Saturday, 12 October 2013

Roaring toward Sochi 2014

So slowly turn the cogs in the wheels leading to the Olympic Games.  Since my formal skype interview with the Sochi Olympics Organizing Committee over a year ago, weekly "donotreply" emails have arrived from them.

I thought that because I hadn't participated in the 2013 World Juniors in Sochi (the training event) that I may have relinquished my chance to officiate at the big event.  The cost of the flights was just too much for a volunteer opportunity.

But no.. they continued to communicate and court me.  And then, they asked for my visa photo so, I knew I was still in the loop.  I took one more stab at checking the flight costs and found a version that came in under $3000 return much better than prices I had found in 2012 .

I bit the bullet and booked my flight to my credit card.  YIKES. But, I am going to swallow my pride and seek donations to defray my costs this time.  - $1 to $1000 - just click the DONATIONS button (paypal only) on the right === >.

I will be blogging from Sochi, just as I did from Vancouver in 2012.  I will also blog from the Roar of the Rings in December (in Winnipeg) where I will be a volunteer timing official.  So, you will get something for  your donation.

I am crossing my fingers that accommodations will be covered while I am in Sochi.  I am certain that my local transportation, most meals, and my Olympic apparel will be free.

Secretly my ultimate goal is to work the 2018 games in Pyeong Chang, SK.  I have many friends in South Korea and need to spend time there.  That would become my third Olympic Games.

Another idea I have for fundraising for my Sochi adventure is to sell the rights to a great curling song I wrote during the 2012 Brier.  It's an R&B riff, called Just 3 Rings - and could be a great calling card for any business, curling team, or curling organization.  Make me an offer and find the musicians to do the version you love.  Contact me:  I'll sing it for you in Sochi if you want!  I am going to make a video of me singing it - but I certainly don't have the the Eve or Jennifer or Mike appeal.
Buy a Calendar!
Support me on the road to Sochi.  Moral support is also appreciated. Comment on my blog.  If you want to get some visibility on my blog, that is also an option.  Just let me know, and make a reasonable donation.  I've been blogging for WCT's Whites Curling Classic for years, and can easily give you some profile (links/logos) here on my NelskiCurls blog.

Disclaimer: I have many friends who vehemently oppose the Olympic movement because of the poor people who are displaced for the Olympic cause, and because of the corporate powers that attach themselves to the games for public relations purposes.  This is a dilemma for me.  But, I also think about the athletes who dedicate their lives toward excellence.  Like me, they give their time and value the corporate involvement.  It is a tradeoff.  Yes, a compromise. And I think about the families and fans who adore their sport.  Curling is in my genes.  My grandparents and parents were curlers.  I am a curler.  The game gives so much.  Curlers are fantastic folk.  I am participating because of my love of the roaring game.  Please stand by me.  If my donations exceed my flight and accommodation costs, I will donate the surplus toward an anti-poverty organization TBA. As Jesse Pinkford said, "My word is my bond".  heh heh.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Training Event

As the leaves started to shake free from the trees during cool fall gusts, I began to wonder whether the Sochi 2014 Olympic organziers had found enough people to serve at the training event for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Curling Championships.  I hadn't heard any news from the Volunteer Crew for a few months.

Then TODAY I got word! I have scheduled my interview.  It will be a SKYPE interview.  I must practice my tourismo Russian for a few days.  I fully intend to be able to at least order a coffee and ask directions when I am in SOCHI ..that is, if I pass the interview of course.

This will be my second Olympics, should I be selected.

What training event?  All Olympic Curling Officials receive their training, 12 months before the Olympic Games.  Curling officials serve for the World Junior Curling Championships.  Like the Olympics it has both men's and women's divisions so it is a great opportunity for the officials, the ice technicians, and the Olympic committee to take a look at the facility, the new technologies for statistics, timing, scoring, communication, even media.  It is a solid dry run, and it is compulsory for everyone on the Olympic Officiating team.

click then scroll down to see how Canada has performed at the Jrs.

The Sochi2014 curling facility is called... The Ice Cube!!  I can't wait to see it!

I have a long road ahead, to again qualify as an Olympic curling official, and to arrange and budget my travel and accommodations. Hmmm. Maybe this time I will seek some sponsorship for my grand adventure into the Olympic Curling Championships.

Any takers?  I will definitely be blogging from there.  Follow along.


Monday, 27 February 2012

The Door to Sochi

From the perspective of a volunteer, the 2014 Olympics Games in Sochi, Russia are just around the corner.  The phrase books and audio files for Basic Russian are out.  Curling is an international language, but getting around in a foreign city during the confusion of an Olympic games will call for a solid basic level of understanding and speaking the language.

Being a native English speaker at the 2012 Vancouver Olympic games was challenge enough! In Russia, knowing my directions, my transportation cues, my restaurant lingo and my money talk will give me a bare minimum.  The training event for Sochi - the 2013 World Junior Curling Championships - is less than a year away, so there's no time like the present to start sparking my gray matter and picking up a bit of Russian.

The 2012 World Curling Championships are only weeks away.  The Canadian curling athletes are counting the days, and counting their CTRS points to try to grab a birth in the 2013 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials "Roar of the Rings" in Winnipeg, or at least, in the Capital One pre-trials "Road to the Roar" earlier next year.

My journey to Sochi began the last few days of the Vancouver Olympics in the volunteer lounge of the Olympic Curling Venue.  Contacts were made, email addresses were shared, and the talks have begun.  The curling resume has been dispatched.  The volunteer application has been completed, and whispers of commitment are beginning to make the next leg of my Olympics journey feel real.  I have been tentatively slated to serve, although there remain many hoops to go through and arrangements to make.

Travel and accommodations for Sochi will be much more of a challenge than they were for Vancouver.  I don't expect PyeongChang to be as difficult as Russia.  My travel skills are improving as are my connections.

I'm looking forward to carrying my friends and curling contacts along with me on this journey to Sochi.  Keep in touch.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Off Year

2011 is the Off Year for Olympic hopefuls.  But the cycle of the Olympic games, never really ends.  Host communities, athletes and volunteers are always looking ahead to the next stage for their sport or their community.

The Canadian curling athletes are re-jigging their teams and starting over with their Olympic qualifying points.  The four years fly by.

Perhaps the biggest news in twenty-eleven also saw the announcment of PyeongChang SK as the site for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Speedy Creek Welcomes the World

Hi from the hospitable south west corner of Saskatchewan where, arguably, the best from among the curling women of the world are here, hitting and missing on thier way to the final four.  There is one draw left and it is Monday, so by now, everyone has their ice legs on, even the newbies from Latvia, who upset USA yesterday to score their historic first win at the Worlds.

The venue is well decked out and everything is under one roof at the Iplex.  The Swift Current Bronco fans are none to happy about being put out of their home ice as they succumb slowly to domination by the Wheat Kings, with no hope of home ice advantage to help them salvage the series, but who would've thought this would be their year.  It doesn't matter.  The curling fans in Swift Current are very well informed about the game, (compared to the Olympics curling audience).  Today, When Latvia took a 3-ender away from Jennifer Jones who curled over 90% in that game, the fans cheered heartily for a tough shot well made and points hard earned after Jones had spent a time-out and another several minutes pondering how to protect her lone stone on the button.  Canada took the game but Latvia has become the darling of the bonspiel.

There is international media here, in full force, dominating every element of the game.  In the Cda Latvia game, a TSN camera was completely in the scrum of Latvia's time out.  Yesterday, after China was crumbled 14-4 by Scotland, the Japanese media crew had a rep from the the Chinese coaching crew on the ice being inteviewed.  He was genuinely all smiles during the interview, with the ice crew in the background, working between draws.  I wish I could find out what they asked him.  World Curling TV is here too.  They are selling their games across the pond, and maybe to Asia.  The media crew is a dominant force here.

There have been a few quaint miscues, but they add charm to the event, just the way, the failure of the fourth arm to rise added charm to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  Word was that the volunteer in charge of national anthems, was really stresssed out that he'd have a technical glitch when playing the anthem for a "team of the day".  And it was indeed, a self-fulfilling prophecy.  And again, it was the Latvian team on the short end of the stick.  They were welcomed, the audience waved the free Latvian flags they received when they came into the arena, and the announcer gave the "all rise", alas, to silence.  We all willed the women to sing, and later when I asked them, they said they thought about breaking out in the Latvian anthem, but no, they were marched off, and went on to win thier historic game.  They were lined up at the beginning of the next draw, and the technician succeeded this time, played the anthem to honour them.  The unfortunate thing was, that I guess there is actually a pause in their anthem, but the WCF provided the committee with a truncated version, so, on the record, the first ever playing of the Latvian anthem at the World Curling Championships will go down as, "incomplete".

Yesterday, The Keith's Patch, which features the same dog and pony show as every STOH  or other world curling event that has been staged over the past 5 years, featured two curlers from Saskatchewan's Marj Mitchell team and two from Sandra Smirler's team, in "Up Close and Personal".  You can ask them whatever you want!  But folks weren't very forthcoming with their questions.  Nobody asked them what they thought about whether the international game should go to eight ends.  If that happens, it will just be announced without discussion.  I'm thinking of asking that question.  Jan Betker was on the couch for the chat session.  On Saturday, she threw the ceremonial first rock for the event, and put it right on the button.

There have been some fantastically curled games and some wild and woolly episodes.  Yesterday, Sweden played a split for four in the 10th to defeat Switzerland.  Feltscher seemed to be over-punching adreneline  in the 10th end of her games, but managed to finish off Russia this afternoon, in an extra end.

I'm not usually one to predict, but for the final four... I'll call Cda Sco Swe and in tiebreakers Chi USA and DEN.  I was predicting that Wood and Muirhead would be bad chemistry at Skip/3rd, but they seem okay.  And I like the Danes' chemistry, but they play the Jones style, but with less talent, so they can really blow games in a dramatic way.

I hope to post again.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Jobs. The Venue.

Where did I go?  So Sorry.  So Canadian of me!  But I still have some tales to tell if you want to keep following and in a few weeks I'll be heading to the World Women's Curling Championships in Swift Current, so will have a fresh event to report on.

Well, frankly, I became absolutely overwhelmed by the Olympics!  Can you believe that?  I switched to timing day time draws and after two draws, by the time I got back to my wireless node, I had no piss nor vinegar to drive me into blogger land.  But I did get a few pictures and have been continuing to observe, since venturing back here to the quiet zone.

I didn't get very many pictures of the curling atheletes because, in the volunteer handbook it said "DON'T (actually typed in red) photograph atheletes/VIPs or ask them for autographs".  So, I realized I'd have to use my handy pencil camera to get whatever shots I could.  That's why there aren't many close-ups.  I have a few for you though.

I always had to keep my eye on the lime-green jacketed officials.  They wore the radios and gave the hand signals if there was anything to disrupt a game.  Of course, there weren't very many unusual interruptions.  Once I had a technical time out on my sheet so Andrea Schöp could verify if a stone was a biter or a free guard.  Once, in a men's draw of course, a stone bounced off the side barrier and was heading back into the house.  It got blocked with a broom and literally bounced, so the ice crew had to fix a huge hole in the 12-foot.  When the fifth players subbed into the games, that team's clock kept running, so it didn't affect me.  Mostly, for me, it was just redClock yellowClock redClock yellowClock and TickTock TickTock TickTock about 160 times per game.  I had four games where teams had zero time left on the clock when all of the stones had come to rest.  In one game both teams had zero... that was the GRB SWE tiebreaker.

I'm glad I have some photographs because the venue really was strikingly beautiful.

The timing paraphernalia was pretty straight forward.  But when the games were on, we were working beside the statisticians and they had a very interesting set up.  The stats crews worked in pairs and switched from being PC operator to being Caller/observer, every second end.  The software came from CurlIT and the supervising timers all had lots of international and previous Olympic experience.  Every pair also had a back-up PC, but I didn't see anyone use them. And, in addition to the PC's, the statisticians had two monitors with direct feeds from the overhead cameras above each house.  Most of the TV viewers probably realized that there were eight overhead camera's permanently in place, two per sheet.  So the statisticians could get a view of both ends through these feeds.  That would have been great, a few years ago, when the camera's were static shots of the house, but nowadays, with the ease of remote zoom and pan, these cameras were operated in robotic fashion and were following slides and shots throughout the week, as well as giving us close-ups of the house.  And there was one other teeny little problem.
The PC software screen and the TV camera angles were opposite from one another at the home end.  Before the first draw, the TV crew and the Stats crew pondered this.  (I think it had been dealt with at the previous Olympics with static cameras).  Simple.  They turned the home-end monitors monitors upside down so the image of the house matched the screen on the software where the statisticians were depicting the shots.

All week, folks who came up to our work station, high atop the away end of the arena, were doing double takes on these monitors showing the curlers  hanging upside down from the ice and the stones sliding upward along the ceiling that resembled a sheet of ice.  It worked OK, as long as the stats crew only looked at the screen when they had the overhead shot.

We worked hard to make the games feel seemless for the atheletes.  I timed 15 games; men's, women's, and got to see most of the teams.  The supervising officials were never allowed to officiate a game that involved players from their own country, so there were no Canadian officials for the finals.  Let's hope the same scenario unfolds at Speedy Creek.  OOps.... I'm supposed to be impartial.

I have lots more pictures and stories.  Remember, I think you can get a close-up of the pictures I have posted as "small" if you click on the image.  The teams in the top photo are Bernard and Muirhead.  The jumboTron shows the scores from Draw 11.  The monitor shots were taken during practice sessions.  I'd never have DARED to take the shots during a game! (Too busy!)  I'll try to post every few days, and before I know it I'll be heading down the highway to the big city again.  Population 17,000.  Now THAT, I can handle.

Thanks for following.  So Canadian of me!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Deli - Scalped - The Throng

It is nice to be flexible.  I headed back to the curling venue from the coffee shop, a might peckish, and stopped in a couple of grocery stores looking for some grab and run food.  I picked up a couple of samosas to eat and run, and pried them apart to start to gobble, and yetch.  Mouldy.  They gave me my money back and I walked to the corner of 28th planning to get a smokey at the game.  I turned the corner, and there was a lovely little Bakery/Deli sign.  I got a terrific pastrami bagel with sprouts served with crunchy chips and a pickle to go.  It was fantastic and I was shoving it into my gullet, hoping to have it done by the time I got to the spectators gate.  I was just finishing the sandwich and crossing the street to start the long block to the gate when a tall dark fella in the shade called me over.

"Hey!  Wanna sell your ticket?"

Well, that hadn't been my intention.  I certainly didn't want the ticket to go to waste.  I had tried to give it away but couldn't hook up with the person, and thought I'd take in a draw, from the other side of the fence, for pleasure.  Now all that had changed.

I said, "Sure!"  The thought of being back to my bed early for a full night's sleep, and maybe catching the second half of the game on TV was an appealing one.

"Here," he said.  "Here's twenny bux."  And he practically threw the money my way.  I had to think fast.  I had paid $67.50 for the ticket but that was well back in 2009 and it really didn't matter that much to me any more.

"No," said I.  "Fifty bux."

"Awe, cummon," he said.  "I gotta make a living.  There are lots of people out there.  I might not be able to sell it anyway.  I'll give you forty."  He must've been new at his job.  He must've forgotten that he was the one who had approached me.

"Naw," I said.  "I'll just go and watch the game."  And I started to walk away.  He had a fist full of bills, among them some nice crisp orange ones.

"Okay," he said and he fumbled with the money and a fifty fell onto the wet muddy splotchy Vancouver grass.  I covered the bill with my foot.

"I've got it," I said.  I handed him my folded ticket, picked up the bill and walked away.  My mind wandered back to Wednesday when I'd stopped at an IGA on Main and 14th to buy some granola bars (2 boxes for $4).  I paid for them with a fifty and the cashier asked me to wait while she went to the customer service desk to verify my bill.  I probably just sold my curling ticket for a couterfeit fifty.  Oh well, a guy has to make a living.  I'll find out eventuallty.

I walked to the Canada Line, munching my chips and pickle.  Riders were heading to the the Czech Republich Belarus Hockey Game and from the Netherland's Heineken House in Richmond.  I got off at Vancouver Central in the middle of the meilee at Granville Street and West Georgia.  There was a 5-piece acoustic busking band singing Bad Bad Leroy Brown and the crowd was singing along.  There was art all around me.  The folks were happy.  The air was seaside mountain fresh and I walked up a block, past the art gallery and across the street, moving with the crowds until I edged my way to The Bay to hop my bus back to West Van.  I never tire of that night drive over the Lions Gate.  I made it back to watch the last four ends of the Murdoch Martin Match-up.

As I said earlier... the Scots are crumbling, or did I say cracking.  Do you think they will qualify?  I will go out on a limb and say they will.  No they won't.  Oh, you just can't count those wiley rock huckers out.

Enjoy the pictures.  Some of them are high rez so if you click on them you can zoom in on the detail.  It truly was a lovely night.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Main Street - Double Espresso

I had a short change last night, moving from evening draw to morning and afternoons.  I have a ticket for tonight's men's draw but needed my double injection of espresso.  I walked along main and found a great spot.  Am sitting outdoors listening to the traffic and smelling the restaurants.

The curling venue is completely accessible to Main Street, and the bus service up and down is great and the transit workers are mostly really funny and engaging.  I will be hungry by the time I get back for the game, probably late, but honestly, I've seen a lot of curling and a good night's sleep is sounding pretty good to me.  To quench my hunger, I think I'll grab a cup of noodles and inhale or slurp them as I walk around to the main entrance of the Vancouver Olympic Centre.  Until now, I've been entering by the volunteer entrance.

I work among timers, statisticians and timing technicians from Omega. It is a great crew of people, all dedicated to making the games as good as they can be.  I've been hearing tales of pavillions and musical shows and roaring throngs of people whooping it up, but mostly, I've been keeping my nose to the grindstone and attending my draws.

The Danish women have been curling in skirts.  I like that.  They are not getting the attention that the NorwayPants guys are, but they look good.  Too many of the teams are wearing red this year.  That alone has made the Swedish Blue and Yellow stand out.  Speaking of Swedes - Norberg gave up three on a pick and ended up being tromped by the Russian women.  Hmmm.  The Chinese women are winning some, but are certainly not presenting themselves as invincible. I almost wish I was at home watching because for the first time ever, all four sheets are being streamed live on the internet.  You can watch every game of every draw.  Our game has hit the global big time.  The Japanese women looked strong last night.  The Scottish women are cracking, methinks.

The sun has set and the draw begins in 20 minutes.  I'd like to get there for the second end, so I'll post a few pictures of fans, and of main street, and try to catch you here tomorrow.

BTW - I have Russell connections..... dozens of dead relatives in the cemetery there.... and worked under Eldon ... Jon Montgomery's dad!  Lots of my FB friends are cheering the glory of their home town boy and I'm all wrapped up in their excitiment. What a guy eh!  Gotta love him.