Old pal Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, on his 19th day in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, where he is a media volunteer:
“In the three-block walk from Canada Line station to the office this morning, I saw: Three children wrapped from head to toe in rain gear, with only their eyes and noses visible, just about the cutest things I’ve seen here … a man sitting on the curb with his hat out, his blue eyes pleading … the woman volunteer traffic-directing volunteer, still smiling … no hotdog vendor … three very bleary-eyed teenagers who clearly had not been to bed … dozens of Canadians walking in the rain toward the Olympic cauldron
“Breakfast: Cookie. Whole cookie. Entire tasty week-old chocolate chip cookie. Reminded me of basketball season. Factoid from Olympic historian extraordinaire Jim Constandt: Benjamin Spock, 1924 rowing Olympian, became a pediatrician and knew a thing or two about child care.
“I wish you could be here to watch this USOC staff at work. Amazing. I’m not good at trading pins, but Nicki Hancock did bring our ‘trader’ varieties here in the silly hope that I would work up the courage to dive into the mosh pit. It never happened, but we gave my pins to the volunteers in our office and said, ‘get what you can for them.’
“The Olympics is a remarkable venue for bonding and team work. Folks are thrown together in a strange country for a month, with no choice but to work it out. A friendly smile can mean more than all of the chocolate sundaes in the world. I have invited at least 1,000 people to visit Nicki and me in Kansas City. Will someone please tell her?
“Lunch: Leftover Chinese noodles. Weather: Drippy morning. Smell of piney woods and the ocean all rolled into one, like Wyoming meets Waikiki. No seagull. That window shade was low over the mountains today. High 49, low 46.
“Sat at the desk and distributed tickets all day, greeting friends and promising to stay in touch. Oh, forgot to tell you that we get NBC and CBS from Seattle at the hotel. I kinda prefer to watch Canada’s networks, including its weather channel. But I’m lousy at converting Celsius to Fahrenheit when the Celsius is below zero.
“Dinner: Chicken in wok. Spoon of ice cream. At Cordero’s, the restaurant on the water front, near the marina where the sea planes take off. A young woman gave me a hug in Hudson’s Pub last night. ‘Do you remember me?’ she said, while my friends looked on in curiosity. ‘You gave me the last opening-ceremonies ticket in Beijing. It was the greatest entertainment event in the history of the world and I got to go!’ I THINK I remember.
“A young Washington, D.C., reporter is from Oklahoma City. He showed up today in a Sooners sweatshirt.
“The attention devoted to tomorrow’s hockey game is, well, it’s Super Bowl-esque. Volunteer du jour: Pamela, plump and pretty in her parka, perky and perhaps 55 years old. From North Vancouver, bus depot monitor. ‘This is my favorite moment,’ she said as the time came for us to depart. And then she paused and grinned before saying, ‘gentlemen, start your engines.’
“The volunteers each got a parka, two t-shirts, a fleece vest and a toque, all bright blue. They call themselves Smurfs. If you need something at the venue, the proper response is, ‘I don’t know, let’s ask a Smurf.’ Usually the Smurf can give the answer. These volunteers made the Vancouver Olympics successful.
“Oh, the crowds downtown tonight! Amazing. Yes, there are young people who’ve had too much alcohol. They don’t seem to be causing trouble, they’re mostly walking around and singing ‘Oh Canada’ poorly. The authorities are handling it very well. There are police every 20 yards or so. I think open containers are against the law, because the police frequently are seen pouring beer into the gutters. One reporter said her chief memory of the Vancouver games will be the tipsy people downtown. Not me; it all seems pretty harmless. Heck, I was 19 once. 39 once.
“My memory? The way the Canadians have embraced the games. Tonight we saw a crowd of fans around a vehicle near the International Broadcast Center. We thought rock stars must be in the white van. And we weren’t far wrong: the Canadian men’s curling team members stepped out and the fans went nuts. They high-fived the crowd and posed for photos. It was all quite happy, pretty much summarized the locals’ love for sports and for the Olymics.
“Vancouver Fact that surely must be true because somebody told me: That cannon in Stanley Park has been fired every night for 90 years and more. I think Canadians don’t have curtains. At night you can see right into many houses and condos. It’s like at the zoo.
“These people are SO friendly. A young woman gave me her seat on the train this morning. I guess I was the ugly American, because I took it. What a privilege to be here! Every day is an adventure. With glowing hearts, eh?”