Out Of The Bubble

  • Sunday, February 28, 2010 12:34 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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Lauren: After a whirlwind trip, we are safely back home and slowly integrating back into real life. Sadly, our normal lives don't consist of numerous discussions about curling, doping or skiing, but we do have the wonderful opportunity to finally watch NBC after almost two weeks of Canada's CTV coverage! In the end, this trip has given me a nearly infinite amount of precious memories. I'll never forget meeting Michelle Kwan, or hanging out at the Red Bull house, or even running almost a mile across the city to make a meeting at the Russia House!

Morgan: Upon reflection, one thing about our trips stands out in particular: Canadians are VERY hospitable! Everywhere we went I was extremely impressed with how helpful and welcoming the Canadians were. They went out of their way to give restaurant recommendations, directions and even their place in line. When we were leaving the hostel at 5:30 a.m. the gentleman working at the front desk of our hostel (which was not quite a 4 -star resort) offered us water and toast. This was impressive since 5:30 was before breakfast hours.

Despite having CAN-A-DA chanted in my face many times over the course of our 10-day stay, I still find myself speaking very highly of the Canadians. I even find myself cheering for the Canadians -- when Americans aren't contenders, of course. Tricia: After attending the first 10 days of the Olympics in Vancouver, I've watched NBC's coverage the past few days from my home in northern Virginia. I immediately noticed several contrasts between watching the Games on television versus being a live attendee. For example, as a spectator at a live hockey game, I experienced the patriotism of each country and especially that of the host country, Canada. On television, the commercials bombarded the Olympic experience!

I also noticed a significant distinction between the continuity. As an attendee, I got to see a whole event from beginning to end, and I had the sense that I had fully experienced that event. As a television viewer, the program feels disjointed, because they jump from event to event, although one does see more of a lot of different events in a relatively short time.

Lastly, I recognized the depth of cultural anecdotes presented by Bob Costas and other NBC correspondents. NBC also displayed some cool technical effects, such as digitally superimposing video of skiers or bobsledders who had traversed the same course at different times, thereby providing a direct visual comparison, so that one could see how two athletes compared to each other.

For me, the most important part of attending the Games was the opportunity to interact with the sports personalities and sports business people. No way I could have done that from my couch. I would like to express my deep gratitude to George Washington University for affording this priceless, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Vancouver Olympics.

-- LAUREN LAS, MORGAN GOERKE, TRICIA GROMADA

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Sightseeing Tip: Capilano Bridge

  • Sunday, February 28, 2010 5:10 AM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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During our Olympic visit, a classmate and I ventured out to the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. We took the Seabus from downtown Vancouver and then a regular bus to the park. Transportation in Vancouver is extremely easy and fares are good for 90 minutes on any form of public transportation.

The bridge is 450 feet long and 230 feet high. It was exhilarating walking across it. We ran into athletes from Russia and the USA who were taking a break from the Olympic Games to tour one of Vancouver's famous attractions. The day was perfect for a walk through nature, and the treetop houses and path along the cliff had some breathtaking views. It was also interesting to learn about the history of the park and the trees that grow there.

-- LAUREN KEEGAN

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Must CTV

  • Saturday, February 27, 2010 5:37 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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On our way back to D.C., a few of us decided to take the scenic route back through Seattle. While in our hotel room, watching the highly anticipated women's figure skating, I could not help but notice the distinct differences between CTV and NBC. In Vancouver, I was initially disappointed to not be able to watch NBC's Olympic coverage complete with inspirational pieces on the American athletes. After leaving Canada, my opinion has completely changed.

The CTV coverage features one sport at a time and has no/limited commercials during its coverage. We were able to watch three hours of uninterrupted coverage of ice dancing on CTV. On Tuesday night, NBC showed an average of 1-2 figure skaters per hour. In between figure skating coverage, NBC bounced between skiing and bobsled as well as daily highlights. This made the coverage seem disjointed.

This is the classic example of not knowing what you've got until it is gone. I am missing Canadian TV coverage of the Games!

-- MORGAN GOERKE

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Cool Continent

  • Friday, February 26, 2010 1:48 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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Remember four years ago at the Torino Games when the media had a field day with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's motto of "Best in the World?"

Well, USSA CEO Bill Marolt and Co. may be getting the last laugh.

Right now, the American skiers and snowboarders can make a legitimate claim that indeed, they are the Best in the World.

With 20 medals - six gold, seven silver and seven bronze - USSA has more medals than all other countries save Germany. The American squads are dominating alpine, snowboarding, freestyle and wait for it, Nordic.

What's even more impressive? The relatively smaller budget on which USSA operates compared to some European counterparts.

And let's give a bit of a nod to the Canadians, who, despite some criticism of their "Own the Podium" campaign, have performed rather well on the slopes.

Not to ignite a Don Cherry-esque symposium about the differences between European and North American skiers and snowboarders, but it turns out that North Americans aren't second-class snow athletes. OK, maybe the Mexican ski team isn't pulling its weight, but, Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe shouldn't be expected to medal at the tender age of 51.

Hubertus, who is competing in his fifth Olympics, is Mexican by birth, but has a truly royal heritage - his father is Prince Alfonso of Germany and his mother is Her Serene Highness Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina of Furtstenberg. Taking a page out of Napoleon Dynamite's most-favored animal status billing of the liger, I would have to say that Hubertus is "Pretty much my favorite skier ever."

I'd be remiss not to include one more North American contingent at the 2010 Games: Jamaica. Errol Kerr, the ski cross athlete whose father is Jamaican, came in 9th.

Not only do I love being American, but I dig being North American.

--- IAN CROPP

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Friendship, Teamwork Lead To Better Olympic Experience

  • Friday, February 26, 2010 1:29 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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There’s nothing like traveling internationally with people to get to know them very well. You end up seeing them in their pajamas. You learn their food preferences, music preferences, liquor tolerances and even what kinds of people they are attracted to. I didn’t come here thinking Vancouver was going to do any of that because it’s so much like being back in the States.

But, by taking this crash course with my buddies, I got to know much more about the city of Vancouver and the Olympic Games than I ever would have, had I come here alone. For example, watching Ian spark up conversations with everyone we came across showed me the wide variety of countries that are represented in the spectators here.

Grant (the eater) and Lauren (the aspiring food critic) kept me informed about the best and worst places to grab snacks throughout the day. Morgan added humor to the inevitable tense situations. Stephen was the king of nightlife. Alex discovered the different kinds of bar permits and how to get around the eat-and-drink rules. Editra’s handy maps showed me how to make my way around the city. It’s true that not everyone rolls with a team as awesome as mine, but the key takeaway is that the best way to make the most of the Olympic Games is to do it with friends.

-- JULIA BENNETT

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Virtual Vancouver

  • Friday, February 26, 2010 7:22 AM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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While the real Olympians were competing, fans were able to try their skills at all sorts of Olympic events. While nobody had to actually go down a bobsled track, put on their skis or lace up their skates, the event allowed anybody to attempt any event they'd like. There was even opportunities to be photographed with an Olympic torch and meet with fans from all across the world. The Vantastic Voyage staff took video of the event:

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Security Contrast North of the Border

  • Thursday, February 25, 2010 1:10 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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As I make my way back to the States, I couldn't help but notice the insane amount of security in the airport, especially compared to the security at all the venues I visited during my time at the Olympics. I think I went through at least five different security check points going through the airport.

I got to the airport more than two hours before my flight and I only had about 20 minutes to wait before I started to board. In Vancouver, we were told that we had to get to the venue at least an hour and a half before the event because of how long it took to get through security. The first event I went to was a hockey game and it only took me 20 minutes to get through security. I am not saying that I didn't feel secure at the venues, but it was definitely built up way too much. I wish someone would have warned me about the airport security.

---GILLIAN COLEMAN.

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Thoughts Upon Departure

  • Wednesday, February 24, 2010 7:40 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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While sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home, all I can think about is how crowded the city of Vancouver is. The support of the Games has been great throughout but is steadily increasing.

When I first arrived in Vancouver on the same day as opening ceremonies, I was surprised with how empty the streets appeared. Over the next few days people came out to support their country and enjoy all the festivities. This morning, while I was doing some last-minute data collection, the line at the SuperStore was unlike I have seen all week. The line wrapped around the block and did not move steadily as it had while I did my shopping, and all people could talk about was how the mittens were sold out, not just in Vancouver but throughout Canada. I guess when they ordered, nobody anticipated their popularity.

These were my first Games and it was great to see the Olympic spirit in full force! It definitely isn't something I will forget anytime soon.

--- COURTNEY BAGATTA.

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Ready For Takeoff

  • Wednesday, February 24, 2010 9:27 AM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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Some scenes from the aerial ski jumping venue:



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Where to Watch the Big Game?

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010 7:26 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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One of the biggest logistical issues for Americans at these Olympics might have been where to watch Sunday's U.S.- Canada hockey game. Granted, Canadians are a friendly bunch, but when it comes to hockey, they are as passionate as Pakistanis are about cricket. So it was no small task deciding where we were going to watch "The Game."

We didn't want to be the only group in the place cheering for the Americans. But we also didn't want to be in an Americans-only crowd. Our choices were further limited because we weren't able to look for a place to watch the game until about 20 minutes before the puck dropped. At that point, we figured any good venue would be more crowded than our hostel rooms with two weeks worth of laundry scattered about the -20 square feet of floor space.

In a moment of genius, someone suggested we head back to the main media center, where we had previously been with our class on a tour. With credentials still in hand, we jetted back to the Vancouver Convention Center, found the media bar and sidled up.

Not only did we have a large flat-screen TV to ourselves, but we had access to a relatively cheap bar and the well wishes of some Swedish media members.

After the game, we cautiously walked back to our hostel, keeping an eye out for spontaneous riots. As we expected, however, Canadians took the loss rather well. But if Canada falls short of a medal, the streets may not be as calm.

--- IAN CROPP.

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Cracking Down, Stinking Up

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010 5:35 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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A couple of observations:

-- Security: Anticipating trouble in the aftermath of the Canada/USA hockey game, the city put limitations on alcohol sales. The cops were also out in full force. There were close to 10-15 officers on every block monitoring the belligerent crowds.

There were fewer cops roaming the streets Monday -- or so we thought. Apparently, there were numerous undercover cops outside of the Hudson Bay SuperStore. When a drunkard fell over on the street outside the store and attempted to pull down a woman's pants, the undercovers swarmed him.

-- Smells: There are just too many in Vancouver for me to describe, but I’m going try to describe a few.

My greeting to Vancouver was the stench in the hostel – a mix among fish from the neighboring restaurant, body odor from neighboring Europeans and, well, the stench of the hostel itself. Of course, there are the street stenches -– the four p’s: puke, pot, pee and pizza. If you are lucky enough to walk a few blocks in the morning, you can certainly smell all four in a matter of minutes. If I’m lucky, I can leave here with the memory of good smells, preferably Canadian maple syrup and pancakes.

-- MORGAN GOERKE

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Good Luck, Elana!

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010 2:11 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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GWU alum Elana Meyers will compete today in her first Olympic bobsled race representing the USA. Unfortunately, there probably won't be much coverage because woman's ice skating will be on, but I will hopefully be able to watch her race on universalsports.com. This is the second Olympic athlete I have ever known and it is a real honor to say that I know her. Good luck, Elana!! I know you will make the USA and GWU proud.

-- GILLIAN COLEMAN

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O Canada, The Land Of Great Food

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010 1:16 PM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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Sadly, two nights ago, I broke my streak of having at least one piece of sushi a day whilst (yes, the Commonwealth spelling) in Vancouver. And no, I wasn't so distraught over the ordeal that I neglected to blog for two days. I was just busy. Or tired. Whichever is a better excuse.

In any event, I must say that the raw fish of the great north is phenomenal and priced rather well. I regret that I wasn't able to take full advantage of the plethora of other dining options; dim sum will have to wait until my next trip to Virginia where the best "D.C." ethnic food is to be had.

Vancouver's culinary scene did not disappoint. From the pizza with sesame seeds on the crust to the litany of other street food on famed Granville St, I enjoyed every bite. In terms of breakfast, not much doesn't beat the toast and oranges at our hostel (the coffee leaves one wondering if instead of a filter and grounds they use a bathtub and dirt). If I had one more meal to eat, I would have to try the famed Japadog that has been an international sensation. I don't know what a Japadog is, but a minimum 10 minute wait for said dog says something about the product (then again people wait for a while at the proctologist's office ...).

As I depart back for the land that loves freedom, I will make one final food/beverage stop -- to Tim Horton's. For those of you who aren't familiar with "Timmy Ho's," a quick introduction: It's similar to Dunkin' Donuts but a Canadian chain named after the famed hockey player with some shoppes (yes, the spelling again) in America. An extra-large coffee goes for about $1.87 (Canadian tender with tax), which is a lot less than what you would pay at "$5bucks."

--- IAN CROPP.

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Close Enough To Feel The Burn

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010 11:04 AM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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While touring the International Broadcast Center on Sunday, we were given the opportunity to the get an up-close view of the Olympic cauldron. The weather and the view was incredible.

It is quite unfortunate that the general public does not have access to enjoy the cauldron like we did.



-- RAPHAEL BALLARD

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Serious Security

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010 5:10 AM
  • Written By: Vantastic Voyage

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Freestyle skiing events are usually pretty laid back. While the competition runs are serious, everything else is, well fun. I remember the events being kind of along the lines of big social gatherings and reunions: Great friends from all over the country getting to hang out with each other and cheer each other on. As a former freestyle skier, this is the image that I had in my mind when I headed up to Vancouver to watch my old friends and teammates compete in the freestyle events on the opening weekend of the 2010 Games.

But boy was I wrong.

I was no longer a friend, but merely a spectator in the stands, sealed off from the competitors. And the security kept it this way. I told my friend that I wanted to go say hi to another friend who was competing. My friend responded, “Well, you could probably say hi to him, but they’re not going to let you touch him.”

Of course, I thought he was joking, but in fact, he was 100 percent serious. Earlier, someone had tried to go give my competitor friend a high five, and he couldn't really reciprocate. I don’t know if this was because of doping control or what, but from what I could tell from way up in the stands, the athletes were kept pretty isolated from everyone and everything else going on at the event that day.

But then again, I guess that’s the Olympics for you. It’s the biggest event there is, and athlete security is just another part of the game. I wonder what the security is like for Bode Miller up there right about now.

-- McKENZY GOLDING

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