I have been a fan of the Olympics since I was a kid and watched them on black & white CBC TV in the 70s. As a Vancouver father of a teen and a "tween", I want my kids to have a great 2010 Winter Olympic experience. But, like most parents in Vancouver, buying tickets for the Opening Ceremonies or Gold Medal Hockey is not an viable option.
Is it possible to have a great Olympic family experience, on a budget, while my kids are still in school and I'm working? The answer is yes, most definitely. With a little bit of planning and preparation and a lot of enthusiasm and imagination your family can have a great Olympic experience regardless of your means.
Having attended 5 Olympics Games, I have drawn on my experiences to prepare 10 Olympic Tips for Vancouver Families.
1) Don't Anguish Over Tickets
Don't make your Olympics about tickets. If you can get some tickets somewhere, somehow, that's great, but if you don't, its ok too.
I was lucky enough to see the men's gold medal Olympic hockey game in person in Turino. It was great to be there, but I can't say it was my best hockey experience ever. A pretty dull game actually. So don't believe that the only way to enjoy the Olympics is through attending the "main events" or any events at all.
Steer your family away from tickets as being the determining factor your Games success. The Olympics is about sports appreciation not getting tickets. You don't need to ski to enjoy the winter. You don't have to see the Mona Lisa to like paintings.
Speaking of Art - the Cultural Olympiad is almost as good at the Games. There are hundreds of performances scheduled with many tickets still available at family friendly prices.
2) The World's Biggest TV Show
The Olympics are the world's biggest television show. "TV Rules!" and networks the world over paid almost $2 billion for the exclusive rights to broadcast the Vancouver Games.
The Olympics are designed for prime time TV schedules and there are dozens of cameras stationed at each event, so the coverage is unbeatable. The best seat, by far, to view the Olympics is in your living room.
And in Canada, you can watch the Olympics on CTV, TSN, Rogers SportsNet and NBC too! And on the Internet you want to see the raw feeds.
So check the Olympic sports schedule, get out some healthy food and settle in.
3) Adopt a Country
Of course most everyone living in Vancouver will be cheering for Canada's athletes, but encourage your family to adopt another country's team too. Visit their Olympic Committee's web site. Find out who their favourite athletes and best medal hopes are. And watch and support your visiting Olympic team as well as our own.
In Calgary, everybody cheered for the U.K's Eddie the Eagle - a sad, sack skier with bubble glasses, who wasn't very good, but kept trying any ways.
For 2010, how about the African nation of Ghana, which has its first and only athlete to ever qualify for the Winter Games in Vancouver, a skier named Kwame Kkrumah - Acheampong
4) Watch a New Sport
If you like Alpine events, investigate curling. If you like curling, check out short track speed skating. If you are a figure skating fan, become a biathlon fan for a couple of weeks. At the Olympic level each sport has tons of amazing and dedicated athletes, lots of interesting stories and plenty of competitive drama.
One of the best Olympic memories I have was from Montreal, as I watched an US boxer knock out a unfortunate African fellow in one single punch. That is the first and only punch the American threw. Remarkable!
It was the first, last and only boxing match I ever saw.
5) Hold an Olympic Party
Invite your friends over to watch the Olympics on TV - not just the Canadian hockey games, but your adopted country or sport. Play a parlour game for who gets the remote control.
Another example: host a Jamaican Bobsled party, where every one has to wear green, yellow or black and bring a Jamaican dish.
6) Get Some Flags - Decorate Your House or Car
There plenty of places around town to get flags and banners. Grab a Canadian one and display it on your home or car. And put up a Swedish flag because of Grandpa Svend. Or take your Christmas lights and loop them into the Olympic Rings.
Its fun, easy and inexpensive and gets your home base and home team in the mood.
7) Get Out of Your House
Yes, I said its all about the TV, but not every night. If your team or sport is not on, get the family out around the town and feel the Olympic buzz.
In Turino, its a tradition to go for a post dinner stroll. The streets there were busier in the evening than during the day.
Or, go for an afternoon family walk in your favourite park. The Olympics are about fitness and healthy living. Grab some fresh air and get those kids' hearts pumping!
Day or night you can visit the Live Sites and Olympic Pavilions.
There are 4 Olympic Live Sites that offer free family oriented events afternoons and evenings - Richmond, David Lam Park, West Georgia Street and Whistler. Plus, many other cities - West Vancouver and Surrey - are hosting similar events.
Wear foul weather clothing with comfortable foot wear and be prepared to stand in line and be "airport searched". Leave your big back packs at home.
8) Attend a Victory Celebration
Tickets ($25) are still available for these nightly events at BC Place where Olympic medals for various sports will awarded. Different provinces are showcased each evening - and entertainment is provided by singers, dancers and headline acts.
The celebrations are billed as high energy events, and with 25,000 others in attendance it will be a great way for your family to feel and share the Olympic Spirit!
9) Trade Pins
I have over 400 pins that I collected from my Olympic experiences. My favourites aren't the rarest but the ones where I can tell an interesting story about the person I traded with, when and where.
Coca - cola has set up a couple of "official" pin trading sites downtown, but you trade pins anywhere, anytime.
Its fun for kids of all ages, but keep an eye on the little ones. Learn to separate your "keepers" from "traders".
10) Twitter the Olympics
Vancouver is the first Olympic Games that is exposed to full spectrum of social media.
Set-up Twitter accounts for each of your kids and invite family members across the world to follow their observations and postings.
Snap and post pictures of your Game time family activities so your kids can be part of the show.
They'll appreciate being in Vancouver even more, when their envious cousins in Ontario tell them they wished they were here.
I know I said there were TEN, but here's one more...
11) Study some Olympic History
Visit the IOC site, Wikipedia, Google, national Olympic teams, CTV, NBC, BBC, etc. to study past Olympic Games and to get a perspective on today's. The Games are always changing, but the stories of human drama are always fascinating.
Vancouver's will be not different. Just Do It
These are suggestions, families can do one, none, or many of these, or invent their own activities. Its really all about attitude. With millions of people watching the Games and 100s of thousands of people participating here in person - everyone's Olympic experience will be unique to them alone.
So grab your slice of the Games and run.
As the Olympic saying goes, its not the winning that counts, but the striving to win and how you play the game. So strive to make the Olympics your own and your kids will win cherished memories that will last forever.
- post by David Hoff
David Hoff is a public affairs consultant based in Vancouver. David was born and raised in Alberta, and has lived in Calgary, Ottawa and Victoria. An avid traveller, David has visited over 45 countries for business and pleasure. An Olympics fan, David has participated in 5 Games and visited an additional 8 Games sites, including Olympia, Greece.
PHOTO INFO: The beautiful photo above was submitted to CityCaucus.com by reader Claudia Laroye. The photo is courtesy of her husband Stephane Laroye, who worked on the design of the plaza on behalf of leading Vancouver urban designers Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden, and landscape architects Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg for the City of Vancouver Parks Department.