Off The Press

March 2, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Chantelle Lusebrink (back) and Andrea Collins

With a competitor from Sammamish in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and it being only five hours from town, who could resist an opportunity to take a road trip to see the games in person?

With a little help and hospitality from a friend of mine, and her family from Issaquah, I got to go and experience the convergence of the world’s cultures onto one city — Whistler, British Columbia.

The games brought more cultures to the alpine town than ever seen there before.

In any given moment, you’d move between a group of people speaking Russian, to one speaking Korean, to one speaking German.

The stereotypes were also there, as they exist for a reason and with some truth, the boisterous Americans and the young Asian teens that idolized the anime look. The stereotypes were embraced and cherished as the differences that make up the world versus being put down.

Understandably, there were long security lines — but nothing beyond what we Americans experience at the airport — and Canadians had a hard time keeping up with the demand for the coveted Canadian maple leaf mittens. Only that nearly made for an international incident when people were told they could only purchase two pairs per person.

Smartly, Whistler officials kept much of the mountain open for tourists, so you could strap on your skis and get close enough to the starting gate to catch a glimpse of the action for the men’s slalom or women’s giant slalom, which to my knowledge doesn’t happen at all winter venues.

If skiing wasn’t your cup of tea, tickets were held back from Internet sales, so you could purchase them at the venues for much cheaper than online.

Arriving at the ticket booth, I was floored to find tickets available for the women’s giant slalom, where Lindsay Vonn and Julia Mancuso, two giants in the world of American alpine, were competing alongside hometown favorite Yina Moe-Lange, of Sammamish.

Moe-Lange, a 16-year-old and Danish national, made her Olympic debut by holding her own against top world competitors. Where Vonn crashed on the difficult course under difficult conditions, Moe-Lange made it through both runs, ultimately taking 47th place.

It was a privilege to watch Moe-Lange’s Olympic beginning, and I hope she has many more performances to share with us.

Men’s bobsled became the hot ticket. Watching the gold medal-winning USA Night Train team streak by two feet in front of you and feeling the rush of their wind afterward is nearly indescribable.

Medal ceremonies also offered a chance to share in the Olympic spirit, as you could stand in line for free entry. You wouldn’t think the ceremony would be all that exciting, but watching the stars and stripes rise on a flag pole, with shining gold medals around the necks of our athletes was a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Most surprising, though, was how accessible the athletes were. At ease, they roamed around the village in their country’s gear. Team USA snowboarders proudly wore their distinctive plaid jackets while taking in a free Damian Jr. Gong Marley concert, and the South Korean bobsledders posed for photos willingly.

That access heightened with the culmination of their events.

Before heading to Vancouver, many athletes headed out for a night on the town, mingling with fans, purchasing beers they hadn’t been able to have in months — proving they are human — and standing in line for a traditional Canadian concoction of poutine: french fries smothered in brown gravy with hidden melted mozzarella curds. I’m convinced it is the best domestic product the country has, but doesn’t export.

The Whistler Olympic experience was nothing short of what you see on television — the rigor of competition, the unwavering dedication to country and all the makings for a large international soiree — with special thanks to the French, who provided many bottles of champagne wherever they roamed.

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