VANCOUVER DIARY: Notes and observations from SJA members covering the Winter Olympics in Canada
It’s all downhill from here.
The Vancouver Winter Olympics get underway today, with the 3,000-strong press corps settling down to working either in the city centre’s Main Press Centre, or, as Neil Wilson notes in his Daily Mail blog, 78 miles and two and a half hours away at the mountain resort of Whistler, where the downhill events are being staged.
The split venues are linked by the $1 billion Highway 99, built not only at tremendous financial cost, but also despite widespread opposition from local protest groups over the environmental impact of blasting such a major motorway through areas of mountainous, previously untouched, natural beauty.
There are some parts of Britain which have had more snow than Vancouver this winter.
As Wilson reported this week: “Vancouver is the biggest city ever to host a Winter Games, which makes it seem odd for the role.
“And there is something else wrong for a Snow and Ice Olympics. No snow and no ice. The only thing falling from the sky is cherry blossom from trees which should not have been in bloom until late March.
“Last month it had a record average temperatures of 7 degrees celsius, warmed by air and currents from the equatorial Pacific. This week it was a bit up on that.
“The Games’ opening ceremony in a Canadian football stadium will be the first ever held indoors which may be good thinking. Yesterday it was raining.”
Wilson is attending his ninth Winter Games, and only twice before, at Sarajevo in 1984 and Lillehammer in 1994, has he experienced suitably deep and thick snow.
BBC cuts costs – sort of
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the BBC, under fire for the vast fees it pays to its “talent”, and for the cost of setting up its sporting outside broadcast studios at events such as Euro 2008 in Vienna.
So it is good to learn that the Beeb in Vancouver is finding other ways to squeeze down costs.
According to one BBC insider working in the MPC in Vancouver, “Two staff from an American broadcaster spent 25 minutes building coat rack in BBC office, just so they could be given a BBC Vancouver pin!”
□ Insidethegames.biz points out that Vancouver will be the first Twitter Olympics. Helpfully, they have compiled a list of various Winter Olympic Tweeters, so that we might all follow what they are thinking and doing, here (though it has to be said, the Dutch Twitterings are, for obvious reasons, of limited use to non-Dutch speakers).
The 2010 London Olympics
Were it not for a twist of historic fate, these might have been the London Games of 2010. London, BC, became Whistler in 1966, when it became a ski resort in 1966, to avoid the ill-connotations of grey, wet weather with the British capital.
Whistler takes it name from the indigenous Hoary Marmots (left), who look somewhat like the groundhogs in Groundhog Day, but who are quite scarce when so many skiers and Olympic journalists are around..
Lord Moynihan goes all TisWas
Anyone who remembers TisWas, the Saturday morning children’s TV programme from the 1970s which featured Lenny Henry and Chris Tarrant, will recall the Phantom Flan Thrower and the catchphrase of, “Give them what they want!”
It seems that BOA chairman Lord Moynihan has adopted a similar mantra.
Speaking yesterday, he grumbled about the “unacceptable” distribution of funds for Olympic sports, pointing out that 99.38 per cent of monies have recently gone to Britain’s summer sports, depriving winter sports federations. As Matt Scott points out in yesterday’s Digger column, His Lordship overlooked the fact that Lottery funding tends to be distributed on medals won, and until Turin four years ago, British Olympic medals tended to come from Winter Games only rarely.
Undaunted, Moynihan said, “We have to … ask the athletes what they want.”
Unconnected factoid: The current British Alpine youth team includes Nicholas Moynihan, of Tonbridge School.
□ Vancouver locals will not know whether to applaud if Dale Begg-Smith wins gold in the men’s race on Sunday, as he did in Turin in 2006. He is from Vancouver, a self-made millionaire from internet spyware, but is skiing for Australia.
He fell out in his teens with the Canadian federation when it laid down the law about his business interests conflicting with his training. His big rival for gold? Canada’s World Cup champion Alex Bilodeau. And he is not local to Vancouver.
□ Thanks to Olympic big wheel Stratos Safioleas for his picture from the Vancouver MPC. Click here to visit the PyeongChang2018 website.