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Olympic dress rehearsal brings Olympic tests of patience

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Christa Case Bryant / The Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) Whistler's IGA, where I met a head honcho of the Norwegian ski team, has spared no effort in decorating for the Games – everything from color-coordinated streamers to banners of Canadian speedskaters including Cindy Klassen (left).

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When the curtains open on the Olympic stage Friday night, all is likely to be in perfect order. But in these last few days of dress rehearsals, there is ample opportunity for everyone from volunteers to journalists to bus drivers to develop an Olympic capacity for patience.

At Cypress Mountain just north of Vancouver, an army of folks has been working tirelessly to create a snowboard half-pipe with hay bales and snow shipped in via helicopters and dump trucks.

With temperatures nearing 50 degrees F. in Vancouver, it feels more like a rainy British spring than the Winter Olympics. But the Vancouver organizing committee (VANOC) is confident the half-pipe, as well as the other snowboard and freestyle skiing courses, will be ready when ladies take to the hill in the moguls competition on Saturday.

Meanwhile, on the winding road between Vancouver and Whistler, where the skiing and sliding events will take place, bus drivers from all over the US and Canada are being sent off with maps marked in green highlighter to try to find destinations most of them have never been to. A few have GPS, but most just have dogged determination.

But you can meet interesting people on the bus – like the rugged character (see photo) who says he cleaned all 17,498 windows in the athlete village with his wife in preparation for the Olympians who are beginning to trickle in. It took them from May to October – and he proudly proclaimed that the examination of his work had recently come back with a report that faulted only six of the windows.

While locals have been preparing for these Games for months, much of the turquoise-suited manpower that was imported for the Olympics is still in training. Canadians are definitely some of the friendliest hosts in the Western world, but there’s not quite that sense of precision and order that distinguished Beijing’s performance as Olympic host. At least not yet.

Of course, the great thing about a little inefficiency at the Olympics is that while you’re waiting for the people in charge to figure out the plan, there’s a high probability that you’ll encounter someone interesting. For example, while waiting in the grocery store line, I discovered that the man in front of me was Hermod Bjørkestøl, a big head honcho with the Norwegian cross-country ski team – which, in Norwegian terms, is like meeting a CEO from the NFL.

Also: Why the Olympics still matter

Follow Christa on Twitter as she tweets live from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games.

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