You never know where life is going to take you. (This is a cliché and I always tell my memoir writing workshop participants never to use these sayings but today it’s OK.) Four years ago I was given a Swiss flag in Whistler and a request to reunite it with its owner in Switzerland when I could. And it happened a few weeks ago.
In 2010 I had the job of a lifetime as part of the Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games. Posted in Whistler, B.C. as a Nordic sport writer for the Olympic News Service and Paralympic News Service, I met and worked with people from around the world. It was an interesting job, despite the long hours, and after my job was done for the day I hopped on a bus and headed for the swanky home I shared with five others.
Six women were packed into a condo near downtown Whistler. There was me, the Canadian, my roommate, the Norwegian, a Brit, another with dual Canadian and American citizenship, her American friend and a Swiss Ms. We all held different roles and therefore had different hours but somehow, we all became friends.
Flags from our representing countries were hung up around our living room (that was also one woman’s bedroom) during the opening ceremonies. There was a small party that night with other VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) employees, each person cheering loudly as his or her country walked into the B.C. Place Stadium. This was the only time I would be allowed to clap for Canada; otherwise I had to be impartial.
At the end of the Olympics some workers were staying on for the Paralympics, like me, while others were returning home. The Swiss Ms, Cornelia, gave me her Swiss flag and told me I had to bring it back to her. I had been to Switzerland a few years before but hadn’t considered a future trip.
“I’ll try to return it to you,” I said. But in my mind I thought there was no way I was travelling to Europe in the next year or so. There were other priorities like finding another job and a place to live. So I packed the red and white flag away in my things and since then, have been moving it around and around with me. Each time I packed and unpacked, from Whistler to various apartments in Revelstoke and Calgary, I would uncover the flag and be reminded of my promise.
After getting married almost two years ago, my husband and I decided to have a delayed honeymoon so we could save up money. When we were discussing options we talked about going to the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Switzerland! I could finally return Cornelia’s flag – right before the 2014 Sochi Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games.
Cornelia and I made plans to meet in Zurich on the first day of 2014 and that’s when I passed over the flag. Not with much pomp or ceremony but we did take a photo to mark the moment. During these past holidays not only did I get to catch up with my Swiss friend but I also got a chance to meet up with two other Whistler roommates I hadn’t seen since 2010. One was in Alberta over the Christmas holidays and the other had us over to her house for a thoroughly delicious moose supper in Oslo, Norway (the second part of our honeymoon destination.) You never know where life is going to take you.
The countdown is on for the start of the Sochi Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games. I know several people who will be working behind the scenes in Russia. I was one of them four years ago as part of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Winter Games and will miss being part of the team this time.
Posted in Whistler as a Nordic sport writer for the Olympic News Service and Paralympic News Service, I met and worked with people from around the world. I was a cross-country ski and Nordic combined “expert.” My job was to write stories for the journalists waiting eagerly for copy. Some reporters were new to winter sports and needed help understanding who was on the podium, who wasn’t and why. I told them.
I liked my job and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Olympics/Paralympics even though I didn’t relish the relentless soup and sandwiches we had for lunch every day for a few months. I also didn’t care for the term we VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) employees were given because of our blue uniforms – “Smurfs.” It wasn’t an endearing nickname although now I admit, it’s kind of funny.
The moments that stand out for me during my job at the Olympics/Paralympics aren’t ones involving the athletes and their gold finishes, it’s more the excitement of the Smurfs before the opening ceremonies. It’s about making new friends. It’s about Whistler being turned into a global village. It’s about being part of a legacy, even if the experience for me was brief.
Today’s blog piece isn’t so much a story as a look back for me. A reminiscence of a period and place that was truly invigorating and tiresome at the same time. Now it’s someone else’s job to watch every slip and slide and jump. To write the daily previews and reviews. To gather stories about athletes and coaches. Friday is the Olympic opening ceremonies so it’s time to pass the torch. Good luck.