Going International in more ways than one…
To be totally honest, being International Media at the Olympics isn’t a lot different than being a regular spectator.
Aside from the fact I’m grossly weighted down by the 18.14 kilograms of equipment I’m lugging around – that’s 40 pounds by the way, which is what I wrote first but then changed since I’m feeling real Canadian these days – and the fact I’m one of about 26 people in the lower mainland not wearing his nation’s colours – an attempt at media neutrality – I look just like anyone else in the crowd.
And as far as watching the actual events are concerned, my media badge is about as useful as a spoon in a gunfight, so if I want to watch Olympic medals won live I have to pay the same $14,000-a-seat nightmare anyone else does.
Of course there are ways to score tickets without paying but I’m not near tough enough to mug a scalper and I can’t seem to get close enough to Jennifer Hedger to flirt my way into the TSN van.
So, while I maintain hope that I will attend some Olympic action one way or another, my dream of sitting between Steve Yzerman and Bob Nicholson to watch Canada win gold is looking rather pipe-ish at this point.
However, having said that, being International Media is not without its perks. In fact, I’d say I have it pretty fantastic when you really look at it.
First of all, the hospitality room of this place is worth the entire trip all on its own. Each day I get to tiptoe past the mobs of people outside, slide by security – which is now a lot more “two-guys-off-the-street” and a lot less “10-policemen-with-low-tolerance-for-bomb-jokes” than it was Thursday – and make my way down the stairs to where the greatest Olympic-watching room I’ve ever been in awaits.
To my right, a booth with four staff members (volunteers I’m sure) at computer screens available to help us with whatever we might need, from contacts to where the bathroom is. To my left, a food counter that serves free coffee and $3 beer, 24 hours a day. Straight ahead, a few rows of these neat little rolling chairs with laptop trays you can pull up from the side, and four 50” televisions on four different channels showing round-the-clock coverage.
Plus the Main Media Centre, where all of the official Olympic media reside, is down by the water in that pointy-white thing – or Canada Place complex, as the locals apparently call it – and away from the real heart of the Vancouver action.
The International Media Centre on the other hand, is located right in the hub of all craziness, Robson Square. This allows those of us, who can’t be at the actual event anyway, an opportunity to be right there when other interesting happenings occur.
Take this afternoon, for example. I had been enjoying the day-one coverage with a few other media members in the lounge when I decided to go for a quick walk down Robson to meet a friend.
Here is what happened two blocks in:
The video unfortunately doesn’t show quite how big that mob was, but try to imagine how many people you could fit elbow-to-elbow over a city block and that would be a good start.
But the best part of that little jaunt for me wasn’t the flash mob at all. The best part for Scott Schmidt happened before it even started. I arrived a fair bit before the song began and so for a while it was just this gigantic mass of people standing still and not doing anything whatsoever.
So picture me standing on the side of the street with about 20,000 people for ten minutes waiting for some dance to begin. Then ask yourself how many of those minutes you think went by before I started making wisecracks about slow moving parades and low-level choreography?
Anyway, I got talking and laughing with some people when all of a sudden I felt a tap on the shoulder. Who do I turn around to see?
The Russian media. And they wanted to put me making these comments on Russian TV.
And so for the next few minutes, while thousands of people stood waiting for this dance, I transformed into Shmitz’k’y Says and broadcasted jokes at the expense of others, halfway around the world.
Surprised? Neither was I.