Bring on the hockey - and some Olympian atmosphere
Defenceman Brent Seabrook and the rest of Team Canada start their quest for hockey gold tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The differences between Whistler and the Vancouver-Richmond axis couldn't be more marked.
Whistler is compact. You take the chairlift to the sports, instead of the SkyTrain. The most popular fashion accessory is a snowboard, slung over the shoulder just so. It's quaint and cozy - maybe too cozy. At yesterday's men's downhill, there were cowbells and real snow and a chill in the air (thought not too much). It felt almost like the Winter Olympics. Though it sure wasn't Europe:
"Compared with Kitzbühel and Wengen (World Cup events) it's like a kid's event," stormed Wolfgang Maier. "I find it all a bit thin for an Olympics. This race is a huge event for North America and then only 8,000 spectators come along.”
The actual attendance was 6,120. Today in Whistler, the skiing has been wiped out by snow - which always sounds strange but heavy snow is actually a problem. It's richly ironic, though, given the continuing woes of snowless Cypress Mountain, these Olympics' designated disaster area, as tickets have actually been declared invalid. Just don't expect any sympathy from VANOC, only a vacuous description of the venue as the organizers' "special child" coming as close as they'll get to regret.
So it's going to be down to men's hockey, after the lambs-to-the-slaughter opening of the women's tournament, as a saviour, as it so often is in this country. True, today's games are likely to be tuneups for the Canadians and the Americans. But this appears to be a good, deep tournament with two legit favourites in Canada and Russia, and some live longshots like the U.S. and Sweden. More to the point, the stands should be full and in an NHL arena, the facility will be first-class.
Related: I'll be out at the U.S.-Switzerland game for a live chat with Damien Cox and Paul Hunter, then will text comment through the opener while you're in the office waiting to get home for tonight's Canada-Norway opener.