Official opening of the Games

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Q & A with former Olympian Mike Adam

During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Mike Adam will be discussing moments throughout the games, comparing them to his experiences at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Former Olympian, from the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Mike Adam answers some questions about his experiences as things unfold in Sochi.

As a member of the Canadian men’s curling team, Adam and the Newfoundland-based rink brought home gold.

With the opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympics taking place today, Adam answered questions about his experiences during the opening day in Torino.

 

Q: Did you to take in the opening or closing ceremonies or both?

A: We were fortunate enough to take part in both. The curling schedule started a couple days after the opening ceremonies and ended a day or two before the closing, so we got to take in both.

 

Q: What was the atmosphere like?

A: I’ve been asked that a lot and it’s so hard to describe. The atmosphere at the opening and closing ceremony were both different from one another. The feeling walking into the open-air stadium and seeing the Olympic rings for the first time along with the Canadian flag is something I will never forget. Canada is generally well liked globally, so we actually got a pretty good reception when they announced our team and we all walked in as one Team Canada. I have it all recorded as we walked in, but have never watched it. I haven’t had to – I can still picture it now like it happened yesterday. The excitement and energy was something you could definitely feel. In some ways it was almost like a nervous energy. Everyone was sort of eager to get going and get started. We were all excited to be taking part in the opening, but in a weird way we all knew it was just the start of two and a half weeks of tough competing and everyone was very focused. At that point, Team Canada still felt like a compilation of many smaller teams. It was a collection of curling teams, figure skaters, hockey players, skiers and many others. We had only seen most of the other athletes in and around the Athletes Village, but everyone is so busy with their own schedule and staying focused that we didn’t really get to know many of the other athletes by that point.

 

Q: Being one of the first nations to enter the stadium, did you find it exhausting as the ceremony went on?

A: The entire day of the opening ceremony was a day full of hurry-up-and-wait. Obviously there is a whole lot of logistics to co-ordinate everything on that day and it all had to run like clockwork. It began for us around lunchtime when we gathered in front of our buildings.

The Athletes Village is very much like a small self-contained town within a city. There are small apartment buildings, a central services area and everything you could ever need. Each country, depending on the size of the delegation, had a certain number of apartment buildings for themselves. Team Canada took up three or four of these buildings on our own. We were all given strict orders to meet in the square between all the Canadian apartment buildings and have our full opening ceremony gear on. If you remember, it was a very large parka, heavy wool sweater, winter pants, a fur hat, gloves and winter boots – all this with no snow on the ground in Torino.

It was a few degrees above zero and standing around in the middle of the day we were all getting pretty warm with that gear on. It was while we were waiting and gathering that people started to get to know one another and different teams started meeting other teams. We could recognize familiar faces of other athletes such as Cassie Campbell, Pierre Lueders, Hayley Wickenheiser and other athletes that we somehow felt like we knew, just from being fans of the Olympics.

It was also the first time I saw something that I will never forget. The apartment buildings we had were three or four floors high. One of the athletes had somehow managed to find a Canadian flag that covered nearly the entire exterior wall (three to four storeys). They found a way to hang it from the windows and balcony and it was huge. It provided a natural backdrop for many of our pictures and all the athletes signed the flag. There were a couple hundred autographs on it and it hardly took up one corner. This flag was huge!

After what felt like hours, we were all gathered and counted, then herded towards the security gate and the parking lot. All the other countries were just starting to do their gathering like we had. Once we were all loaded onto buses, we were brought into Torino, and sat in an arena next to the opening ceremony venue. We were slowly getting to know other athletes and exchanging backgrounds and stories. Being very early in the alphabet, we were one of the first countries into this arena. We were there for so long, they actually planned for, and delivered us all boxed lunches.

We had to sit there while all the other countries were marshalled into the arena and sat section by section, country by country. Finally the stadium was full and you could see all the other countries looking around and checking each other out. There was no music or anything going on in the arena, but it was buzzing with chats and chants. After what felt like hours, we were summoned to walk out of that arena and get our full gear on again as we started walking towards the marshalling area of the opening ceremony.

This was when Danielle Goyette was given our flag, but it was still bundled up and covered until our time to enter the arena. We walked towards the marshalling area and the early countries started to enter. By this point the opening ceremony had started, so we actually miss out on everything prior to the athletes march. Finally Danielle was given the go-ahead to unfurl the flag and I remember all the rest of the team starting to scream and chant and you could really feel the excitement at that point. Seeing the Maple Leaf being so enthusiastically flown around was pretty awe inspiring.

The conclusion of the torch relay was very exciting. That’s the part we were all waiting for. It was the first time we got to see the Olympic flame in person and they ran by each athlete with it, then lit the cauldron to a massive cheer from all the athletes and fireworks. Once the opening was over, we were marshalled back out onto the buses and back to the Village. For many, they would be competing first thing in the morning, but we were lucky enough to have a couple days off.

 

Q: What does it mean to be involved in something like this after watching it growing up?

A: For me I was always a sports fan in general. I liked watching just about every sport on TV, so for the Olympics to have the best of the best all taking place at the same time was something I naturally enjoyed. I never thought it would be something I’d participate in and since curling never became an Olympic sport until 1998 I never really had reason to think I would make the Olympics. Watching Sandra (Schmirler) and Mike (Harris) from Nagano at ungodly hours got me thinking that this might be something that could happen.

Of course I was still a few years away from starting to play at the elite level, but winning a world junior, playing well on World Curling Tour and going to the Brier, made the Olympics front and centre in everything we did. To have it all come together and be a part of that, with a group of friends who happened to curl together, was pretty unique.

Organizations: Team Canada

Geographic location: Canada, Athletes Village, Torino Maple Leaf Nagano

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