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.