First day in Olympic workforce

There are few points in time in a big city like Vancouver when the streets are deserted and traffic is almost non-existent. This small window of calm and quiet, usually reserved only for country folk, is experienced by the early morning volunteers as they slip through the dark to their first shifts.

By Mark Reynolds

There are few points in time in a big city like Vancouver when the streets are deserted and traffic is almost non-existent. This small window of calm and quiet, usually reserved only for country folk, is experienced by the early morning volunteers as they slip through the dark to their first shifts.

The original plan was to have everyone take transit to their venue, however that became impossible for workers driving in from the surrounding Fraser Valley since there are no forms of transit before 5:30 a.m. So, the early workers had the pleasure of driving their vehicles uninhibited by the usual traffic gridlock. However their trips were not completely unhampered and this became the topic of conversation over the first coffee break of the day.

One worker described his road encounter with a Chihuahua and a skunk in the same block. Not to be outdone, another describes seeing a very large raccoon meandering across the usually busy Cambie Street. The question yet unanswered is where do these wild creatures, sans Chihuahua, go during the daylight hours?

With parked vehicles secure, the early morning walk to the worksite can also be interesting. Walking down the quiet streets, the odd couple strolled past with their arms affectionately wrapped around each other, which begs the question, “Are they up early or are they just going home from the previous night’s festivities?” I suspect the later.

Walking past Science World toward the Athletes Village is a strip of inland water and rocky beach the length of a football field. Overhead, the city sky is lit up dusk to dawn by beams of soft light that dance to the tune of a computer. This interactive display can be controlled by logging on a website and programming your own personal pattern. Watching the dancing lights, it almost looks like saucer-shaped alien crafts hovering above the clouds. Pretty cool. But I digress, back to the beach. The beams have lit up another oddity — Inukshuks.

Vancouver has chosen the Inukshuck (pronounced in-OOK-shook) as an emblem for the 2010 Olympic Games. Literally translated, it means, “stone man that points the way.” The traditional meaning is “someone was here” or “you are on the right path”. Vancouverites and visitors have taken that meaning and run with it down this football field strip of rocky shore. Inukshuks, hundreds of them, of all shapes and sizes dot the landscape. Some are very creative and up to four-feet tall. Funny thing is that they are all built on a precarious slope toward the water and amazingly seem to defy the law of gravity.

People seeing these impromptu rock figures just cannot seem to pass by without building one of their own. When I passed that way again later in the day, I saw a young man in a business suit putting the final touches on his creation. If people weren’t building their own Inukshuk they were snapping photos to treasure the memory.

Finally, the first shift at the venue, but first you have to make it in the door. Security procedures are the same for everyone. It’s a carbon copy of normal airport screening. Police and security officials scan your accreditation bar code, your carry-in property goes through a scanner, you remove everything from your pockets, walk through a metal detector and are wanded by another cheerful security person wielding a metal detection device who tells you to have a great day.

The little bit of nervous anticipation dissipates as you make it into the venue and are greeted by your fellow workers — all wearing exactly the same thing. Whew! You don’t stand out like a sore thumb — a blue Smurf perhaps — but appropriately attired in your 2010 outfit. The standard issue was two long sleeved T-shirts, a matching turquoise blue Gortex hooded jacket, fleece vest, navy pants and a cute little blue hat, all emblazoned with the Olympic rings and the supplier’s logo “The Hudson’s Bay Company.”

The value of each outfit is $850 and is the property of VANOC until you complete four shifts of your commitment. One little phrase may go unnoticed by some of the recipients — a small label stitched to the inside left pocket of the jacket that reads “With Glowing Hearts.”

The first day may have been a little disorganized, but we carried on — with glowing hearts!

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