In Whistler, one of the two Vancouver Olympics sites, bears are testing out the luge track. And did I just hear that the Brazilian cross-country women won the 4x5 km relay?
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/AP
Whistler, BC Canada
You'd be wrong.
Here’s a Top 5 list of things the TV cameras are probably not going to share with you:
1. Gear: When athletes arrive at the airport, they are herded through “processing” – a.k.a. an all-expenses-paid shopping spree for Olympic gear. They are handed a cart and then walk through a cavernous room filled with Olympic watches, shiny red sneakers, and leather Olympic jackets (you have to pay a little for those). Chris Mazdzer, a first-time US Olympian competing in luge, told me he got something like 100 pieces of clothing.
2. Timing: At the biathlon range, officials with Omega were fine-tuning their technology to ensure that they could deliver instantaneous displays on the scoreboard when athletes come into the shooting range. In a tiny hut, Ralph Kleinekathofer, whose title roughly translates to “Lord of the targets,” oversees the rivers of cables coming in from the little computers installed in each of the 30 targets. Omega, the official timekeeper, has 250 tons of equipment here to ensure the medals go to the right folks.
3. Announcements: Did the Brazilian women's cross-country team actually win the Olympic 4x5 km relay today – 16 days ahead of schedule? No – but they seemed like a good choice for making sure all the P.A. systems are go. Brazil isn’t exactly a contender, but check out how one Brazilian trains for skiing on sand.
4. Trail design: Long before any athletes in tights were humming around the stadium at the cross-country venue, Hermod Bjørkstøl of Norway was tromping around the forested hills with his partner-in-crime from the 2002 Olympics, John Aalberg, trying to decide where to cut the trails. A nature lover, he used a preexisting road and an old logging path to minimize the venue’s environmental impact – something the Canadians seem to have embraced in their overall design of the Olympics.
5. Ursine Olympians: The luge track, which snakes through the trees – avoiding the need for a clear cut – has proved extremely friendly to wildlife. One Canadian luge athlete described how he was set to launch himself down the track when he saw a “huge black thing." Next thing he knew, a bear had its claws in the side of the track. His teammates have also had run-ins with bears, while visiting Europeans apparently have pet local raccoons.