As I think I mentioned a while ago, we bought curling tickets for two reasons: it was Team GB's best medal hope, and the venue is walking distance from our house. Unfortunately Team GB finished out of the medals in both the men's and women's events, but we didn't know that on the night last week when we walked out of our front door and headed to the men's preliminary rounds.
The great thing about Canada is the number of dual citizens. At both hockey games we went to we saw people carrying flags of both of that match's teams, but I went a little further than that...
This was the night of the Canada-Switzerland hockey game, and like us a lot of people left the house at the last possible minute. As a result the security line-up was much longer than at our other events. There were some Swiss fans behind us, and there was a lot of friendly banter within our section of the crowd as several people kept us up to date with the action via some rather long phone calls with their friends watching TV elsewhere. The penalty shoot-out started as we reached the densest part of the queue, and the atmosphere was electric. When we (finally) won the game, there was much cheering and singing and friendly mocking of the Swiss, who busted all stereotypes by taking it all in good humour.
As I said to Mr E Man, listening to the hockey shoot-out results while waiting to get into the curling is the most Canadian thing I've ever done.
Once inside, we realised that the venue had been set up in a very smart way. The permanent structure holds the four curling lanes (rinks? I don't know the terminology), the seats, a couple of bathrooms and a handful of concession stands. This is all that this venue will ever need once the Olympics are over, and clearly it would have made no sense to build it to Olympic proportions and then have it only half full for all subsequent events. To manage the Olympic crowds, huge tents housing additional bathrooms and concession stands had been set up along each side of the building, effectively quadrupling the size of the place. The queues for food and beer were much shorter and better managed than at the two hockey venues (whoever thought it was a good idea to have the same people taking money, serving food and pouring beer should be fired forthwith) and we only missed the first twenty minutes or so of the session.
The bad thing about the venue was that the seats were really crammed in, leaving us both feeling rather claustrophobic, in the middle of a row with people touching us on all sides. There was literally no room to move or to put down a bag or a beer on the ground. Again I suppose that for future events they won't have a full house, but with every seat taken it was uncomfortable for me and borderline unbearable for Mr E Man. Luckily the couple next to him left after only an hour, otherwise I don't think I could have persuaded him to stay much longer!
GB and Canada were both playing that night, but not against each other, so I could freely cheer for both teams*. At first I had no idea what was going on and just waved the appropriate flag whenever other people did, but I got into it quite quickly (my ten minutes of reading the Wikipedia page on my lunch break earlier that day must have paid off). There were obviously some tactical subtleties that we were missing, though, judging by the reaction of the crowd and the conversation of the group of curling aficionados behind us!
While a single curling match has lots of down-time and can be quite slow, the great thing with this event was that there were four matches going on simultaneously, so there was always some action to watch. Here are the Norwegians in their famously snazzy pants, followed up the ice in an adjoining lane by their Danish neighbours:
and here are some photos of the pants
HURRY! HURRY HARD!
In a way, watching the curling felt more Olympic-y than watching the hockey. We go to hockey games once or twice a year anyway (although the atmosphere was very different than at a Canucks or Giants game), but when - other than the Olympics - are you ever going to watch curling? (We quite fancy trying it though, in the same way that we get the urge to go ten-pin bowling about once every eighteen months).
Another surprise was the crazy crowd! There was a lot of chanting, singing, body painting, and general rowdiness (perhaps because of the shorter beer queues). Our Swiss friends from the security line-up were in fine voice,
but the real stars were the three Aussies in front of us who were trying to get a Mexican wave going (they were unsuccessful in the attempt below, but got a few going later), doing the "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oy Oy Oy" chant (with many non-Australians joining in), collecting every empty beer cup from our section of the crowd to make sculptures, and generally trying to make sure that everyone was having just as good a time as them, despite Australia not even having a curling team in the tournament!
As the final stages of each game began, the tension mounted (no, really, it did). Canada forced France to concede before the actual official end of the game, and received a standing ovation, cheering, and general adoration. All the other games went right to the end, with GB beating Denmark with the last stone of the game. Even I could see that it was a really good shot, and the Canadian crowd obviously agreed, judging by their noisy appreciation. By the end only Sweden and China were still playing, with approximately one third of the thinning crowd shouting for each team, and the other third just enjoying the feeling of space as people around them left.
Overall it was fun, and I'm really glad we went, but I don't think I'm a convert! I might watch the men's final later, but only if there's nothing else better on.
Hockey, on the other hand... I had about five heart attacks in the last ten minutes of last night's game, but we held on for the win and meet the USA in the gold medal game tomorrow. Expect a post tomorrow morning about how I became a hockey convert!
GO CANADA GO!
*When the two met later on in the tournament, I supported GB because Canada already has tons of medals and the Brits only have one - a gold in the women's skeleton