Experience Vancouver with Blogger Nicholas Wolaver
Nicholas Wolaver is a PR man by day and an Olympics superfan and historian by…well, also by day. He’s managed to marry his interests with a career that’s sent him to a half-dozen Olympic Games—experiences he blogs about at Olympic Rings and Other Things. From his temporary post in Vancouver, he talked to us about his travels, Vancouver and Whistler tips, and social media at the Olympics.
The Window Seat: When and how did your Olympics fandom begin?
Nicholas Wolaver: While Bruce Jenner’s decathlon victory in Montreal (1976) and the “Miracle On Ice” at Lake Placid (1980) are my earliest Olympic memories, the Los Angeles-bound 1984 Olympic Torch Relay captivated my attention at age 10. The relay visited my hometown of Edmond, Okla., and a few weeks later the magnificent Opening Ceremonies telecast hooked me for good.
In 1989, the U.S. Olympic Festival—sort of a warm-up mini-Games for U.S. athletes—also came to Oklahoma, so I volunteered, and my assignment with the Festival public relations office introduced me to journalism and PR, which later were my college majors.
By 1996, the Atlanta organizers hired me for my first paid Olympic job, and by chance I was chosen among 100 employees to carry the Olympic Torch in Oklahoma City, not far from the street where the LA84 runners passed the flame.
TWS: Which Olympic Games have you attended, and what’s your favorite memory from those?
NW: After working in Atlanta’s Olympic Village, the timing was right to launch a public relations career, which fortunately afforded time to volunteer at Sydney and the resources to travel as a spectator for Salt Lake and Athens.
But I was determined to get back into Olympic work through my career, and in 2006, Edelman—the PR firm that employs me—sent me on a dream assignment working in Torino for our client The Province of British Columbia. We were publicizing B.C.’s “log cabin pavilion in the piazza,” and our work there led to new projects in Beijing and my current six-week assignment in Vancouver.
There are countless incredible memories from each Olympiad—the harried race to attend Michael Phelps’ final event in China; experiencing Pavarotti’s last live performance in Torino (not a dry eye in the stadium); attending one of Annie Leibovitz’s photo shoots as a U.S. Olympic Committee intern; and interviewing Peter Ueberroth, Mary Lou Retton and Rafer Johnson at the LA84 XXVth Anniversary Celebration last summer each top the list.
It’s fun to write, and sharing Olympic experiences via an Olympic blog is incredibly rewarding during and between each Games.
TWS: You’ve been in Vancouver for a week now; how would you describe the atmosphere there? Are preparations for the Games complete?
NW: It’s been widely reported that the venues and Olympic operations are ready to go, and that definitely seems to be the case according to most locals.
Inside Vancouver’s airport (YVR), there’s wall-to-wall “Look of the Games” décor and slight updates to entry procedures. The chatter in taxis and on public transportation is about the unseasonably warm temperatures and weather, er, whether or not it will snow again soon.
Around town, I’ve noticed a lot of finishing touch work, such as the addition of a building-sized “Welcome to Vancouver” banner installation, and some of the party pavilions starting to take shape. And in most restaurants and shops, folks are eager to share ideas for spending leisure time in the city. Pin trading is slowly gaining steam.
I did not yet make it to Whistler, but understand the Olympic buzz there is strong and the skiing is amazing (hoping to trek there this weekend).
TWS: What are your top tips for travelers planning to attend the Vancouver Olympics—either advice specific to the area or more general advice for Olympics first-timers?
NW: If you are flying to Vancouver, there’s no need for a car as there is a new train from the airport and there are rail, streetcar or bus options to all Olympic venues (usually free the day of one’s ticketed Games event) and points of interest. Parking is going to be challenging and potentially expensive.
Vancouver is very walkable and there’s plenty to experience on foot. But if you must get in a car, taxis are plentiful here, much like in Manhattan, throughout the city center.
Only official vehicles will be able to drive to Whistler, so there’s another incentive to experience the freedom of temporary carless living.
For folks who are driving north from Seattle, plan ahead for heavy traffic at the border, and be sure to pack all the appropriate documents now required for reentry to the U.S.
TWS: You say on your blog that you’re a member of the International Association of Olympic Historians. It sounds like a fascinating group. Can you elaborate on your role and on what the organization does?
NW: Founded during the 1990s, the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH.org) is a small group of the world’s best-known researchers and historians who specialize in study of the Olympic Movement or “all things Olympic.”
There are about 340 members from 48 nations who work to preserve Olympic history through several channels.
As a member, I’ve not yet determined a specialty area, though Olympic Village traditions, and the Torch Relay’s foundation as a mobile publicity event created in 1936, are of personal interest.
Fifty years from now, historians will look at the Games from Atlanta to Vancouver as the infant stages of social media at the Olympics, and it’s interesting to be part of that evolving history in real time.
My name: Michelle Doucette
How I earn my keep: I'm an editor at IgoUgo.com.
Favorite way to get around: Some of my favorite trips involved renting cars in foreign countries and driving through the countryside, stopping on whims. You get a feel for the culture away from the big cities and meet interesting people on the road, including, I must admit, an embarrassingly high number of local policemen. I suppose it would be prudent to learn all of the traffic laws ahead of time.
Best meal I've had while traveling: Since a succession of gelato cones probably doesn't count as a meal, my favorite must have been a fresh crabmeat lunch prepared by a St. John sailboat captain while we took a break from snorkeling in the Caribbean. Sharing baklava as the sun came up over Paros, Greece, (while, once again, not technically a meal) was also memorable.
Travel ambitions: Since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I've figured out that I'd like to keep trekking while traveling. I've got my eyes on epic hikes in Nepal, Bhutan, and Peru.