Olympic Torch in T.O., Molson Oly Hockey House, Oh, (free) Christmas Tree
Sports buddy Dave Perkins and I went up Yonge Street last night to watch our old Olympic acquaintance, Paul Henderson, take a much deserved run with the Vancouver/Whistler 2010 torch.
Nobody bleeds the Olympic and sweats the Olympics and cares about athletes as much as Henderson. Nobody. I've seen hundreds of International Olympic Committee members lined up at the trough for canapes and champagne over the years (yeah, I've been there, too on occasion). But not a single one of them has the passion and the commitment of Toronto's most famous bald plumber.
Sure, he rubs some people the wrong way. And I say, good for him. And keep it up, Paul. Somebody has to stick it to the corner office bigwigs and deflate their pompous egos. And nobody wields a sharper stick than Paulie.
There were at least a hundred of his friends and family on Yonge Street Thursday night, and he was positively beaming as he ran the torch down to Ramsden Park. He deserved it.
It was interesting to see the relay, I must say. It's a nice thing to do, and there seem to be a lot of folk who take great pride in watching people carry it hither and yon across our yawning acres of landscape. But, honestly, do we need this much hoopla and this much security?
My God, there had to be 100 cops on bikes, 30 or 40 police cars and several RCMP vehicles. Lord knows there probably were plain-clothes cops in Canada gear, too. All for an Olympic torch? Is that really necessary?
Not to mention the RBC truck and the two Coca-Cola trucks and the music and the surrounding hoopla. I guess that's the cost of doing business these days, but I'd like to have been around when it was just a couple guys in a truck following a man or woman down a country road.
OLY PRICE SLASH
A report in the Vancouver Sun says folks who are running the Molson Canadian Hockey House at the Vancouver Games "have slashed the entry price to the Olympic hockey pavilion from $500 for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink, all-day pass to $99 for a "Fan Zone" pass that lets you stay for half a day."
Toronto-based Jordan Bitove (his brother, John, ran Toronto's 2008 Olympic bid, you may recall) said his firm, VisionCo., always had this price point in their plan.
"There's a corporate market looking for an all-inclusive solution for their hospitality needs but we always planned to unveil a more affordable fan zone pass."
He told the Vancouver paper that a "limited" number of half-day passes will be offered for $99 but did not say how many. The passes allow access to entertainment and food but only include two drinks. A beer is expected to cost $7, which isn't too bad I guess.
I don't personally see the point of paying a hundred bucks to hang around a big tent with a few hockey celebrities. If I was a big hockey fan, perhaps I'd care. But I've spent too much time hanging around athletes to think they're much of a big deal.
Now, if they can Scarlett Johansson in the tent, that's another story.
While North American carries continue to hit us with new fees for bags and what not, Air Berlin in Germany is letting folks stuff their Christmas trees into the cargo hold for free this holiday season. Any tree up to two meters in length gets to ride for free, the airline says.
It's a nice deal. But who flies somewhere and brings home a Christmas tree? Are they that hard to find in Munich or Frankfurt or Berlin that people are flying to the Black Forest or what have you to chop down a nice fir?
EU AIR DEAL
Lots of folks (Canada's minister for tourism, for example) are making a big deal of the fact that the EU on Thursday ratified a new "open skies" agreement with Canada. Some officials are saying it will mean cheaper fares for Canadians and lots more flights to Europe.
"Today's signing by Canada of a comprehensive air transport agreement with the 27 Member States of the European Union marks an important development in increasing access to Canada's second largest trading partner," said Duncan Dee, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Air Canada. "This new agreement opens up a realm of new commercial opportunities for Air Canada throughout the EU. It allows Air Canada to further develop Canada as a gateway to the world by capitalizing on travel demand between Canada, the U.S., Latin America and Europe."
But some industry types say the market already is well served and that the new destinations included in the deal, places like Lithuania, Slovakia, Cyprus and Slovenia, may not be that big a draw. I'm a HUGE fan of Slovenia, personally, so I don't know about that. But it's a point well taken. I wouldn't go running off celebrating just because a new deal has been inked with the EU.