by a local: "Whistler is the Cancún of the north."
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