Down to the Wire

As I write this, there are only nine days left before I fly out to Vancouver to begin my Journalism Dream. The whole thing is still feeling oddly dreamlike but, as pieces fall into place, it is getting more and more real and more and more exciting.

Yesterday I received my official media accreditation approval. ACK!! This is so big for me. With this accreditation I am able to access a huge amount of resources being provided to the global print and broadcast journalists. There is a massive media centre located at the Robson Square Plaza, right in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The International Media Centre will become a second home for me, I think.

Today I received my airline e-tickets; they are finally in my hot little hand so there is no stopping me now! All that is left, as far as “the winnings” goodies go, are the event tickets, the laptop and the cha-ching. All are to arrive in the next couple of days, well ahead of the departure.

I am plotting out some story ideas ahead of time. One advantage to having media accreditation is access to University of British Columbia professors, who are available to 2010 media for expert commentary on a wide range of Winter Games-related topics including:

* Sports Science, Technology and Doping
* Security & Law
* Business, Economics and Marketing
* Transportation
* Sustainable Cities
* Olympic and Paralympic History
* Social Issues
* Vancouver, B.C.
* Canada’s First Nations

I have a huge interest in Social Issues, particularly in relation to the population of Vancouver’s downtown lower east side. This area and it’s people have been demonized, marginalized and, for the longest time, ignored. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend an author’s event featuring Dr. Gabor Maté. Currently he is the staff physician at the Portland Hotel, a residence and resource centre for the people of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Many of his patients suffer from mental illness, drug addiction, HIV or all three. Dr. Gabor Maté is the author of four books — When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, and Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. The third book, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, he co-authored with developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld. Most recently published is In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. It was this last book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Maté spoke about and read from during the event I attended.

He is an extraordinary man with an almost unimaginable degree of empathy, outside-of-the-box thinking and compassion. Dr. Maté was crucial to the creation and ongoing work of Insite, North America’s first legal supervised injection site. Since opening its doors in 2003, Insite has been a safe, health-focused place where people can go to inject drugs and connect to health care services – from primary care to treat disease and infection, to addiction counselling and treatment. Insite is an integral part of Vancouver Coastal Health’s continuum of care for people with addiction, mental illness and HIV/AIDS in the community. Insite currently operates under a constitutional exception to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The BC Ministry of Health provides operational funding for Insite through Vancouver Coastal Health. This project, while very controversial, has seen positive outcomes within the population it serves. Many critics focus on only the injection component of the clinic, overlooking the many other important service Insite provides to its clients.

While not particularly relative to the Olympics, as a community within the municipal boundaries of metropolitan Vancouver I have a specific interest in what organizers and government officials are doing concerning the downtown lower east side during the run of the Olympics. While I may not get a chance to have a story about this subject printed in February, there may be an opportunity to bring more awareness about the area down the road.

Everyone Needs a Sidekick, Right?


Macleans magazine reports on the following dispute surrounding what I have dubbed “Mascot Mayhem”:

For a full year, controversy has been raging in Vancouver over a Vanoc oversight: Unlike “official” 2010 mascots Quatchi, Miga and Sumi, Mukmuk the marmot was designated a “sidekick.” No Mukmuk plush toys, pins or t-shirts would grace the shelves of Hudson’s Bay, said Vanoc, ensuring that B.C. schoolchildren would never learn his name. But Mukmuk, a Vancouver Island marmot, is a real B.C. animal, unlike Quatchi, Miga and Sumi—a sasquatch, “sea-bear” and “animal guardian-spirit” respectively—residents, columnists and bloggers and bloggers and bloggers complained. (And he wears a bright orange toque, just like a real Vancouver Island redneck.)

So far, Mukmuk—the only mascot with a Facebook fan group—has made only cameo appearances: once appearing in a Vanoc video handing out Vancouver 2010 invitations to hot-chocolate drinking headliners, Quatchi, Miga and Sumi, another time, cheering-on their antics from the sidelines.

No more. Mukmuk merch has hit the shelves of the Bay. Mukmuk, though an “official product,” will retain his “sidekick” status—forever an outsider.


Sumi is an animal spirit who lives in the mountains of British Columbia. Like many Canadians, Sumi’s background is drawn from many places. He wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the mighty thunderbird and runs on the strong furry legs of the black bear. Sumi’s name comes from the Salish word “Sumesh” which means “guardian spirit.” Sumi takes his role very seriously. He works hard to protect the land, water and creatures of his homeland. Sumi is a great fan of the Paralympic Games. He’s determined to learn all the sports, so he can play and race with his animal friends all winter long.

Transformation is a common theme in the art and legend of West Coast First Nations. Transformation represents the connection and kinship between the human, animal and spirit world. Revered animals, such as the orca whale, the bear and the thunderbird, are depicted in transformation through masks, totems and other forms of art. The orca is the traveller and guardian of the sea. The bear often represents strength and friendship. And the thunderbird — which creates thunder by flapping its wings — is one of the most powerful of the supernatural creatures.


Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from the mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends. Although Quatchi loves all winter sports, he’s especially fond of hockey. He dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie. Because of his large size, he can be a little clumsy. But no one can question his passion. He knows that if he works hard and always does his best, he might one day achieve his dream. Quatchi is always encouraging his friends to join him on journeys across Canada. He is also often recruiting others to play hockey – or at least to take shots at him!

The sasquatch is a popular figure in local native legends of the Pacific West Coast. The sasquatch reminds us of the mystery and wonder that exist in the natural world, igniting our imagination about the possibility of undiscovered creatures in the great Canadian wilderness.


Miga is a young sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod, beyond Vancouver Island, near Tofino, British Columbia. Sea bears are part killer whale and part bear. (Miga is part Kermode bear, a rare white bear that only lives in British Columbia.) All summer long, Miga rides waves with local surfers. But during the winter months, she often sneaks onto the shores of Vancouver to seek adventure. When Miga discovered that humans were ‘surfing’ on snow, up in the mountains, she knew she had to join the fun. Snowboarding soon became her favourite winter sport. Her dream is to land a corked 720 in the half-pipe one day…It will take lots of practice, and a few falls along the way, but she’s sure she can do it.

The sea bear is inspired by the legends of the Pacific Northwest First Nations, tales of orca whales that transform into bears when they arrive on land. The Kermode bear is a rare white or cream-coloured sub-species of the black bear that is unique to the central West Coast of British Columbia. According to First Nations’ legend, Kermode bears – also known as Spirit Bears – were turned white by Raven to remind people of the Ice Age. Orcas are also honoured in the art and stories of West Coast First Nations, as travellers and guardians of the sea.

So there you have it. The mascots of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Vancouver 2010 Olympics

The countdown has begun. In only 29 days I will: a) be leaving on a jet plane, headed for the Left Coast and; b) be at the start of a great adventure. While trying to prepare some story ideas to pitch to my editor, I have done a lot of on-line research. I would like to share a couple of interesting sites with you.

2010 Host City is a great place to learn about activities and events going on in and around Vancouver. It was through this site I discovered the Vancouver Art Gallery is hosting a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit called “The Mechanics of Man”. As a bonus, admission to the gallery is free during the entire run of the Olympic Games. On Host City I also unearthed a sweet little tid-bit: located right next to the media centre, where I will be spending bunches of time, are free skating and a free zip-line. What?? I have decided that everyone, really, should start their day with a zip-line rush! That is what I intend to do.

The official Vancouver 2010 web site is also a very good resource. Here you will be able to find schedules, learn about athletes and follow results. It has been a boon to my cramming sessions.

The last site I would like to share with you is Four Host First Nations. This beautiful site offers information about the Lil’Wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. To quote from the site, “The mission of the Four Host First Nations Society (FHFNS) is to represent the Nations and to facilitate engagement between the Nations and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) in order to ensure that the Games are successful and that the Nations’ languages, traditions, protocols and cultures are meaningfully acknowledged, respected, and represented in the planning, staging and hosting of the Games.”

Are you curious about the Vancouver 2010 Olympic or Paralympic Games? Athletes? Events? Vancouver? All of the planning? Let me know and I will do some digging and see what I can find for you. I love a challenge.