Talk of the Games
The medal standings tell only part of the sports story of what's happening at the Games. For the rest, check out the latest dispatches from The Seattle Times' sports crew of columnists, reporters and producers.
Good Morning, Olympics: Trying to get into flow of Games
Posted by Jerry Brewer
An early dish of thoughts, insights and expectations for another day at the Winter Olympics (Kid tested, Bob Condotta approved):
Today's the first full day of competition here in Canada. It kind of feels like we're starting the Olympics all over again. First there's the pre-Games hype. Now there's the real drama.
Which is fine for me because, well, I've had an inauspicious start.
Let me explain, and mind you, I'm not complaining, but rather providing a comical perspective that shows that, even if you think the Big Show is only a quick three-hour dash from Seattle, it's actually much more complicated to experience it because the Olympics are larger than life.
I was supposed to arrive Wednesday, but I was delayed until Thursday because of a dental emergency. Never get braces after age 30 -- or 16, for that matter. Anyway, the Thursday train was easy enough, considering how the rest of the day would go. The sight of armed police officers (hope those rifles have a safety switch!) and canines walking through the aisles was both frightening and reassuring at the same time. The train stopped unexpectedly a few minutes before we were to cross the border, and the explanation was that there was a problem with the brakes. Apparently, whenever the train senses an issue, it has some emergency thing-a-ma-jig that can automatically stop it. The explanation didn't make much sense to me, but I was enjoying the ride. The workers determined the problem after a 30-minute delay.
Later, upon arriving in Vancouver, the real drama started. First, customs kicked me over to the immigration folks because an officer didn't really understand what a sportswriter did.
"I'm here to cover the Olympics," I kept saying, and the woman kept looking at me like I'd just said I was her long, lost brother.
"When do you go back to work?" she asked.
"Um, I'm here to work," I said. "That's what we do. I'll be working from here for the Olympics and then I go home March 1."
"You have to see immigration," she said.
After about 30 minutes with the immigration officer, I was allowed to leave. By then, I'd shown every form of identification I own: passport, driver's license, business card, entry card for The Seattle Times building, credit cards. I was going to give them my Borders store rewards card as a joke, ask them for some points, but I decided not to be a jerk for obvious reasons.
The nightmare had just started, however.
Later in the day, I went to the Olympics accreditation office to get my official Games credential. After about five minutes there, the woman looked at me, grinned sheepishly and said, "Sir, we have a problem."
My name was spelled wrong on the temporary pass I'd been given. Some people have wondered, "How can you spell Jerry Brewer wrong?" Well, my real name is Jerrome. Of course, the two Rs make it different from the traditional Jerome. Many people assume "Jerrome" is a typo and change it, which is my No. 1 pet peeve.
Along the way, someone -- my office, the USOC, some unidentified prankster -- changed my name. At the accreditation office, the woman saw my passport, looked at the temp pass, noticed the discrepancy and realized that Olympic policy required she must redo my background check.
"Normally, this takes 24 hours," she said, "but we'll see if they can speed it up. Still, it's going to take at least three hours."
There's nothing worse than being an Olympics reporter without an Olympics credential. I was supposed to write a column that day, but I couldn't because I had no access. I was supposed to get used to the logistics of getting around at the Olympics -- figuring out the buses, figuring out the sky train, figuring out how long it takes to get from place to place -- but I couldn't because I had to wait for this problem to be solved.
For three hours, I thought about who to blame. Maybe my boss typed my name wrong. Maybe it was the USOC. Maybe it was me, and I didn't even know it. The only person I couldn't throw under the bus was my mother, who came up with the name Jerrome, and decided to spell it with two Rs because she knew she wanted to nickname me Jerry and, well, how can Jerry have two Rs and Jerome just have one?
I decided not to blame anyone. It's the Olympics. What a privilege it is to be here. Over the next three weeks, I will see things I'll remember for the rest of my life. And I will get to document them with the written word. I've been fortunate enough to cover two other Olympics (Salt Lake City in 2002, Athens in 2004). They've been tremendous experiences. Why let a customs/immigration debacle and a credentialing issue stand in the way? I'm sure many of our readers would love to have such problems.
Over the past two days, I've struggled to get into the flow here. I've been here almost 48 hours, but it feels like 48 minutes. You know how athletes talk about the speed of the game? Well, I'm trying to catch up to the speed of the Olympics.
I hope today will be the day. I'm covering a medal event. It'll be a chance to see something dramatic -- and bury the drama of a rough start.
Organizing the troops
Here's a sneak peek at some of the events coverage The Times has planned Saturday:
-- Steve Kelley is slated to cover Apolo Ohno as he attempts to win a short-track medal in the men's 1,500.
-- Ron Judd is in Whistler, following the men's singles luge. Obviously, after the death of the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili on Friday, this will be the most emotional event of the day.
-- I have the men's 5,000-meter long-track race today. Can any of the United States trio of Chad Hedrick, Shani Davis and Trevor Marsicano compete with Dutch star Sven Kramer?
-- Bob Condotta will check in with the Canadian women's hockey team for its home Olympics debut.
-- Meri-Jo Borzilleri will cover men's ski jumping.
One event we won't cover because it's been canceled: the men's downhill. Overnight rain and warm temperatures creased soft course conditions. The event has been rescheduled for Monday morning.
When in Vancouver
If you're coming up for the Games, I'd suggest dining at Coast restaurant (1054 Alberni St.) for some terrific seafood. I was there Friday night with a colleague. We watched the Opening Ceremony with an enthusiastic Canadian crowd and munched on cod, salmon and scallops. Then we rolled home because we couldn't walk.
I asked a cabbie Friday if he was excited about having the Olympics in Vancouver.
Replied the cabbie: "I'm excited about the money."
That's the typical reaction of most Vancouverites that I've found thus far. They're ambivalent about the Games, something I covered in a column. Some are excited. Some want nothing to do with it. All hope Vancouver at least sees the benefits of some major cash.
Can't blame them for that. From what I've seen so far, Vancouver has done a terrific job preparing for these Games. Billions well spent. We owe the city some tourist cash.
I interviewed Vancouver historian Chuck Davis, who lives in nearby Surrey, on Friday. Davis, who spent 40 years in broadcasting, is working on book No. 16, entitled "The History of Metropolitan Vancouver." I talked to him a lot about where this kind, reserved, self-deprecating manner we often associate with Canadians came from, and he ended a fascinating explanation with an old joke.
"How do you get 25 Canadians out of a swimming pool?" he asked. "You announced, 'Would you please get out of the swimming pool.'"
That's Canada, he says. Just good, well-mannered people.
My kind of people.
Final 'Good Morning' Thought
Normally, bobsledding and the luge are two of my favorite Winter Olympics events. But after Kumaritashvili's death, I'm dreading the luge events.
Yes, officials have responded to the tragedy by making some last-minute course modifications: a lower start, a higher wall and some ice changes. But will it be enough? I hope so. Other sports columnists have opined that the luge events should be canceled. I haven't been in Whistler covering the story, so I won't make such a bold proclamation. But I do wonder: If an athlete can die in practice, what's going to happen when the world's best are going all out, trying to win gold?
It scares me. It really scares me.
And it's troubling to start an Olympics with fear.
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