We got up this morning at 4:30 to take the Alberta Train from Vancouver to Whistler. People who have been reading this blog will know that I love trains. And this one was something else. It was luxurious. And the food was great. But the best part was the views. The train runs on tracks between the Sea-to- Sky Highway and the water. While I didn’t think the views from the highway could be beat, that was before we took the train.
After we got to Whistler Julie and I headed over to the Whistler Sliding Centre for the women’s luge event. The tragedy of the Georgian luger was on everyone’s mind. And the start of the race had been lowered to reduce the speeds. I had a conversation with the head of the United States Luge Association and asked him if they had made the right call in altering the course. He told me that since they didn’t have the time to sort out exactly why the tragedy occurred he thought changing the start was the right thing to do even if it made it hard for the competitors to adjust since all of their practice was at the higher speeds. Since I am – to put it mildly – not a luge expert I have no basis to agree or disagree. But another serious crash would have been awful.
I will say that the change of course didn’t dampen the spirit of the lugers or the crowd. We ran into our friend Ken Melamed the Mayor of Whistler. He was with Pam Goldsmith-Jones, the Mayor of West Vancouver and we spent the afternoon with them. After watching some of the early action at the bottom of the hill, the four of us hiked up to the start and we watched several contestants launch their runs.
I may be the only one who didn’t know this but the lugers get on a scale with their sleds before they start to make sure they don’t exceed a weight limit.
And the runners on their sleds do not look like ice skate blades. They are rounded and about 3 cm wide. When the sleds got to the start the runners were covered in tissue paper and what looked like very long skate guards. They have to remain perfectly smooth and they are repolished after each run. One other interesting thing we learned later. They take the temperature of the runners after the contestants finish to make sure they are not too hot – which apparently speeds up the sled. (Don’t ask me how or why.)
After watching some of the contestants at the start we walked down to the finish area and we were seated with the families of the contestants. It was wild. People came from all over the world to cheer on their daughters, sisters, wives. As each one would take their turn a different part of the stands would erupt. My favorites were a group who all wore bright pink wigs!
But the most special part was that everyone was cheering for everyone. And when the last few contestants (who were the leaders after the first three runs) went down for the final run everyone was cheering for everyone. When Tatjana Huefner of Germany won the gold the place erupted. It was what the Olympics are all about. Friendly competition.