“It’s like being at Burning Man without a costume,” said my friend Maryam over dinner the other night. She’d arrived in Whistler the day before and was already feeling like her normal winter clothes weren’t going to cut it here.
After dinner she rushed out to one of the many shops open late into the evening and bought some Olympic t-shirts and US and Canadian flags. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Her husband, born in Montreal, took it a step further. The next day he hit the slopes with a snowboard and a Canadian hockey jersey. It turns out he was one of two dozen skiers and boarders wearing the same thing. No matter. He’s worn a hockey jersey every day since.
It took our kids even less time to figure out that the Olympics are special. After attending their first sporting event (ski jumping qualifiers) the morning before the Olympics officially began, they immediately wanted an attire upgrade. Since then our girls haven’t left the house without Finnish flags draped over their shoulders like capes and ski caps festooned with Olympic pins. For days on the mountain, their ski poles carry a pair of Finnish flags.
There are many ways to enjoy the Olympics. You could buy a lot of tickets and just watch the sporting events. But a better way to go is to jump right in. Whistler is alive with multiple TV screens, performance stages, music, colors, and people.
It’s a two-week party and everyone is invited. So put on your party clothes and get to know the guests.
At any time of day or night, the pedestrian-only streets of Whistler are jammed with fans, athletes, volunteers and former Olympians wearing the country’s colors and carrying flags on poles, over the shoulders, wrapped around their heads or, in the case of particularly large flags, in groups of six or more racing through the town.
Interesting flags or unusual national outfits are a great way to start up a conversation with those around. or you can just overhear two people commenting on the difficulty of the Ladies’ Downhill course and then chime in with your own opinion. You can strike up a conversation with another avid fan, a serial Olympics spectators (amazing how many people go from Olympics to Olympics) or a current competitor. Everyone’s senses are alive and their hearts are open.
And the party is for all ages. My father-in-law, an Olympian who competed in Squaw Valley exactly 50 years ago and who’s now volunteering with the Finnish delegation, is having the time of his life. Our not-quite three-year-old son is thrilled with the Olympic mascots, Quatchi, Sumi, Mukmuk and Miga, life-sized version of which visit all the events. Folks in between can dance up a storm to DJ’s like Dead Mouse or take in the nightly “Fire and Ice” snowboard and ski-jumping spectacle.
There’s so much to take in that two weeks doesn’t even seem like enough to enjoy it all. Hmmm…. maybe that’s why so many folks go from Olympics to Olympics. Who wants an awesome party to end?