I am a HUGE fan of the Olympics. Every two years, I block out an entire two weeks of my life to spend every possible minute glued to the TV set watching all the coverage. I love the Olympics and the Winter Olympics are my favorite of the two. When I was growing up, I remember my Mom and I spending hours watching all the figure skating and all the great events. So, naturally when Salt Lake won the Olympic games, I was overjoyed! As soon as they opened the website for volunteers, I was registered and I went for five different interviews to have the privilege of becoming an Olympic volunteer. And I'll tell you, it was the greatest experience of my life!
So, a couple of weeks ago when I got an invitation to help out with the World Cup Speedskating Event at the Olympic Oval, I jumped at the chance. I even talked my boss into giving me a day off to do it. This is one of the premiere events of the year and the chance to see it up close and personal was too much to pass up! So, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I got to go here:
This is the Olympic Speedskating Oval in Kearns, Utah and it is literally the Fastest Ice on Earth. There have been more world records set here than any place on in the world. And it was crammed full of world-class althletes in skin-tight shiny suits! Wow.
On Friday, I was assigned to the Race Office. Sounds glamorous,
but really I was in charge of handing out the lunches to all the athletes and coaches, and giving them bus schedules, event schedules, T-shirts, and things like that. Still it was fun and I was really hopping for a while trying to hand out the lunches for several hundred athletes all by myself! Plus I got to meet and talk to a bunch of the athletes and coaches.
After that I was passed off to Doping Control. That's where they do the random drug testing for all the athletes to make sure they aren't using any banned substances.
That's when it started to get interesting, because all the top athletes end up there. Whenever someone sets an important record they get tested plus there are random tests of a certain percentage of the athletes in every race category, so that was a good place to be posted.
I was really hoping to meet Apolo Anton Ohno, 'cuz he's my hero! Not only for being a good speedskater, but also for being the winner last year on Dancing with the Stars! I knew he wasn't competing because I'd checked the team lists in the Race Office, but I figured he'd be hanging around somewhere. So I was in luck when I drew his best friend Shani Davis for a random drug test.
When you're a chaperone for a drug test, you have to go up to the athlete right after the competition (which gets you a free pass onto the competition floor!) and have him sign a form and then you follow him around for about an hour or so while he gets his award, does his cool down routine and does whatever until he reports to the testing people. You literally can't take your eyes off him for that hour or the test is invalid. You also have to remind him of the time because if he missed within that our, they pull his medal.
So during that hour of following him around, he led me right to Apolo who was sitting in the stands with some of his family. I was too shy to say anything and we weren't supposed to ask for autographs or anything, but he is VERY cute and seems very nice! Apolo, I mean. Shani was actually kind of a jerk, but I expected that after his attitude during the Olympics.
But at least I got to meet two gold medal athletes in one day and I also got to see Jeremy Wotherspoon, another Olympic medaled athlete who was also in the testing area. Not bad for a days work!
Today was my least productive, but most interesting day. I got to go up into the Timing Area where all the race officials hang out. It was fascinating to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on. They had about a dozen guys up there with computers and all sorts of fancy equipment to track all the races. They had one guy whose only job is to sit there with binoculars and make sure each athlete is in the correct lane on each lap. The guy I was sitting next to does the photos of the finish line to see which skater came across 1st.
Obviously this is extremely critical, so they have 3 different ways to do it. They have a laser down on the ice, they have two different guys with computers and a photo timer, and they also have three people watching down on at rinkside for a backup. It comes down to hundreths of a second, so they have to be absolutely right. Very interesting stuff...
PS: Look at these animals hanging in the Atrium. They are the ones that were used in the forest sequence during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. Aren't they pretty?