Yesterday (Friday) was our third day off since volunteering at Alpensia. Nearly three-quarters of us had purchased tickets about a week ago to attend an official Olympic event. As you know by now (after watching the awesome news segment on NBC-4), many of our group went to see the USA team play hockey while a smaller group of us went to see women’s snowboard cross at the Phoenix Snow Park. Jana’s blog details the transportation challenge–three buses to get there. As a sidebar, there are two bus systems we can utilize within the Olympic area–TW for “workers” (the bus we take from our resort everyday) and TS for “spectators.” While we wore our civilian clothes to the event, we also wore our volunteer credentials so we could ride both systems. Fortunately, we were able to make all of the buses within a reasonable amount of time.
The Phoenix Snow Park is an authentic ski resort with high rise hotels and a stadium with both snowboard and freestyle slopes. The tickets we purchased a week ago were for what I refer to as the “mosh pit” area, the standing-room only space about a dozen people deep just inside the fence at the finish line. As not atypical for these Games, the stands were only about one-third filled. In between the qualifying round and the quarter-finals, a co-volunteer let us into the stadium. It was a ‘whole new world’ up there–we experienced euphoria not unlike the kind you feel when getting an upgrade to Economy Plus or Business Class on an airline. We were suddenly part of the spectator universe; we danced on command when Haley, the bilingual commentator on the huge screen, sought visually appealing B-roll for the idle cameras. It was a great day overall and truly validated our Olympic experience. The only downside, as Jana mentioned, was that the American athlete, who had finished either first or second in the quarter-final and semi-final rounds, came in fourth.
You would think the volunteers might have a chance at free tickets to events. Some tickets are available on a last-minute basis; we might get an email asking for a response within an hour. Additionally, there are some contingencies attached (like you can’t wear your uniform in the spectator stands so if the call-for-free-tickets comes out while you’re already at work, you may not have sufficient time to get back to your lodging to change). Ironically, just as I was typing this blog an email came in with free ticket offerings for various ice hockey events, as well as a figure skating and big air competition. Of course, the kicker is that you have to respond within about three-hours (which means one of my very sound asleep roommates may miss out).
As with any large spectator event, the crowds weigh on you after awhile–with queues for the buses, queues for concessions, queues for the mobile restroom units, etc. It makes our Biathlon Center almost downright quaint as it is not a ‘go-to’ destination among the Olympic venues unless, of course, you’re going to see a biathlon event. When it’s the equivalent of a ‘dark theater,’ buses are prompt and not crowded and the on-site cafeteria which is in a temporarily constructed “tented” building can be quiet and a good place to watch the Olympics on a huge screen or catch up on email.
By Gina Daddario, Professor and Chair of Mass Communication, Posting from Sokcho, Korea