Thursday, April 29, 2010

The end...

HOME SWEET HOME! I am officially back in my own bed and couldn’t be happier. My travels were relatively easy—no delays, a pedicure to pass time during my layover, and friendly flight attendants. I swear I woke up every five minutes on the flights though, thinking that I’d been out for at least three hours and that we just HAD to be home already.

Looking back now, I think I’m still trying to process the whole experience and figure out my feelings toward everything. I loved it, I hated it, I handled everything exactly right, I regret so much…I have no idea. In any case, I am so incredibly grateful to Cleanevent and to the SPTE department for this incredible opportunity. How many people can say that they have seen the behind-the-scenes of the Olympic Games, and witnessed some of the most historic moments in sports in the flesh?

Here’s what I do know: the living conditions made me more independent and more humble. The job made me more flexible and more resilient. The people made me more accepting and more willing to be spontaneous. And just being at the Olympics made me even more passionate about everything that the Olympic spirit entails. I am confident that with time, the bad things about the experience will fade away and I will be left with just fantastic memories and an improved version of myself.

Almost there...

Two days before the end of the Paras, my parents arrived in Whistler! I was so incredibly excited to see them after nearly three months of sketchy Skype communication…plus the fact that I was officially done with the trailers and would be sleeping in a hotel room until I got home didn’t hurt! I had to work the morning they arrived and had never been so antsy in my life. By the time the afternoon finally came, I was about to go crazy. FINALLY I got the last bus checked and could head into town to meet up with them. As expected, it was a terribly dramatic family reunion, complete with tears. I hadn’t quite realized how much I missed them until I got to see them again. We spent two days in Whistler so that I could show them all my favorite places: the Irish Pub, the sushi restaurant, my favorite bars. It was really special to get to share a part of my life that everyone at home seemed so far removed from.

On the second day in Whistler, we got to go to some of the Paralympic Alpine Skiing events. I was so grateful for this opportunity, because I’d been feeling guilty that I hadn’t made time to attend an event yet and knew it was something I’d really regret. It was absolutely incredible to see these athletes compete, and exciting that the spectator turnout was fairly good. The events were incredibly cool to watch, and an American won one. Getting to watch the American flag go up and heard the anthem play as I stood next to my mom was amazing. She is an Olympic fanatic too, and is the reason I have such a passion for the Games. I couldn’t have been happier that the day she was there ended in gold for the US.

The next morning, we left Whistler for good and headed to Vancouver. Leaving was harder than I expected it to be, but I knew that I would see a lot of these people again. Cleanevent is definitely a family-oriented company, and once you’ve worked there and done well, you’re part of the family. If I ever wanted to work for them again or to go visit any of them, I feel like I’d definitely be able to. Additionally, a lot of the staff is now visiting the US and some are even stopping in Columbia for a few days.

It was nice to spend some time in Vancouver—despite being in Canada for nearly three months, I hadn’t yet gotten to really explore anything outside of Whistler. We met up with my mom’s cousin who lives there. I’d never met him before (I actually didn’t even know he existed), and truly enjoyed having the opportunity to hear some of his stories. It’s amazing to have such a large extended family that there’s always someone nearby, no matter where you go. After dinner we headed to a casino—my first time! My small bit of money didn’t last long though…clearly my luck isn’t going to make me rich. The next morning we took a bus tour of the city—it was a quick way to see a lot! I fell in love with Stanley Park and the Granville Island Market. I liked Seattle more, but Vancouver definitely had a lot to offer.


The rest of the transition period before the Paras began was a whirlwind of activity. We’d all been so excited for the Olympics to end, but we quickly learned that there’s no rest for the weary! The office was busier than normal—with the rest of the interns on their “spring break”, venue managers needed a little bit of extra help. We were also in the process of having half our staff leave, which meant processing termination forms, collecting uniforms, reallocating shift times, and moving people’s bed assignments so that we could get rid of a few unnecessary trailers.

The Paralympics began in a quiet fashion—hardly anyone outside of Whistler or Vancouver even knew they were going on. It frustrated me that these athletes worked so incredibly hard to get to the highest level of competition with almost no recognition. And for them it’s even more challenging to get to an international event like the Paralympics because they receive little (if any) funding. I have to admit that if I had not had this chance to experience the Paras up close, I would have remained as ignorant about them as the general population. But now that I’ve seen them, it will be hard to forget. These athletes are absolutely amazing—the way they overcome challenges to participate in the sports they love is awe-inspiring. For instance, the visually impaired downhill skiers compete with a guide in front of them, verbally giving instructions as to which direction to turn. And they do this while reaching speeds of 60 mph. I can’t even imagine the courage or trust it takes to try this for the first time.

With the start of the Paralympics finally came some calm within the company. We had done an excellent job during the Olympics and now just needed to keep up the good work on a smaller scale. Two of our previous venues, Cypress Mountain and the Sliding Center, were no longer in use, and the rest had fewer events and shorter days. Even the Media Center, which continued to run 24 hours/day was an easier task, considering how empty it was. Despite the less challenging days, much of the energy seemed to have left the camp. Coops and Lyn had left just prior to the start of the Paras, as had many of everyone’s favorite residents. We were all just chugging along, waiting for the end to come. Only one more week of competition and then it’s time to leave!

It's time for Spring Break!

The week between the Games and Paras was absolutely amazing. Gabby and Joey worked out a schedule in which all the interns had four consecutive days off, and shared the same days off with the people they hung out with most. Sarah, Dolton, Tyler and I decided to turn this into a mini Spring Break and headed to Seattle for three nights.

We were lucky that one of the Cleanevent drivers was returning a rented van to Portland on the same day we were leaving. He was nice enough to drop us off at our hotel in Seattle and helped us avoid an 8-hour Greyhound trip. Our first night in Seattle was spent exploring the city and having dinner at an AMAZING seafood place right on the water. We wanted to go explore some of the city’s nightlife, but went to bed at 10 instead. It might seem lame, but none of us were passing up the chance to enjoy a nice hotel room away from our less luxurious living conditions…

The next day we started at the Public Market. I had no idea that it was so large or had such a huge variety of merchandise! It was absolutely incredible. From fresh fruits and gorgeous flowers to handmade jewelry and vintage photographs, it had EVERYTHING. Sarah and I absolutely fell in love and spent hours there. We also went to the first Starbucks, which was definitely the highlight of my day (seeing as I am a complete Starbucks addict). From there the only logical thing to do was continue shopping, so we hit the main strip of stores downtown. After being in a town as small as Whistler, having a variety of huge stores to choose from was a dream come true. We even got Girl Scout cookies! We finished the day off with dinner at a Mexican restaurant and hit the sack early again.

Our second full day in Seattle was another busy one, with more shopping, a tour of the Mariners Stadium (Safeco Field), a ferry ride, a visit to the Experience Music Project, and finally a trip to the top of the Space Needle. The view from the top was absolutely incredible, especially at sunset. Sarah and I totally splurged for dinner to celebrate an awesome time in Seattle—we went to Cheesecake Factory and ate until I literally thought we were both going to have to be rolled out of there. We even brought leftovers home with the hope of wanting them later, but with no luck.

We headed back to Whistler the next day on a Greyhound bus. It was SO hard to go back to Camp Cleanevent—I nearly started crying when we crossed the border and it hit me that I could no longer use my cell phone. Despite the fact that the trip made going back more difficult that staying would’ve been, I was definitely grateful for the break from work and for the opportunity to visit a city I’d never been to. Seattle was stunning—I had no idea how beautiful and full of culture and life it was. I absolutely fell in love with it and would move there in a heartbeat. Granted, there was no rain during our stay in Seattle, but I think just one sunny day there would make up for a month of rainy ones.

Week 2 of the Games!

Monday, February 22: Class

Our last class was on February 22 and was probably the most interesting. Our first speaker was Craig Lovett, the founder of Cleanevent. He has such persuasive speaking skills and just demands the attention of everyone in the room. He discussed Cleanevent, from its inception in 1987 to its recent sale to another Australian facilities management company. He talked longer than most of the other speakers we’d had, but never lost our interest.

My supervisor, Peter Cooper, was the second speaker of the day and the last of the program. He discussed organizing committees from a variety of perspectives that I had never really thought about. Some are run like divisions of government, while others operate as corporations. It all depends on the type of country in which the Games are being held. For instance, the Vancouver Organizing Committee is completely different from that of Sochi. Additionally, the organizing committees of different events (i.e., the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, the Pan-American Games) are great stepping-stones to careers in the Olympic World. I had only heard of some of these events, and had never considered what a great opportunity working for them could be.

Tuesday, February 23: Medals Ceremony in Vancouver!

I had a BIG surprise waiting when I got to work on Tuesday…Sarah and I had been planning on going to see The Fray perform at that night’s medals ceremony in Whistler. However, just as I was picking up our passes for the event, Coops offered me two tickets to the victory ceremony in Vancouver. Since I hadn’t gone to any of the ceremonies yet, we jumped on the opportunity. That afternoon, Coops helped us find a ride to Vancouver. We got to BC Place right as the ceremony was about to begin and found our seats, which were located in an awesome suite. The ceremony started with tribal dancers, which were really awesome. Then a local band took the stage and was actually very impressive. The crowd must have recognized them because they went crazy. Finally it was time for the medals to be given out. Three events were given that night—the most exciting presentation was for Ladies Ski Cross. A Canadian, Ashleigh McIvor, won that event. I have never seen anything as electrifying as the crowd when she stepped onto the medals platform and as “O Canada” began to play. It was such an incredible display of national pride that brought a tear to my eye, despite the fact that I’m not even Canadian.

Wednesday, February 24: IOC Speakers

Craig Lovett has some amazing contacts within the sport management industry, and really hooked us up with an amazing opportunity today. All of the interns got to leave work to go to the Media Center and hear two speakers. The first was Anthony Scanlon, who is currently the Head of Games Operations Coordination for the IOC. He described the IOC’s Management Approach, which was developed in 2003, and consists of the following responsibilities: 1) Framework Definition, 2) Monitoring, 3) Supporting and Assisting, and 4) Evaluating. He also discussed the role of the IOC, and of the organizing committees, in terms of protecting the brand identities of the corporate partners. This part was particularly interesting to me and prompted me to think about combined my marketing and SPTE degrees in the field of sports-related sponsorships.

The second speaker was Lisa Hindsen, formerly the Head of Sport for the IOC. She currently owns and operates a consulting firm. Her client at the time was the 2014 Sochi Olympic Committee, who she was assisting with “transfer of knowledge”. She said the biggest challenge was ensuring that they know the realities of planning an Olympic Games, rather than just the overly optimistic view a former organizing committee might try to present. Lisa also discussed the Games Readiness Integration Plan, which the IOC developed to help bring three different planning streams (venue, function, and client) into one concise planning effort. I found it extremely interesting how the IOC has such a step-by-step guide in place for host cities. Obviously, it cannot explain everything down to the smallest detail, but provides an incredible framework for the process. It was also great to see a female be so successful in an organization that seems to be dominated by men.

Saturday, February 27: Bobsled, Medals Ceremony, Usher concert

Saturday was my last day to really “experience the Games”. All I had wanted since I got to Canada was to see the US receive a gold medal, and it was my last chance. After [another] long day at work, Sarah and I headed to the Sliding Center to watch the finals of the 4-Man Bobsled. The American team had the last run of the event, and needed a strong time to hold off a very competitive time. We were holding our breath as they sped down the first track and we waited for the split time. By the first split, they already held a substantial lead that they just needed to maintain. I was praying that they wouldn’t crash, and was absolutely in awe when they successful crossed the finish line. We absolutely went crazy, especially when we connected the dots and realized we would see them receive their medal that night.

Saturday night, we went into Whistler to the Celebration Plaza to see the US get their medal. Seeing our athlete’s on the podium and hearing our national anthem play was one of the coolest moments of my life. Due to the poor design of the venue, I wasn’t able to see our flag being raised (except on the big screen), but the music alone was enough to give me chills. It was even more special because I got to share the moment with two other Americans, Sarah and Joey. Following the ceremony, Usher performed. It was an amazing show that was made even better by the fact that we were there for free. How many people can say they saw the US get a gold medal AND saw an Usher concert without having to pay for any of it? Saturday was definitely a day that made all the struggles of the internship worth it.

Sunday, February 28: Closing Ceremonies

Sarah and I went to a bar to watch the closing ceremonies. I absolutely loved the humor of several of the performances and the wonderful energy it portrayed. The entire country had such a great attitude about everything during the Games—even the things that went wrong like the original torch lighting—and the closing ceremonies just emphasized that.

The last day of the Games was bittersweet for me. On one hand, I was so relieved that they were finally done. The crazy schedules, the insane stress, the pure exhaustion…all gone with the end of the Games. But on the other hand, this incredible event that I’ve loved for my entire life had ended in a flash and I felt like I missed the whole thing. There was so much more I could’ve seen and done during those 17 days…and if I’m honest with myself, I know I saw as much as I could without driving myself crazy. But there’s the part of me that wishes I could’ve seen it all. It was just hard to find a balance between working the Games and being a fan of them.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010 Olympic Games--Week 1

Sorry this all didn't get posted earlier--I had worked on all of this as the Games went on, but with all the internet problems, hadn't been able to get everything posted. The internet is FINALLY up and working again :-)

Friday, February 12: OPENING CEREMONIES

The first day of the Olympics were filled with excitement and anxiety around camp. This was what we’d all been preparing for, but were we ready? Did we have enough staff? Did we have enough reliable staff? Would our transport plan get everyone to work when they needed to be there? If it snowed, could we handle it?

Unfortunately I was scheduled to work during the Opening Ceremonies, but thanks to having a TV in the office, I got to see most of it. The camp had a viewing party for the ceremonies, but I was excited that most of the management team watched it in the office with me. I was having an especially difficult time not being at home—my family always has a party and makes a huge deal for the ceremonies. My younger sister had even flown home to be with my parents during it, and being so far away was weird—nobody here seemed to understand exactly how much I love the Olympics and how much they mean to me. But at least watching it with a group of people whose company I enjoy helped some. The only part of the Ceremonies I didn’t see was ironically the torch lighting. I was checking buses to ensure the workforce was present for work. It kind of hit me that these Games would be very different from past ones for me—not because I was here in Whistler, but because my priority was my job rather than enjoying the Games.

Sunday, February 14: LUGE!

Since before the Games began, I had been wanting to see some of the luge competition, but my schedule in the office conflicted with every event. Luckily, Tyler offered to cover part of my shift so that I could see some of it. It was such a cool experience to be able to walk into the venue with my contractor accreditation, skipping all the crazy lines, and watch the event from basically wherever I wanted. The Sliding Center is an awesome venue—with such a large track, there are a ton of places to stand. Sarah and I stationed ourselves literally five feet from the fastest part of the track—Turn 16. It is absolutely mindblowing how fast these athletes are traveling—upwards of 140 km/hour (almost 87 mph)! As cool as it was, I couldn’t help but be a little nervous for their safety after the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. When you can see the action in person, it’s not at all difficult to understand how fatal accidents occur. It honestly surprised me that tragedies like this don’t occur more often…

This was also my first real taste of Canadian nationalism. Although I’ve seen tons of national pride throughout the town, this was the first time I’d seen a crowd react to a Canadian athlete as they competed. It was truly spectacular and inspiring how much passion everyone had for their country. I was also pleasantly surprised at the amount of cheering I heard for the American athletes—a lot of it was from Americans who were visiting, but a lot also came from our northern neighbors J

This was also the day that Canada won their first gold medal on Canadian soil (they hadn’t won any golds in Montreal or Calgary). Alexandre Bilodeau placed first in the Men’s Moguls. The energy here was incredible—it really tugged at my heartstrings to see everyone’s overwhelming joy and made me adopt Canada as my other team during the Games.

Wednesday, February 17: HALFPIPE!

As a reward for all of our hard work, Paul Lovett (head of Cleanevent) offered all the USC interns a chance to go see the Men’s Halfpipe event down at Cypress Mountain. I was originally scheduled to work, but Paul found a replacement for me so I could go. The ride down was about 1 ½ hours, but it seemed to fly by. We were all SO excited to see Shaun White and hopefully a US gold medal. We were a little worried about finding a place to watch from—all of the general admission tickets had been cancelled (the lack of snow had made the ground unstable for that many people) and the grandstands were sold out. When we got there, we just grabbed a seat in the bleachers and figured we’d move when someone showed up to claim their seats…somehow no one ever did! Sarah and I ended up sitting in some fairly VIP sections. Athletes’ families were all around us and we were sitting next to some of the biggest donors for the US Ski & Snowboard Associations. We were no more than ten rows back, directly in front of the halfpipe. The view was INCREDIBLE. The semifinals were very exciting, as several Americans qualified for the finals. We were all still waiting for the real show, however, as Shaun White had already qualified and thus wouldn’t be competing until the finals later than evening. He was the last competitor of the final round, in both runs. His first run was awe-inspiring and put him at the top of the leaderboard. After that, he just had to wait it out and see how the rest of the boarders did on the their second runs. But nobody even came close! He knew before he even took his second run that he had won, and as he approached the top of the halfpipe, he just put his arms up and cheered. The place went absolutely MAD! It was such a cool moment as an American to be able to support one of our top athletes. White went all out on the second run and got more air than we’d seen all night. The whole crowd was insane…he scored a 49.4 out of a possible 50 points. American Scotty Lago also earned bronze.

Seeing Shaun White win is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. On the way home, I was calling everyone I know to tell them that I’d just witnessed Shaun White winning a gold medal for the US and completely dominating the event. I was so proud to be American and see how many other American were there to support him. Awesome, awesome night!

During the Games, we continue to have class every third or fourth day. This week, we heard from Paul Lovett about the process of bidding the cleaning contract of an event. While it sounds like a huge challenge, it was also extremely appealing to me. It combines past knowledge (i.e. the number of man hours used to clean a particular type of event) with future research (i.e. the cost of labor in an event location or even the cost of a broom). It is like a puzzle that must be put together, and must both attract the organizing committee while being profitable for Cleanevent. I could definitely see working for the company on a bid team in the future. We also heard form Pat Leahy, Paul's business partner in Incognitus and worked for a while in job placement. Incognitus is essentially a consulting company for venue and event management. Pat spoke about job interviews...I was originally not looking forward to this AT ALL since I've heard numerous lectures on the same topic in the past. However, he approached it from a new perspective. He provided us with a list of things we should get out of an interview, rather than everything we should be doing to impress the employer. He helped us to understand the things to look for at a company and the questions that should be answered for us as we go through the interview process.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Busy + crappy internet = limited blogging

WOW. Between a lousy internet connection and the craziness of the Games, I feel like I haven't blogged in forever! I'll split this between two entries since a lot has happened...

The last few days before the Games were a little tense in the office as we tried to work out the bugs with scheduling and bus runs. Unfortunately it ended up that the majority of our learning came from failures and problems, but we finally worked most things out before the Games began.

My life outside of work has rapidly diminished. With the new work schedule of either 5-2 or 2-11, I have limited opportunities to get out of camp. Still, for my sanity, I try to escape every once in a while! The most exciting thing I got to do was going tubing. The hill looks small from the bottom, but trust me--that changes when you get to the top. It was an absolute blast! Afterwards, we went to our favorite sushi place. It's amazing that after being here just over a month, we feel like locals--always chatting with the waiters who now recognize us when we come in or grumbling about how the town has gotten too crowded with the start of the Games.

Classes also began right before the Games. Our first session featured Cleanevent's Project Manager for Whistler 2010, Craig Madigan. Although Craig is fairly young, he has so much knowledge to share and is very well established with the company and the field as a whole. Then we toured Whistler Olympic Park. Even though I'd seen it two weeks before, I was stunned at how much it had changed. The "look" as it's called (signs, posters, color, etc.) had been added and the venues were really impressive looking. Plus athletes had arrived and began to practice. I got to see the ski jump in's literally the most insane thing ever.

Sorry it's taken me so long to blog! I only get spurts of internet, and it's usually only when I'm at work. I'll try to update tomorrow about everything that happened since the Games began.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Counting down

The past week has been exhausting, but it's definitely worth it to see the excitement for the Games. I can't believe they are less that a week away!

Monday was business as usual in the office. I started my new schedule and worked from 2-11. It was nice to have the morning off, but it's a bizarre feeling to go straight from work to bed to work the next morning. We attempted to start our new transport system, but VANOC failed to tell us that despite all publications saying the buses would start on Feb. 1, they had decided to save money by starting on the 3rd instead. Might have been useful information to share…

On Tuesday, I worked at Creekside, where all the downhill skiing events will occur. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the venue because I sat in the trailer all day, working the helpdesk. I had to answer and record all cleaning needs. It was not the most exciting day, but definitely worthwhile to see what a day in the field is like for the snow management, cleaning, and waste team. Later that evening, we met with Scott Williams, who will be running the intern program over the next three weeks. Scott is EXTREMELY knowledgeable when it comes to facility and event management—he is the general manager of the arena where the Utah Jazz play and has been in the industry for years.

We’ll be having 5 “class days”, where we have morning discussion/lessons, then guest speakers, then afternoon venue tours. I’m looking forward to it—just nervous about how it’ll fit in with our work schedules. There are more interns coming from Johnson and Wales University tomorrow who will be able to cover our shifts, but it might be hard to teach them in two days what it’s taken us four weeks to learn.

Wednesday and Thursday were long days in the office again—started at 5 AM, checking to make sure people were on their buses. Somehow nobody knew what time to get on the bus, so I was running around and waking people up. Now I know what my mom felt like getting us up for school. We also started doing a daily newsletter that is the responsibility of the morning shift. Thursday night, we went to a meeting with all the venue managers. It was interesting to hear about the challenges of the individual venues, especially those I’m not familiar with.

Yesterday was one of the most incredible experiences I think I’ve ever had. After another morning shift at work, Sarah and I headed downtown. On the bus in, we saw members of the Czech Olympic team—we were trying so hard not to be creepy while still taking pictures on our cell phones. It’s a little hard to “stay cool” when you’re 3 feet away from Olympic Athletes. We went to the Irish Pub with Joey (Sarah’s boss), Coops and his wife, and Don (one of the drivers). It was great getting to know some of the team outside of the office. Then we went to the Skier’s Plaza, where the Olympic Torch was being lit for the night. It was insanely crowded—kind of what I’d imagine Times Square to be like on New Years Eve. First it was nearly completely dark…then we could just see a faint light at the top of the slope. The flame carrier was being towed in on a snowmobile. Right at the peak of the hill, the flame was passed to a skier, who came down the slope with it. The crowd was going absolutely crazy. The flame was then passed to a teenager from Whistler, the chosen community torchbearer, who lit a cauldron on a huge stage. As someone who has ALWAYS loved the symbolism and unity of the Games, it was awe inspiring to see. A local children’s choir sang a song that is apparently being performed at every stop on the torch relay.

Afterwards, we got to hold (and get a picture with) one of the torches that was actually used in the relay. A girl standing behind us in the crowd was the daughter of one of the torchbearers. It was so cool! On the way home, we saw members of the Canadian Olympic Team on the bus…it finally seems real that the Games will be here in 6 days!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Flying through the air

Work in the office over the past few days was rather dull, but my time outside the office was AWESOME.

On Wednesday night, we had a meeting with Paul Lovett (the head of Cleanevent). He just wanted to check in and make sure that we were all getting a lot out of our experience here. He also told us that he has contacts at venues all over the world, and that upon completion of this program, he'll be happy to put us in touch with them. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to get to know him and work for him--he's an incredible contact to have. He also said that there would be many opportunities if we wanted to work with the company again...World Cup 2010 anyone?? While the functional area of snow cleaning and waste is of almost no interest to me, this internship is turning out to be an awesome opportunity.

I spend Friday at the Athletes Village, which is absolutely incredible. In the morning, I helped VANOC with workforce checkin. It's interesting to see how well they take care of their volunteers--great uniforms, meals during shifts, prizes after a certain number of shifts's a great strategy. While the uniforms seem expensive at $700-800 each, it is significantly less costly than hiring a staff. Afterwards, I just got to explore the village by myself for a while. There is a full medical center, residential areas for 3500 athletes, a DVD lounge, a gameroom, a high-performance gym, a stage for concerts, a post office and bank...It literally has EVERYTHING they could need. I got some great pictures but can't post them until after the Games because of security reasons. Most of it is SO pretty--I thought the whole place was amazing until I had the chance to tour it again with Craig Madigan (the project manager for Cleanevent's Whistler 2010). He pointed out a lot of areas that could be improved from the athlete's perspective. While most of the village is spectacular, the weakest part also happens to be the most important: the first view of the village from the athletes' entrance. It is uninspiring and rather boring, but hopefully is being improved upon ASAP. On Friday, Team Canada and Team Great Britain became the first athletes to arrive.

Today, Sarah and I went ziplining. I am absolutely shocked that I wasn't terrified, considering that I don't even like rollercoasters. But somehow, hanging 200 feet above the ground, moving nearly 80 km/hour was the most awesome thing! I even hung upside down for one of the lines. The tour we did including 5 ziplines (one that was 2000 feet long!) between Blackcomb and Whistler mountains and had several suspension bridges and tree-fort type structures. It was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced :-) the company that runs the tours is called Ziptrek, and calls them "eco-tours". Everything is set up to be sustainable and not interfere with the ecosystem, which is actually a very rare type of rainforest. I had no idea that rainforests even existed in Canada!

Tomorrow starts the shifts we'll be running through the Olympics. I'll be working Mondays and Fridays from 2 PM-11 PM; Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 5 AM-2 PM; and have Tuesdays and Saturdays free to either take off or visit a venue. Based on this schedule, I'll get to see some great events during the Games--both competition events at all the venues and concerts at Celebration Plaza. Right now, it looks like I'll get to see All American Rejects, The Fray, and Usher...for free...on top of that, snowboarding, ski jump, bobsled and luge (probably medal events)...for free. This experience is just unbelievable.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Being a ski bunny is fun :-)

Skiing on Monday was absolutely AMAZING! I am so proud that I didn’t fall a single time (except slipping on the ice while I was walking through the Village, but that doesn’t really count.) We took a lesson that lasted from 9:45-3:00. It was absolutely exhausting, but so much fun. We got to take a gondola to the top of the mountain—the ride is nearly 30 minutes! “Mountains” in the South seem more like hills now.

On Tuesday, I spent most of the day working with Coops on transportation. We tried to go to a meeting at Whistler Olympic Park about transport between the park’s three venues, but the transport supervisor there never showed up. Hopefully we can reschedule soon—it’s a major issue because security won’t allow us to drive our bus into the venue, but WOP is saying that if our shift start times conflict with spectator loading times, they won’t be able to offer transportation to the workforce. All of our other workforce will have to use the VANOC transportation since we can’t get through any security points. It is easier on us, as we only have one drop-off point. It makes me nervous though, because it puts a lot of responsibility on our individual people. Some of them, particularly those who struggle with English, have trouble even getting on a bus that runs from camp straight to the venue. Now they have to catch buses, and walk through the village to another bus or to their venue, and get through security, basically on their own.

Last night I stayed in, despite the fact that most of the camp was out celebrating Australia Day. I wanted to stay home so I could talk to my boyfriend, Gabe, since he’d had a rough day. I think the worst part of being away is not being there when someone you care about is down. It really sucks, but Skype definitely helps bridge the gap.

More work on transportation today, and organizing camp entertainment for the next few weeks. We’re planning a trivia night…hopefully it will work out. I’m not sure how the questions will work out when there are so many different cultures here. What one group knows a lot about, another might not.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekend #2

Things at the camp have been fairly uneventful. There wasn't much work to do in the office on Friday...just preparing for new arrivals. Organizing transportation is about to get crazy though, because the venues and Village are going into lockdown. This means that part by part, they'll be shut down, completely searched by the police and armed forces for dangerous items (bombs, etc.), and then sealed. Anyone or anything entering the premises after this has been done will have to be individually searched every time. This means trips to drop off the staff will take MUCH longer. We're also starting night shifts for snow removal at several of the venues.

Friday night, Sarah, Katie and I went out for sushi and then met everyone at the bar. Sometimes it's fun, but sometimes it's weird that the whole camp seems to travel in a pack. Even upper management tends to be there. Definitely encouragement to behave haha

On Saturday, I went into the village by myself to run some errands. I've been sick so I had to stop at the drug's crazy how different some of the offerings are compared to the US. Then I spent HOURS at the Olympic Store taking orders from my family and looking at the awesome souvenirs. Visa has done an awesome job activating their sponsorship--only Visa cards are accepted at the store. Saturday night, the camp had a bonfire. It was fun to see everyone hanging out together, although I didn't spend much time outside in the cold!

Today, Sarah and Katie and I went into the village for our last time together :-( Katie is leaving tomorrow (her grandmother is really sick and she needs to be closer to home). We went back to the Olympic store for more shopping--I bought a TON of cute Olympic mittens. They're apparently the hot item this year and have sold out several times. We watched one of the NFL games at a bar--it's just not quite the same though, when most people there aren't really into it.

The snow started again today and has no signs of stopping. Tomorrow Sarah and I are going skiing--we negotiated a day off during the week by agreeing to work next Saturday. I think we're going to be getting fewer and fewer full days off, but apparently we might get a few afternoons off to go do things or even see events during the Games. I'm personally hoping to see the torch relay come through town on February 5.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thank goodness for internet...

We FINALLY have internet back at camp…it went down on Saturday, was in and out on Monday, and was out until late last night. It’s so frustrating being isolated from the rest of the world! So to backtrack a few days, here’s what’s been going on…

Saturday: Sarah, Katie and I decided we needed to get out of camp for a while and get away from everyone in our very small living quarters. We spent the day in the village just relaxing and hanging out. We saw Leap Year (which was super super super cute) and went out for Mexican. When I was trying to fall asleep, a train kept blowing its horn. It was bizarrely like I was back in Columbia haha

Sunday: Sunday was pretty lame for me…a bunch of people went bungee jumping, but since trying to kill myself isn’t really my thing, I opted out. I just did laundry and caught up on schoolwork and sleep. It is so nice to be in the only person in the room for a few hours when there are usually ten.

Monday: Monday was fairly uneventful…I worked in the office all day, trying to figure out how many beds were available in the camp. It’s nearly impossible to tell by just walking in a room because everyone moves around and puts their stuff everywhere. We labeled every bed with a number and are now ensuring that people are assigned to (and staying in) just their specific bed number. After work, we went to pick our accreditation passes. This allows access into venues…I feel very cool and official J

Tuesday: Tuesday was probably the worst day here so far. The camp where the entire Olympic security team (a company called CSC) is being housed called our company and asked for help, because 500 people were due to come in the next day and NOTHING was ready. All of the Cleanevent interns were pulled out of camp and their venues to help prepare the rooms. We spent the morning sweeping rooms and distributing linens…then spent the afternoon carrying full-sized lockers down three flights of stairs and then into other buildings. It wasn’t that any of us minded help, but the site was completely disorganized and nobody could figure out what they wanted us to do. It was also the first time I’ve worked on a construction site (completely male-dominated) and been disrespected and treated like a moron because I’m a female. When we finally left, there was a miscommunication with Cleanevent about when our shuttle was picking us up…we ended up waiting outside for 1 ½ hours. Needless to say, the day was rough for all the girls.

Wednesday: Definitely the best day I’ve had. I got to spend the day with Hugh (Hughie) Carey, the precinct manager for Whistler project. This basically means he is in charge of all the venues. This is his 4th Olympics, and he seems to know EVERYTHING. When I got to his house, we just talked for a while about what the company did. He was explaining about how cleaning is just a tiny part of the job; it’s more about managing people. If they’re not fed, housed, uniformed, and in good spirits, they’re not going to get the work done. In the morning we visited Whistler Olympic Park (WOP), where there are three venues: cross-country skiing, biathlon, and the ski jump. These places are absolutely incredible. The ski jump is higher and steeper than you can ever see from on TV, and I had to wonder if the people who fly off the ramp are suicidal or mentally unstable. At WOP, I got to sit in on a meeting with Cleanevent, VANOC, and another company about snow removal. All of the companies here at the Olympics have very specific contracts and it’s amazing to see how they interact with each other. For example, our snow removal contract is for steps, landings, ramps, bleachers, and only 1 meter around buildings at most venues, while another company handles plowing, etc.

After WOP, we spent a few hours at what will be the Celebration/Medals Plaza. This is where medals ceremonies for all events occurring in Whistler will be. There will also be a concert there every night during the Games. There are some pretty big name acts coming, including Usher, The Fray, and All American Rejects. This is the first time managing a venue for the guy that Cleanevent has stationed there and he needed some help organizing his stock room of cleaning supplies.

Later in the afternoon, we had to go back to WOP to handle an issue with another company. Our guys had put sheets of plastic on all the bleachers so the upcoming snowfall wouldn’t get down between them. Another group was coming through and needed the bleachers uncovered to put the seat number stickers on them. It took forever but finally we worked it out that they would only let our team move the plastic (so it didn’t get damaged) and that they’d be done by Sunday, since a huge snowfall is predicted for Monday. It’s really the random little things that seem to cause the biggest headaches. Before we headed back to camp, we got to drive through the Athletes Village. It is absolutely AMAZING. I would definitely be okay with living there.

Last night, my parents finally got Skype and it was so great to talk to them/see them. My mom was so excited about getting it working. Later, Sarah, Katie and I went to this pub in the Village for a few drinks and nachos. It was a really cool place that had these huge heaters so we could sit out on the patio. We’re trying to figure out plans for this weekend…it’s down between going to Vancouver for an NHL game or going ziplining here. I’m definitely looking forward to it, either way.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Weekends in Whistler

The sun just came out for the first time, and we could see the top of the mountains through the clouds. With the snow everywhere, it was BREATHTAKING. I'll post pictures soon!

First week...

My first week in camp just ended, but it feels like I've been here for MONTHS.

I spent this week working, exploring the town, and just getting to know everyone. I'm stationed in the camp office, helping with transport and administration work. It was a little bit of a bummer when I first found out I was assigned here, as I wanted to be out on a venue, but it's actually been really neat. Being in the office means always knowing what's going on (like the fact that the camp is getting satellite TV! Yay!) The amount of work it takes to run this place is mind-blowing...from making sure people have beds to sleep in to ensuring they get paid on time to trying to get everyone down to the village for a break. This week, I've been doing a little bit of all of that, and more. My biggest task of work this week was cutting out and laminating over 300 passes for the camp members...not so glamorous but at least I'm in complaints here :)

Cleanevent has a computer system called Citrix, which was developed especially for the company and is vital for keeping things running smoothly. It handles budgeting and planning timelines for major projects, scheduling employees, recording timesheets, maintaining employee information, recording all helpdesk calls...I felt useless my first two days in the office because Citrix isn't working properly on my Mac, but we finally got an extra computer here. I'm still navigating through the system but it is amazing that it is used for every single step of a project...from the bidding to the evaluations following the project's conclusion.

Once things get a little busier, I'll be primarily organizing schedules to utilize four 15-person vans to get 200 people to and from work and the Village. It's overwhelming to think about the difficulties this task will bring, but it will be an incredible learning experience from an operational standpoint. Peter Cooper (aka Coops) is the camp manager and will be supervising me through this process. Luckily he is great at what he does. Also, starting next week, we'll be spending one day each week with Hughie, the precinct director. He supervises several of the Whistler Olympic Venues and knows EVERYONE.

When we haven't been working this week, we've been down in Whistler Village. It's an incredibly cute ski town with fun shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. Although it is on the expensive side, it's a great escape from the trailer. When we go out at night, it seems like the entire camp is there. Everyone here is about networking...from the managers to the cleaners themselves. A good job here means a chance to continue on at the next big event, so getting to know everyone is key. It's also been exciting just to see the variety of people here...they're from all over the world! The company is headquartered in Australia, so most of the management team is from there. There are also people from Chile, France, Germany, China, Korea, Thailand,'s the most random group I've ever seen, but for the most part, everyone gets along.

The nine other students from USC are a ton of points, we get irritated with each other in our VERY small living quarters, but we all really enjoy hanging out. It's been fun getting to know other Gamecock students that I probably would have never met in Columbia.

That's all for now! We have Saturday and Sunday off so hopefully I'll have some fun stories next time.