Last week during our Olympic odyssey, we had the chance to partake in one of the best events going at the Olympics – Heineken House (Irish House was another best and we hear Germany house was pretty amazing but didn’t want to wait 2 hours in line to find out). Heineken House is located in Richmond at the “O Zone” so it was a natural stop for us before long track speed skating. We arrived at about noon and waited 35-40 minutes to get in.
Heineken had taken over the Richmond community center and filled it with information desks about Holland, a store sporting Dutch Olympic wear and the highlight, a gym sized bar filled with big screen TVs, several food options, and of course Heineken. Highlighting Dutch efficiency, upon arriving in the gym/bar, you went to one of the two pay centers put a $5 deposit on an ATM style card plus the amount of cash you thought you would spend and then just swiped the card to pay for food and drinks. When you left, you turned in your card for your refund and any remaining cash balance. This system was so efficient, we never had to wait more than 90 seconds for food or Heineken.
We sampled some traditional Dutch fare, which I, of course, forgot to photo and can’t even spell, but consisted basically of kale mashed potatoes in an ice cream scoop shape and 1/2 a sausage. It was surprisingly good. While in line we also met some fellow Americans and chatted with them about their Olympic experience and their prior experiences. Turns out they had been to both Salt Lake City and Turin and while they’ll be skipping the Winter Olympics in Russia (they have 3-year-old triplets!), they’re planning on hitting up the Winter Olympics after that one.
After only two beers, it was time to take off and head to the Richmond oval for some speed skating. The event? The men’s 500 meter.
It was an exciting event when the skaters were on the ice, because the 500 meter is so short it equates to only about 1 3/4 turns around the track. We had the fabulous fortune to experience the night of what I refer to as the “should have used Zamboni” disaster, however, so for the approximately 80 minutes of skating we saw, we were treated to more than 140 minutes of this:
Jim’s sister and brother-in-law were watching at home and it was really interesting after to find out the differences in communication about the problems. The event consisted of two rounds and 40 skaters per round broken into groups of 2. Two skaters raced against each other at a time, one on the inside track, one on the outside track (on the second round, they reversed position so everyone skated on the inside once and the outside once). After every 10 rounds of skaters, the ice has to be resurfaced. Vanoc elected not to use the tried and true Zamboni, which is – gasp – American, and instead went with a “greener” non-Zamboni. On the first resurfacing, the non-Zamboni broke. So far info. consistent. Next, the second non-Zamboni was taken onto the ice, but the operators forgot to remove something from the non-zamboni and it tore up the ice. If you were watching at home you would have learned this fact and that they were considering post-phoning the event. We were not told this. We were told it would be a 1/2 hour delay and then another 1/2 hour and that the problem was equipment, not personnel based. Not a word was breathed about possibly canceling the event.
Fortunately, we had the high spirits of the rabid Dutch crowd (all in Orange, some with hats that were truly awesome sporting wooden clogs among other things) and what I can only think of as the “Oom-pa-pah band” to keep us entertained for our initial hour delay and every subsequent 30 minute delay between rounds of skaters.
The real low moment of the event, however, was Shani Davis’s withdrawal after round 1 as he was the States best chance to medal and is just really fun to watch.
Overall, speed skating was an interesting event, but to all those who say baseball is slow I now say HA! Try speed skating!