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I really shouldn't be writing this right now...I've got a 4 page paper to churn out in the 4 hours I have before I leave for the airport, and at the rate my procrastinating is going, I'm not going to write those pages still I've already landed at YVR. I just thought it would be a good idea for me to somewhat introduce myself since I'm pretty new here.

I've always really liked the Olympics. I can remember watching them in 1992 when the divers launched themselves into what semmed like astronomical hights above Barcelona. Originally, Atlanta was going to be my Olympic début. I had an uncle living there and my parents had arranged the trip...unfortunately the day before we left, the bomb exploded in Olympic park, and trip was cancelled.

When Rogge invited the youth of the world to the the Beijing Olympics I took him at his word. In 2004 I told my mom that in 4 years time I would at those Beijing Olympics. Understandably she didn't believe me. My dad, in an attempt to placate me, said that Beijing wasn't going to happen, but he promised to try and make it to the Vancouver edition two years later.

Flash forward to 2007, and my goal to get to Beijing was still little more than a pipe dream. On October 25, 2007 my father lost a 3 year battle with cancer. Needless to say, the Olympics were the last thing on my mind. That changed, however, four days later when I noticed a little email in my inbox. It's subject line read: Your Olympic Ticket Purchase Confirmation. I had completely forgotten about the ticket request I had filled out on a whim months before. I had been granted tickets to the Olympics - my dream had suddenly come back to life.

Between October 2007, and August of 2008 I worked 3 part-time jobs in addition to being a full time honors student. It was hard, but I did get to Beijing. I spend 10 amazing days at the the biggest sporting event in the world. I can't put into words how wonderful of an experience it was...what 20 year old wouldn't love to spend a week unsupervised on the opposite side of the planet? Even more wonderful than the Olympics, though, was the journey I took to get to them. For me, the work and planning that went into making my dream happen was the cathartic experience I needed after my father's death. I needed to learn that I could still achieve all of my dreams regardless of the obstacles I faced.

And now, in just a few hours, I'll head back to the Olympics, this time with my mother in tow. On Friday night when the stadium's lights dim and the final countdown begins it will be the fulfilment of another dream. And for me, that is the very reason that I am so in love with the Olympics: every day of the Games, someone's dream is coming true. I can't think of another situation that would so rewarding. Because of that, I want to get my Master's in sports management. One day I'm going to work for the Olympics, and I'll actually be in the business of making dreams come true.

But enough of all that cliché sob story!

I'll be in Vancouver from the 11th to the 17th. I've got tickets to the Opening Ceremony, ski jumping, biathlon, speed skating, pairs figure skating, luge, hockey, curling, and snowboard cross. I'll be posting a lot from my phone, but I'll do my best to update with pictures at the end of each day. You might want to follow me on Twitter (link in the sig) for the most updated. I'm also going to check out all of the best clubs Vancouver has to offer. I'm also on a quest! Aside from the games, themselves, I'm probably most excited to try all the crazy kinds of potato chips they have in Canada: Curry, bacon, and Roasted Chicken!!!!! And, hey, if I just happen to run into Canada's greatest exports (i.e. Ryan Ryenolds, Shawn Ashmore, and Chris Craigmen), then I wont be too disappointed either. ;)

BTWs, the 10th was my 22nd birthday - can I get some love?


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...I am tired...

I landed at YVR at about 4:30 this afternoon and quickly ran to my hotel dropped off my bags, and then went down to the CoSport will call office. There's something about holding the tickets in your hands that makes it all so much more real. I then went down to David Lam Park to check out Live City Yaletown. I had a blast at the Coke pavilion and their fun games. I especially enjoyed dominating in field at the polar bear swimming race. Since I was the winner the polar bear took a picture with me. There were also several places where you could be photographed holding the torch.

Finally, the main show began with the same performance that we've all seen from VANOC's youtube videos. It was a little cliché, but it still got me super pumped to see the flame arrived. There were several speakers including Gordan Campbell, the mayor of Vancouver(can't remember his name, but he got a lot of boos from the crowd), and John Furlong. After the lighting of the cauldron there were fireworks and the fountain/projection show.

Most of the crowd seemed to die out after that, but I hung around and checked out the other sponsor pavilions (Panasonic's 3D Olympic film is pretty ballin). I didn't get to try any of the food from the "taste the world" concession stand. I think the countries represented were Canada, Jamaica, Italy, Greece, India, and there is one other that I'm forgetting.

After I left the park I wandered around town for a while, visiting the count down clock and the new convention centre. I did happen to see something that may or may not have been a part of the lighting scheme for the outdoor cauldron...I'm honestly not sure what I saw, but it was clear that they were practising something (i.e. lots of pointing and positioning, 'you here, you there' kind of stuff).

All in all, it was a great day. Tomorrow I'm going to follow the torch relay for a bit then head out to the Sochi2014 house to practice my Russia (I am getting a BA in it, after all) and then heading to the big show at BC Place.

Here's a last titbit for you...Do you know just how awesome desert can be at Canadian McDonalds? They have creme brule, smartie, and rolo McFlurrys. Needless to say, these have been added to my 'must eat' list.




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I had written out a really long and detailed review of the ceremony...but then my computer crashed, and it's way too late for me to even begin to try an rewrite it. In short, I really enjoyed the ceremony tonight. It, in my opinion had oodles of the one thing Beijing's lacked: humanity. The ceremony wasn't an stunningly impressive as Beijing's, but it was relatable; a quality that the Chinese never even thought to consider. I feel like I really learned something about Canada tonight. Not something tangible, per se, that I could take a test on, but I really feel like I actually know what Canada is about (or at least in part).

I thought the music tonight was phenomenal, especially 'Hallelujah' and 'Everyday Miracle.' (exceptions to this would be the national and Olympic anthems) If you haven't gotten the soundtrack to the show I really suggest you do. It includes the slam poem (which I thought was epic) and all of the quotes.

The cauldron...well, stuff happens, right? What can you really do about it? Nothing? Well, then let's not get too worked up about it.

I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on the subject later on when my brain is functioning.

In other news, I accidentally ran into Vanfan2010 blogger Andrea today. It was so great to meet someone that had been such a great asset in the lead-up to the games.

I'm off to bed as I've got to get up at the butt crack of dawn to get to ski jumping and then biathlon tomorrow.










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Day 1...or Day 3...depending on how you want to look at it. First, I feel like I should congratulate myself on beginning this update before 1am in the morning - a feat that as not been done on any of my earlier posts. In fact, I am actually writing this in bed, so I think that I may get a whole of 7 hours of sleep tonight...something that I truly don't think has happened in weeks (can you tell I'm a college student trying to finish their last year?).

Today has been a long day...I boarded the SeaBus for the Olympic Bus Network's pick up point at about 4:50am and quickly made it onto my bus. I've heard the OBN system getting some bad reports, but I personally didn't have any problems. I waited in line a whole of 5 minutes before boarding my bus and heading off to Whistler. I'm sure the drive up the Sea to Sky highway was beautiful - I wouldn't know; I fell asleep before we left the parking lot.

Once we got to Whistler the walk from the bus drop off point to security seemed like miles. I'm sure it really wasn't, but I was tired and hungry; plus I was stuck behind a family with small kids (strollers + snow = not the best of ideas). Once we did get to the gate, however, security was a breeze. Then it was just a "quick" walk up the trail to the stadiums. 'Quick' wouldn't be my word to describe it, but that's what the volunteer said. I'd say the walk was about 15 minutes, but the scenery is so beautiful it's hard to complain about being forced to walk through it. It's while walking through the forest that I really began to understand how appropriate Vancouver's 'look' was. While the look hasn't blown me away when it's being used in the city, it looks STUNNING amidst the snow and forest of Whistler. All the subtle shading and texture effects really pop in person. My photos don't do it justice, I'm afraid.



The ski jumping competition was, of course, out of this world. I had only ever seen the sport on TV, and it was so cool to see it live. I really wish I was able to see the Men's Large Hill event, and I even wish those crazy female jumpers had won just so I'd get to go and see more of it. Seeing Ammann win the first medal of the games was a highlight, as was seeing such a good finish from one of our American jumpers, Peter, who is a really nice guy.






After the competition ended, I met up with my mom for the Women's 7.5k biathlon sprint. I'm not going to lie...I didn't like it. Actually, the better observation was that I didn't get it. I knew that they obviously had to ski and then shoot, but it wasn't until the event was half over that a group of Norwegians were kind enough to explain what was going on. On the bright side, however, I did get to try some of the food at the concession stand. I know it's just a concession stand with over priced food, but I always think its funny what they serve (i.e. "yeli" ice cream in Beijing to 'regional golden potatoes' poutine, and chili here in Vancouver).


After the biathlon ended mom and I made the mass exodus down the nature trail. Along the walk there were demonstrations of totem pole making and snow carving which were pretty interesting. The first snag of the day came at this point. Transportation leaving the park was an absolute hot mess. There was very little direction on the part of the staff (no signs, all done via 1 guy with a megaphone) and it ended in a huge bottle neck through a tiny little gate, through which on 2 bus loads at a time were let through. I'll chalk it up to it being the first day and them not knowing what works best yet, but it was still a jarring end to what had been a great morning.

Mom and I spent the rest of the evening exploring Whistler village. It rained steadily the entire time, so we spent most of the time ducking into and out of many of the shops. The highlight of the evening defiantly would have to be sitting in a McDonald's (the rolo McFlurry is to die for, we absolutely should have these in America) that was packed to standing room only watching the lady's moguls. The excitement over the silver medal was contagious, let alone my own excitement at winning gold.

At this point I feel the need to stop from the narrative and comment on two things. First, a huge thanks is due to all the volunteers of these Olympics. I've heard them called 'smurfs,' 'blue people,' and even 'avatars' in their bright blue uniforms, but the truth is that they are a group of AMAZING people. From the moment I arrived in the airport the volunteers I've come in contact with have been nothing short of exemplary; not only helpful, but happy, generous, and kind. Canada should be proud to have these people being at the forefront of the face-to-face interaction with visitors.

Second, I'm so glad to be here. I don't mean 'here' simply as being at the Olympics, but 'here' as in surrounded by Canadian people. Canadian have always had the reputation of being kind, but the spirit that has been shown on the streets tonight is simply incredible. It's impossible to walk a block in this city without passing a hockey jersey and at least a hundred pair of red mittens. I've heard 'O Canada' sung so many times on the streets that I think I've almost got in memorized. The energy that this town has created is palpable and contagious. How anyone could protest in such an exuberant atmosphere is beyond me. Thank you, Canada.

Tomorrow I'm going to a special VIP brunch hosted by the USOC where I plan to distribute copies of my resume, and then I'm going to speed skating and to pairs figure skating. Although, it's just Saturday, it hurts to think that I'm flying home come Wednesday morning.

Below is another one of the videos I've shot; this one being of the 'Sacred Grove' segment of the ceremony. I'll post more vids when I get the time to upload them.

Also, I've gotten a few messages from people that have been reading and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate them all.

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Um, so was I the only one that was surprised to learn that the sun still existed? Finally, after a hot mess weekend of rain, the sun appeared in Vancouver! It made for a glorious day...I was able to venture out in only a track jacket and the sun seemed to put everyone in an even better mood than normal.

The day started off with a 9:30 Valentine's Day brunch hosted by the USOC at USA House. I really recommend that people go there and check it out. The only part that is open is the store, but it's worth the visit because the have some pins that are only available at that store, and all the money you spend there goes directly to the athletes. The brunch was nice. I got to talk a lot of USOC employees (calling them my future co-workers is too much, right?), and got some good advice on how to get ahead in the industry. The brunch was also attended by several athletes. Most famous was Nastia Luikin, but Jim Neighboors, Kelly Merrit, the girl that won the first ever woman's moguls gold, '92 - '94 bob sleigh team member, and a member of the woman's swim team that beat the East German team in 1976 (sorry, too tired to remember names). It was a great morning over all, and I was able to grab so nice pins and the uber cool team USA track jacket from the store.


After that mom and I scooted down to Richmond for a little speed skating action. The only two female skaters I know were both racing today (Klassen and Hughes) and they didn't disappoint. It was a great event, and it was great to see Canada win another medal. We all know how stunningly beautiful the oval is, so it disappointed me to see much of the front of it masked by those garish white tents. The building still looked great, but the simplicity of it was gone unfortunately.






After the event ended, we hurried to a taxi that would take us to the Pacific Coliseum for the Pairs Figure Skating short programme. This was the first time I'd ever seen figure skating in person, and I have to admit that I prefer it when accompanied with commentary telling what I'm supposed to look at. During some of the performances I caught myself focusing more on trying to figure out the different aspects of the look's graphics than on the skaters themselves. Even though I was a little bored, the competition was great and so was the crowd (even though it was a little sparse). Across the arena from me I spotted Joe Bidden, Peggy Flemming, and Vonetta Flowers. The venues was by far the most disappointing for me. Maybe it was due to having just come from the amazing oval, but I just felt like the place was unfinished...like half of the decorations were missing, not to mention that was almost nothing outside. I know the look budget took a hit, but I didn't know it was haemorrhaging... Not to bash Pacific Coliseum, but its just not cute. :( Transportation back to down town, however, was expertly done by the volunteer staff.




I finally got a chance to visit the Olympic store in the Bay and grab a few pins. It was crazy in there and it kinda made my claustrophobia kick in. The International Pavilion on the 5th floor, however, was really cool. I'd love to get some of the Finnish stuff.

In other news, AT&T forgot to activate my international data plan for my cell, and I now have a $500 bill....and I'm going to go and watch the Today Show on Grouse Mountain in an hour...they're having k.d. Lang, the poet from the OC, Hannah Kearny, and Wayne Gretzkey on today.

Sorry for the short post...I'm beyond tired tonight.

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I feel like death. Well, my feet do, and my eyelids, they feel extra deathly. I feel like a professional all-night puller, but these Games are wearing me out. To pick up from where we last left off, I finally got to bed about 1:50, which was actually pretty descent, until you think about how I had a wake up call at 2:20 for my 2:45 cab to Grouse Mountain. I not going to pretend that I actually watch the Today Show, but I felt obligated to go to their taping today because 1) it was the appropriately touristy thing to do, and 2) Wayne Gretzky was going to be there. Now, I'm not a huge hockey fan, and I'd never actually been to a game (will change tomorrow, but I figured that any chance to meet anyone called the 'Great One' shouldn't be passed up. So, up me and mom went to Grouse Mountain at 3am...

We got to the gondola in what we thought was plenty of time. We were numbers 66 and 67 and told that the first 100 people would get inside for the show. Well, that turned out to be a half truth. We were indeed numbers 66 and 67, but in was only the first 60 or so people that were allowed inside, and, as we learned when we got to the top of the mountain to see 60 people standing comfortably inside the chalet, those 60 spots would have to be claimed by arriving the night before. It wasn't ideal, but I didn't really mind the idea of standing outside since much of the show is filmed outside.

My first thoughts were that Meredith Vierra looks so much older in person. I know she wears makeup on TV, but she reminded me of Madonna and how she always looks really good on TV and then you see a candid picture of here and she looks like a crinkly hairless bunny rabbit. But the show was pretty cool. The location was nice, as the pond was serving as a hockey practice rink at the same time (what parent makes their child practice hockey at 4am is beyond me, but there were loads of them). There was also a big fire pit that we all stood around.


Eventually Wayne made his way down the stairs and, briefly outside to greet the crowd. He and my mom exchanged a few words, but I was too busy being behind Matt Lower as he interviewed Picabo Street (In my mind, TV time > meeting Canadian Jesus). I also got to see Hannah Kearny and the men's nordic combined team including silver medal winner Johnny Spillane. The medals look great in person, and are much bigger than the looked in the pictures I had seen.




Soon the novelty wore off and the frostbite set in, so we made our way back to our hotel. We only had one event today: Luge, women's qualifying runs. Making it to Lonsdale Quay was quick and easy, and I even had extra time to grab another rolo McFlurry. Now that I was awake, I could finally see just how picturesque the trip up to Whistler was. The Sliding Centre is a great venue. I'd never been to a luge race (I should just state here that I've never been to ANY winter sport event ever), and I was really exciting to see one, especially since all of the attention this venue was getting. I got to meet the families of some of the American lugers, and I had fun just walking up and down the track. For me, half of the fun of the event was trying to capture a photo of the luger as they sped by. I was generally unsuccessful, but I did come out with a few good ones here and there.





On the way there our bus driver missed the turn, but I think that, as a whole, the transportation was much, much better than it was on Saturday. Going back to Vancouver, everything went flawlessly.

A few random notes:

- I really appreciate that each venue has a slightly different menu in it's concession stand. "Bobs in sleighs" were the surprise add in at the sliding centre. I just think it's a nice touch; it can get boring having the same selection at every event you attend for two weeks.

- Rolo McFlurries are amazing

- I finally tried a ketchup flavoured potato chip...it was disgusting, but I bought a bag to take home to a friend

- I think I'm getting to the age where I find teenagers annoying...I feel like I can't complain too much because it just a few years ago that I, myself, was a dumb, loud mouth teen, but still, being stuck on a SeaBuss with 20 or so Canada crazed teenagers isn't as fun as I used to would have thought.



Tomorrow is my last full day in Vancouver! Since my snowboard cross got cancelled I'm going to the USA v. Switzerland hockey game and then to some curling. Also got a personal invite to stop by the Sochi House, so I'm going to squeeze that in sometime as well. And then, at some point before Wednesday night, I still have to write that 4 page paper!

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You guys, I'm failing at life...you know that paper that I was trying to write before I left for Vancouver? Well...it was due yesterday...and I'm just now on the second page of it. But it's okay! I'm going to update about my last day in Vancouver as a destresser.

What a glorious last day in Vancouver! Tuesday was bright and sunny, and I even got to walk around without a jacket (something I haven't been able to do at home for months). I started the day off by going down to Canada's Northern Territories House. It was really interesting to learn about how different life up there was, and I enjoyed all of the displays. If I was richer I would have loved to pick up one of the musk ox wool scarves...they would have served me well on those nights in Whistler.

Mom and I then tried to go to the Canadian Mint's pavilion, but decided against it once we got there and saw the time. We figured we had seen enough of the medals when we got to see the silver that belonged to Johnny Spillane. From there we headed down to Canada Hockey Place for the USA v. Switzerland. It was my first ever hockey game and I absolutely loved it! We don't really have hockey here in Arkansas, but next time I get a chance, I'm definitely going to a game. Hearing almost the entire arena chant 'USA' was chilling...I felt like I was watching that one movie about the 1980 'miracle on ice.'



Once the games was ended, we headed out to the Vancouver Olympic Centre. We had the option to take a shuttle from the SkyTrain stop, but since the weather was so nice we decided to just walk to the stadium. Originally I had gotten the curling tickets because I thought that curling could be really cool in person...like some 'hidden gem' of sports of something that I was about to discover. Well, all I discovered was that I didn't really like curling when it wasn't accompanied with NBC's cometary. Maybe I'll try to learn more about it and go again in 4 years.




Here mom and I parted ways. She stayed at curling while I went to check out Sochi World. I got off the Canada line at Yaletown and walked along the sea wall, and I'm so glad I did. It was such a perfect afternoon for a stroll. Once I got to Sochi World I was greeted by lots of round-faced Russians who were all very impressed by my slight Russian speaking skills. They gave me this ticket (our story was that I found it on the ground) that let me into this VIP upstairs balcony type thing. It was just for VIPs and athleets, but I was only person there at the time so it was kind of anti climactic. The rest of the place is pretty cool. There's a massive (the size of my dorm room) scale modal of Sochi with all of the event venues marked in miniature. It look lots of pics because it was so impressive. Upstairs they had a theatre with bar where you could watch the games, but also features lives music and a flying acrobat. There were also huge video hockey games and several lounges sponsored by various Russian companies. One of them, Сибирбанк, I believe was really sweet projections all over the place and had an internet cafe (where my last post came from). There were also lounges sponsored by the company that is building the railroad between Sochi and the mountain venues, and from a communications company. There were also some cool uses of the logo with its "infill concept." After scouring around for pins (they didn't have any, but they did give me a lanyard), I headed out and headed towards Concord Place.









Concord Place was fun. I visited the Saskatchewan Pavilion first, and tried the fresh berry tarts which were awesome. From there I went on the the Masison du Quebec and sampled some really expensive and really nasty cheese. I felt like my 'ignorant American' status when people started at me when I sat on the floor to eat my cheese. From there I went to the Ontario pavilion. By this time Canada was playing Norway on hockey so not to many people were interested in the line for the 4D Ontario movie. The film itself was pretty cool, a lot like "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" at Disney World. The best parts are when a guy in a canoe splashes you and water is actually thrown on you, and then when kids are shown drinking hot chocolate they pump the chocolate smell into the air.







From there I met up with mom at the hotel so we could start packing. We went out to eat at Red Robbin later on. We ate there with my dad when we had come to Vancouver a few years earlier on family vacation. Walking back to our hotel we accidentally walked right into the nightly fireworks show in Robson Square, which was pretty cool. From there I went and stood in line at the Bay to visit the Olympic store, and when I finally checked out I changed clothes and headed out to this club called Odessy. It was pretty twinky, but I didn't mind since the music was good and I got to talk to a lot of cool guys. Alas, J.R. Celski was't there. :(

At some point I made it home and then somehow got to the airport. Twelve hours later I was home.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Doesn't it seem just a little bit colder outside without the cauldron burning in Vancouver?

It is so nice to be reminded of the unconquerable nature of the human spirit. For me these two weeks have been a sort of daily reaffirmation of humanity, and Canada had been a reminder that we are all able to live in a better way. It's almost like, for just two short weeks, we all got to see the world the way we wish it were.

Hopefully, we'll see it again in two years time...London is just 878 days away, after all.

I also feel like I've learned a lot about Canada in these past two weeks. I'm afraid to say that perhaps, as an American, I've under appreciated the differences between our two countries. To any Canadians that read this, I'm sorry, but thank you for educating me on them.

Below are a few videos I took...all are non competition videos, as those are still not allowed on YouTube. I've also got about 900 pictures on FaceBook for anyone that would like to see them. You can add me by searching barlow @ uark . edu

I guess I'll end my last post with the answer to a question I've gotten asked several times: What does 'the hour in the grass' mean. I gleaned it from the works of Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson, and I think that at the closing of such a magnificent Games its meaning rings even more true.

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass,

of glory in the flower,

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;

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