Bill Hancock’s Olympic adventure: Day 18
Old pal Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, on his 18th day in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, where he is a media volunteer:
“Breakfast: Banana. Peanut butter crackers. Factoid from Olympic historian extraordinaire Jim Constandt who ably staffs the help desk: Albert Spaulding, 1900 shooting Olympian, founded the sporting goods company.
“I have traded books with my friend Jim, a volunteer for the USOC. Jim wrote a report about the Olympic trees—oak seedlings that were given to the gold medalists at Hitler’s 1936 games. I love the idea of the trees. Jim exhaustively researched what happened to each of those saplings. Several are still living. The whereabouts of most is unknown. Several were thrown away by athletes who didn’t quite understand that trees are lovelier than poems. Others were confiscated by customs officials who were worried about strange diseases like oak-steoporosis. One tree, won by wrestler Frank Lewis, lived many years in Stillwater. Here’s what Jim wrote about the Oklahoma oak, which was in bad shape when Lewis got home: ‘(Lewis) turned it over to the (OSU) college of forestry to see if the tree could be nursed back to health. A year or two later, it had grown so tall that it was too big for the greenhouse. Frank decided to have it transplanted in front of his fraternity, Sigma Chi, on the OSU campus, where a plaque identified the tree. The Olympic Oak grew to be tall, healthy and beautiful. However, it died in 1990 after being struck by lightning several times.’ How about that!
“Lunch: cookie, M&M’s, Triscuit. Still no McDonald’s. Will make it. The big McDonald’s in the Main Press Center is pretty comfortable; there’s even an electric-log fireplace surrounded by comfortable chairs where folks can pretend they’re in a warm ski lodge. There’s also a fireplace in Hudson’s Pub, the watering hole near our hotel where writers have begun to meet and greet nightly.
“I did an Uncle Billy this morning: walked to the USA Today office with tickets and left the tickets on a desk. Fortunately Mister Potter was not the attendant and I got my tickets back without the help of Clarence. Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!
“Weather: Rained all day. ‘It’s pouring out there,’ a British woman said as we looked at the bay. Pouring? This was a gentle shower. Clearly they don’t have good ol’ Kansas-Oklahoma thunderstorms in England. Our rain is like castor oil: nasty, but over quickly. This rain brought out the smell of piney woods and ocean, like Cripple Creek meets Coney Island. High 48, low 44. No seagull. No mountains. A few bits of Angel hair in the valleys. If I lived here, I would get a balcony and sit there and look at these mountains 24 hours a day, with an hour or two out for college football in season.
“Took two nice little walks downtown in the rain, which doesn’t seem to bother the local folks. They get by just fine with umbrellas and parkas. I guess they’ve grown accustomed to this place. And to wet feet.
“They say queue; we say line. Watched a double queue a block long today, people waiting in the rain to touch an Olympic medal. I can’t think of anything I’d wait in line three hours to touch. Actually they brought three medals to the Main Press Center this morning and I rushed down for the photo op. Only two guys were in line in front of me; one of them got a photo made of himself grinning with a gold medal, then the guards said, ‘sorry, no more’ and I was shut out. Bronze medal. Rats.
“Went into the Roots store near Commerce and Akard, er, Robson and Granville. Cute stuff, hordes of people. I touched a $500 windbreaker. Walked in the rain to the cauldron. People continue to flock there. It’s a steady, happy, respectful procession.
“Tough decision tonight: medals ceremony (oh, excuse me, ‘victory ceremony’) or Apollo Ono. Chose the medals. Every night there’s a ceremony in the domed stadium where yesterday’s winners get their hardware. Basically they’ve curtained off the stadium, Final Four style. Fans sat on three sides of a big stage. I guess 15,000 people were there. The announcers in the big ol’ dome kept the crowd posted as to the score of the Canada hockey game.
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