There are more military troops at the Olympics than in Afghanistan. Roadblocks and security checks are everywhere. The airport shuts down at a moment’s notice, and police line the streets. So what were we, the official, uncredentialed dirtbag journalists of the nineteenth Winter Games doing on the deck of the halfpipe, in the Athlete’s Lounge, and occupying 900-dollar seats at the opening ceremonies? Bringing the Games to you, no matter what.
Friday will be counted as a success for the common man. Avoid eye contact, don’t ask questions, look busy, and act like you know what you’re doing—that’s the guerrilla M.O. that landed me and John “Stoves” Stouffer at pipe practice. A series of checkpoints had to be passed before we emerged on the other side of the tunnel that takes spectators under the grandstands at the base of the hill. The stands are huge, draped with a mural of a ski racer, and way too far from the pipe to distinguish a straight air from a corked nine.
FIS World Champion in 2001, Kim Christiansen of Norway was one of the few men riding; he was working out a kink in his back. Trevor Andrew—who found out only two days ago that he’d be competing in the Games for Canada—was getting into it a bit. Trevor is here to replace contender Guillaume Morisset (winner of the U.S. Open in 2000) who blew out his ACL and can’t compete.
U.S. riders were around, but gray skies and dust-on-crust set a casual tone to the day. Tommy Czeschin nailed runs for most of the session, the shoulder he dislocated at the Breckenridge Grand Prix is strong and not affecting his ride.
Because the really epic sessions happened earlier in the week, and the only thing we were going to get from hanging at the pipe was frostbite, we decided to sample the food of champions. Health and security codes state that you can’t serve yourself soup in the Athlete’s Lounge, so I allowed myself to be served some chicken noodle. That’s the key, I guess, chicken noodle soup. Although Heikki Sorsa rides pretty well, sports a mean mohawk, and he was basically eating cigarettes for lunch. Exiting past the armed and fatigued, I was more worried about all the pre-packaged Rice Krispies treats in my pockets than the fact that I didn’t have a credential, guest pass, or even a lift ticket.
Penetrating the opening ceremonies is a longer story, and many of the details can’t be divulged. But after initially getting barred from multiple points of entry and thinking I would spend the evening downtown with Olympic pin traders, I was snugly inside the stadium along with G.W. Bush and, more importantly, the Dixie Chicks and LeAnn Rhimes. I guess Nelly Furtado was too busy to come to the Games, but heartstrings were stretched thin enough as it was. Until you go (sneak in or pay) to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you probably can’t imagine it—thinking that every firework was a bomb made it all the more interesting.
Highlights of the opening: 1998 halfpipe gold medalist Gian Simmen carrying the Swiss flag; the U.S. team coming in; the lighting of the torch by the gold-medal 1980 U.S. hockey team; Kristi Yamaguchi; and that one ice skater that fell.
Tomorrow there’s more pipe practice, better weather, and probably some parties or something. Check back for the news.