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March 1

I Watched...

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

It's been, as always, an extraordinary few weeks.

I watched the rain stream down when I arrived.

I watched a Winter Games host city sit surprisingly without snow.

I watched an opening day get off to an unspeakably sad start.

I watched a sliding course that sacrificed safety for the sake of speed.

I watched an opening ceremony finish with an embarrassing snafu.

I watched Vancouverites display unendingingly polite manners.

I ate more take-out sushi than ever before.

I watched a country bursting with energy over its national sport.

I was reminded how amazing hockey is.

I watched Team USA pull off a thrilling upset.

I watched a U.S. squad burst out to an impressive medal count lead, and never look back.

I watched the alarm clock hit 2 a.m. way too many times.

I watched people give me odd looks if I walked across the street during red lights.

I watched my first snowflakes of the games, 75 miles away, in Whistler.

I watched an attention-grabbing "Own the Podium" campaign struggle in its opening days.

I watched the clouds eventually part.

I watched the weather turn for the better.

I watched a stunning city in sunlight -- water and hills together, with air as crisp as a mountain stream.

I watched curling -- and I loved every minute of it.

I tried curling -- and I didn't succeed at first.

I kept curling -- and I watched my third stone hit the house.

I watched a controversial veteran skier get three medals.

I felt really good for him, despite his past struggles.

I watched ketchup chips get consumed at a rapid clip.

I watched a lot of coffee go down my pipe.

I watched an incredible crew work long hours and come through every time.

I watched a sublime figure skating performance unfold under unmatched pressure.

I watched the host country storm back impressively in the medal count, led by a late gold rush.

I watched a woman weep tears of joy when Canadian men won curling gold.

I watched newspapers here speculate about whether these were the greatest games ever, a stunning comeback when you consider how it all started.

I watched a young and surprising U.S. team storm back in a hockey gold medal game for the ages.

I watched Sidney Crosby come up big.

I watched bedlam on the streets.

I heard horns honk all night long.

I watched Canada bid goodbye to the games.

I watched the alarm clock hit 2 am one final time.

And I watched my wife and kid on Skype one more time, which is nice, but not the same.

I can't wait to watch them again in person.

Feb. 28

A Victory Reaching the Soul of a Nation

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

I was in Chicago on Election Night when Barack Obama won the Presidency. I was in Boston for Red Sox victory parade after their first World Series win in 86 years. But there was something different about being in Vancouver in the moments after the Canadian men's hockey team won the gold medal in overtime over the USA.

(CBS)

Fans in Vancouver celebrating Canada's hockey gold medal.

The city was alive in a way I haven't seen in the three weeks I've been here. There were the car horns, the cheering, and the cow bells. But in the minutes and hours after the win, there was just a constant roar within the city.

As an American, I found myself slightly torn. (I may have yelled, "Alright already! We getting the friggin' idea!" at a honking enthusiast.) The patriotic part of me, of course, wanted to see a USA win. But at the same time, there was something so incredible about witnessing that roar, that life in this city that's been my home for the past three weeks.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

Hockey is Canada's game, and I'm convinced that, despite its record-breaking performance and gold medal barrage, this country would not have known what to do with itself had their hockey team had to settle for silver. The weight of a nation was truly on the players' shoulders, and to see the relief, and joy, and celebration on the faces of Canadians at every turn well into the night tonight was something I'll always remember.

Feb. 26

A Head Above the Rest

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

Canadians have been showing their spirit in lots of ways.

Nearly everyone here is decked out in official Canada gear. The crowds of people on the streets of Vancouver are seas of red and white.

The most striking thing to me is the number of people wearing hockey jerseys. You can't do anything around here without seeing one. Do they wear them to work? I wonder.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

For the more enthusiastic fan, there is the face paint, the chest paint, and of course, the Canadian flag cape.

But earlier today, I saw a showing of national pride that required a little more commitment and creativity: a Maple Leaf shaved in the back of a man's head, and dyed red (of course.)

(CBS)

A maple leaf shaved into a man's head at the Olympics.

What made me take notice of it so quickly was the fact that, in Beijing, I saw someone do the exact same thing. His was the "running man" symbol of the 2008 Summer Games. Either way, pretty well done -- though I suppose I should be complimenting the person who wielded the razor!

(CBS)

The "running man" symbol in one man's hair.

Feb. 25, 2010

Getting Loud for Hockey

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

What a thrilling day for hockey.

I think I violated several noise codes inside the building while watching the USA-Switzerland game yesterday afternoon. Not a serene setting for my colleagues. The US peppered the net with shots the first two periods (outshooting the Swiss an astounding 32-8) but nothing was sticking. In the end, the win was deserved, but after a day off, it gets much more difficult in Friday's semifinal. Take a look at the Finnish roster. Grinders and NHL veterans abound.

Then there was the Canada-Russia matchup last night. I don't know if I've ever seen a more intense hockey atmosphere. This city is electric right now. Canada was already the national pastime. Now it's the national obsession. I mean that in the best was possible. I was in line yesterday and a woman near me said, "I don't usually watch hockey. But this is amazing." Not the first time I've heard that sentiment. Nothing short of a gold medal in men's hockey will do for Canadian fans. And now, they suddenly appear to have an easier path to the final game (after Slovakia's surprising win over Sweden).

If they knock off the Slovaks, and the US gets by the Fins, Sunday will be insane.

Feb. 24, 2010

A Word About Lines

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

Before I begin...a special shout out to Michael Mancusi and my readers at Errickson Elementary School in Freehold, N.J. Hi guys, and thanks for reading!

There are a lot of people here in Vancouver for the Olympics Games. And I would estimate that about 72 percent of those people are currently waiting in a line somewhere. Or, as Canadians would say, they are "queuing." There are lines to get into bars, restaurants, free screening areas or to have you picture taken in a bobsled. The only thing more baffling than the number of lines around this city is the Canadians' capacity to wait in them.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

At the Olympic Super Store, where you can buy the officially licensed Team Canada gear that the athletes wear, there is a consistent 3 hour wait just get inside. At Robson Square, where organizers have created a lively outdoor gathering area for tourists, we've heard the wait to ride a free zip line has gotten up to 6 hours long. Yes, a 20-second zip line ride over the crowd will cost you six hours of your life.

Jeff and others have discussed the politeness of the Canadian people, but there is some evidence their patience may be running out. I attended Short Track Speed Skating outside of Vancouver on Saturday night. After it was over, thousands of spectators made their way to public buses waiting to take them back to the city. While the line was moving smoothly, some people did try to come around to the front and cut in. (They must have been Americans.) Yells of, "Back of the line!" and "There's a line here!" could be heard from the Canadian crowd. But can you blame Canadians for being a little upset? They did just watch two of their countrymen in the five-man final of the men's 1500m race, only to see them finish fourth and fifth.

I learned first hand that there is one line that Canadians take very seriously; the left turn line. My cameraman Gilbert and I received a stern reprimand for pulling what's known as a "New York Left Turn," while racing back to the office with a tape on deadline in Gilbert's SUV. After pulling in front of a line of cars waiting to make a left, a Vancouver police officer stopped us, rolled down his window and yelled, "What was that back there?! Do I need to remind you that you're in a foreign country?!"

Apparently, he did.

Feb. 24, 2010

Ketchup Chips, Anyone?!

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

The great Ketchup chip controversy continues.

In case you missed it, ketchup chips are something of a national tradition here in Canada. Maybe not on the scale of hockey or curling, but not far behind.

A bag of ketchup chips sat near the coffee machine in our workspace when I first arrived. It generated much discussion, followed by an explanation and education from our Canadian intern. He loves them, as do millions in his homeland. I'm told they are available all over Canada, and in some American stores near the border -- though growing up only 15 miles away from our northern neighbor (in Tonawanda, N.Y.), I'd never seen them before.

There's nothing tricky involved. Ketchup chips are regular potato chips dusted with a red powder. They taste like, well, ketchup -- sweeter than the average chip, owing to whatever sort of artificial tomato-like flavor they throw into the mass Ketchup chip-making mix.

(CBS)

They were met with a good deal of derision inside the workspace:

"Why are these chips so red?"

"Ketchup chips? Really?"

"Can someone please go out and get some real potato chips?"

But here's the thing: They always get eaten. I'm not sure how many bags we've gone through, but they usually don't last long. That means one of two things: Either we'll eat anything you put in front of us, or ketchup chips deserve a bigger market.

Maybe both.

Feb. 23

Over-the-Top Over Performance on Home Turf?

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

Wow, have Canadian officials taken an unusual approach to these games, both before - and during.

In the run-up to the games, there was the much-ballyhooed "Own the Podium" campaign, an ambitious effort to top the medal count (they even have a Web site devoted to it -- OwnThePodium2010.com) -- despite the fact that the host nation, up until these games, had not previously produced any gold medals on its home soil. They got that home-soil gold this time(five of them, in fact), but otherwise have lagged noticeably in the medal count.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

"Own the Podium," while catchy and confident-sounding, seemed counter to a cardinal tenet of Sports 101: Don't give the other team (and the media) bulletin board material to stew over. It riles people up.

Adding to the drama, Canadian officials barred foreigners from using their downhill course and sliding track for extra practice, giving home-country competitors a clear advantage. Not unique in Olympics history, but also not a way to mollify already agitated athletes.

By now, "Own the Podium" has devolved into any number of modified, mocking titles. The local newspaper called it "Blown the Podium." Jokes have been made that Canada appears more than willing to lease out its "owned" medal stand.

Then I saw this: Canadian officials are apparently blaming fanatical fans for the country's struggles. From Nathalie Lambert, chef de mission of the Canadian Olympic team: "We've never seen anything like that and maybe we were ill-prepared to how we would react to Canadian fans really showing their colours. We've never seen this before."

Huh? Too much support? I have to admit, I've been impressed by the passion of Canadians attending the games. The streets are often awash in red and white. There's a sustained, infectious energy -- especially before the Canada-USA men's hockey game on Sunday night. I always thought, in sports, you wanted that -- support, celebration, extra numbers. Hard to see how that's a negative.

Looking at the upcoming events, Canada has a chance to climb out of its current medal count morass. But officials here admit they won't catch the U.S., which is piling up medals at a prodigious clip. With 25 by the end of Monday night, Americans had equaled their total haul in Torino, with six days still left in competition.

I don't know for sure, but maybe it's because U.S. officials did not enter these games assuming "ownership." They let their athletes earn it.

Feb. 22

Woe, Canada

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

After my failed attempt to enter the USA-Canada hockey game on Sunday (I was told even media needed special ticketing), I instead found myself watching the first period of the game with about 1,000 of my closest Canadian friends at an outdoor screening area. Had it not been for the media pass around my neck, I would not have been able to make it in there either. There was a huge line around the block to get inside this free event. In fact, there were huge lines to get in everywhere in Vancouver last night -- provided the venue was serving alcohol and had a TV.

The crowd was a sea of red and white jerseys, with the occasional painted face too. When we asked some viewers what they would do if USA won, they told us, "That's impossible." They cheered with every check, and held their breath with every shot on goal. It was an incredible game no matter which side you were rooting for, but perhaps Canadians didn't see it that way. Team USA beat their rivals to the north, 5-3.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

I left the screening area well before the end of the game, but reports from our staff here said that following the defeat, the streets were eerily quiet for the first time since the Games began here 11 days ago.

Today marks 30 years since the Miracle on Ice, the USA's incredible defeat of Russia at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Last night's win by the USA is being dubbed the "Mini Miracle on Ice." Maybe that's going a step too far. But one thing is clear, the ever-friendly Canadians were in a collective bad mood this Monday morning.

Feb. 20

The "Big Get" that Got Snatched -- by Oprah!

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

This was supposed to be the blog posting where I talked about how cool it was to meet an Olympic champion. I'd include a photo, too: Shaun White with me, both with big smiles, while I wore his gold medal around my neck.

Then Oprah happened.

For more than ten days, I had been communicating with Shaun's publicist, and had booked him on "The Early Show" for the morning of Friday, February 19. It would have been his first morning show interview outside of the "Today" show. It would have been his first morning show interview following his gold medal ceremony on Thursday night. It was a very strong booking, considering the fact that White is one of the hottest stars at these Winter Games. And his performance in the halfpipe on Wednesday was jaw-dropping. I was pretty pleased with myself. My bosses in New York were pleased, too.

But all day Thursday, I had this nagging thought: "This has been too easy." A network TV booker needs to be, in some ways, an eternal pessimist who is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, it dropped, alright.

Just two hours after I had spoken with White's publicist and she'd confirmed we were still on track, I received this e-mail: "I wanted to touch base with you soonest in regards to tomorrow. Shaun has been given the opportunity to fly to Chicago to be on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." We simply cannot pass this up and hope that you can understand, we will do whatever we can to make it up to you."

The Big O was chartering a flight for Shaun and his crew to fly to Chicago in order to tape her live show on Friday morning at 9 o'clock CST.

As much as I like to think I'm a super producer, it's tough to compete with Oprah and a private plane. I held onto the booking for several more hours with everything I could. We made plans to do the interview from our Chicago bureau. We discussed me getting on the flight to make sure Oprah didn't pull any funny business. We considered booking a satellite truck to meet Shaun at the airport in case his flight was delayed and we didn't have time to get him to our bureau.

But it wasn't meant to be: Oprah's people clamped down, saying Shaun couldn't do an interview before their show. We are now working with his people to reschedule.

It's frustrating and disappointing. Thankfully, the e-mails I've been receiving from my colleagues in New York today have been sympathetic, not angry. Losing this booking is still eating at me, but it's time to move on. Another American has since been crowned an Olympic gold medalist - Evan Lysacek in Men's Figure skating - and I hope there are plenty more to come.

Feb. 19

Flap Over Delayed Medals Ceremonies

by CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor

The question is whether fans are getting cheated.

The discussion is over medals ceremonies.

If you haven't noticed, many of these ceremonies aren't held immediately after an event, but a full day afterwards, and in an entirely different venue. I don't know what it's like watching back home, but here, these ceremonies are frequently trumpeted on TV, usually timed to coincide with the start of primetime programming the next day. For example, after Alexander Bilodeau won Canada's first ever Olympic gold on home soil, on Sunday night, he was given his medal on Monday night. When Maelle Ricker won gold number two for Canada on Tuesday night, she was given her medal not at Cypress Mountain, but in downtown Vancouver, on Wednesday night.

We should be clear: The trend is not unique to the Vancouver games. I'm told the tradition of awarding medals well after the event actually started happening 30 years ago, at Lake Placid.

But by now, I gather, the only sports that award medals in the actual stadium, right after the actual event, are hockey, curling, and figure skating. Other presentations are delayed.

Here's the argument against delayed medal ceremonies: Fans get gypped. If you pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket, trudge through rain or snow or possibly sleet, and endure lines and potentially frustrating bus rides to see an Olympic event and an Olympic champion, don't you deserve to see the medal being awarded? It seems so much more immediate in this setting, with the athlete still wearing his competitive uniform, the thrill of victory still soaking in, the emotion in the crowd.

Here's the argument for delayed medal ceremonies: More fans can enjoy it, or enjoy it twice. If you're watching on TV and swelling with pride over a victory attained by an athlete from your country, why wouldn't you want to extend the buzz? Watch the win one night; watch the national anthem played the next night. Alternatively, if you're a fan who wasn't able to get a ticket to see the event in person, maybe you can get a ticket for the medal ceremony (organizers here in Vancouver are charging between $22 and $50 for entry to these ceremonies, and they're embellishing the presentation with musical performances before and after).

There's no official scoring on this debate. You make the call.

Feb. 18

Vancouver's Uncanny Coincidences

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

Fascinating factoid pointed out by U.S. officials: Only four American men have repeated as Olympic gold medalists at the Winter Games. Three of those repeats have happened in Vancouver: Seth Westcott in snowboard cross, Shani Davis in speedskating, and Shaun White in halfpipe. The only previous repeat champion? Dick Button, figure skater, all the way back in 1948/1952.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

Feb. 17

Manners Golden in Vancouver

By Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

These Games gave not gone well -- the latest incidents involve a barricade collapse at a music venue and a renegade spigot that sprayed water all over the luge track -- but it's not for lack of manners on the part of average Vancouverites. Nearly everyone I've encountered has been exceedingly polite (patience that so far has held even as the problems persist).

My favorite story developed downstairs from our workspace, at a small takeout spot where I was waiting to place an order. The gentleman in front of me wasn't wasting any time, but he was placing a slightly more elaborate order, obviously getting dinner for more than one. I didn't wait for long, less than two minutes, and I wasn't acting antsy, but when he was done he still turned around to address me. His message, delivered almost as if he had done something terribly wrong, "Thank you for your patience."

How often does that happen where you live?

Walking around the streets here, as well, can be an awakening. Why? Locals follow the rules. In New York, where I live, pedestrians can and will take any opportunity to get from one corner to the other, red light or green. If we see an opening, we take it, hazards be damned. At times, this reckless attitude is taken to extremes. I always cringe when I see a careless nanny shoot across an intersection, against traffic, while pushing a baby stroller.

Here, don't even think about crossing the street if you have a red hand (stop sign) in front of you, or even one that just started blinking. If you do, don't be surprised if you get an odd look. Even at 3 a.m., when I typically get to work here, eyewitness evidence indicates the rules are strictly adhered to. I feel like I'm constantly on the verge of getting a jaywalking citation.

Tuesday, Feb. 16

Hockey, Watch Out!

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

I cannot describe the anticipation here surrounding the beginning of the curling competition today. Radio shows are abuzz with discussions this morning as we drive to Whistler (where we're conducting an interview for a separate story). A nation eagerly awaits.

Curling, if you haven't heard, is a continuing Canadian phenomenon. It is said up to 90 percent of the world's curlers are Canadian (I would love to see how such statistics are calculated). TV ratings are boffo; fans line up for hours for tickets.

Most speculate that the attraction is rooted in an ability to connect. Curlers don't have to be 25 and in peak physical condition; they could be you, or your parents (which is not to say they don't have talent). Their sporting lifetimes extend far beyond the range of, say, the average downhill skiier.

The venue where curling is held is small, seating only 5,000, which only seems to make the event hotter, since it's so hard to get tickets. Don't get too upset if you're not fully up-to-speed by the end of today: The curling madness continues for twelve days, total. We're told the ice conditions here (unlike at the speed skating rink) are lovely.

Oh, and don't forget to watch the Norwegian team. They've caused quite a stir this year by wearing unusually loud outfits: wild plaid pants that apparently conflict with long-held curling clothing traditions. The designer of the pants? The same person who outfits outspoken golfer John Daly.

Tuesday, Feb. 16

Leaving It All Out There

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

It's not a glamour sport, but show me an event with more guts than cross country skiing. Hold the laughter, please.

Did you watch the Men's 15K cross country race? Athletes were routinely collapsing at the end -- I mean dropping, right away, after crossing the finish line -- many of them too spent physically and emotionally to take one more stride.

It was, and is, incredibly inspiring to see these competitors go all out (at times, as we have seen, it can also be incredibly dangerous). They have put everything they have, for years, if not decades, into one goal: becoming an Olympic champion. It goes without saying that, in each event, all but one of them will not reach that dream, but when you leave absolutely nothing on the table, can you really say any of them failed?

Tues, Feb. 16

The Athlete Shuffle

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

Part of my job here in Vancouver is to play "chauffeur" for athletes and their entourages. In Beijing I wouldn't dare get behind the wheel of a car. (See Jeff's blog post on the topic.) There we had Chinese drivers, along with bilingual fixers to tell them where to go. Driving in Vancouver, on the other hand, is not unlike driving around any American city. And the good news is that there is very little traffic here...at least at 4 a.m. local time, when I'm driving around.

On Sunday night I learned that Women's Moguls bronze medal winner Shannon Bahrke would be available for an interview with the CBS Early Show following her 7:09 a.m. EST hit on NBC's Today Show. We also wanted to interview her mom, who was staying at a nearby hotel. We later learned that the bronze medalist in Men's Moguls, Bryon Wilson, would also be joining us. The Today Show is located at Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver. My job was to pick them all up and bring them to our CBS location in downtown Vancouver. I was told it was a pretty easy drive -- just 11 kilometers. Like most Americans, I had no idea what that meant. So instead, I printed out my Google maps, fired up my GPS in the rental minivan, and did a dry run the night before to time the route. There were a few stressful moments the next morning, ("How long does it take the gondola to bring them down the mountain?") but I was able to deliver them successfully to our location.

Along the way, I got a phone call from the US Olympic Committee informing me that ABC's Good Morning America wanted Shannon and Bryon immediately after us. Normally the morning show competition is pretty fierce, but during the Olympics we try to play nice. As we prepared for our live shot, we held our breath during some tense moments when it appeared as if the group might not be mic'd and hearing audio of the show in time for a live tease. In the end, it all worked out and the three-minute interview with Harry Smith back in New York went as smoothly as could be.

After one quick photo with the medal winners, I quickly ushered the group (which also included two of Bryon's friends, who are sleeping in their cars just to be here in Vancouver) off our rooftop, and down to the GMA booker who was waiting outside our lobby. They were rushed into an SUV and off to another interview. With the handoff complete, I took a deep breath and collapsed, feeling as if I had already finished a full day's work. Then I looked at the clock. It was 5:47am.

(CBS)

From left: "Early Show" producer Bob Kozberg, Bryon Wilson, bronze medalist men's moguls, Shannon Bahrke, bronze medalist of women's moguls, and "Early Show" producer Lauren Danza.

To read more go to Page 2.

Monday, Feb. 15

The Making of a Vice Presidential Interview

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

You have to be ready for anything when you're on a remote assignment, and that includes a visit from the Vice President.

Joe Biden was in our workspace Sunday morning for a live interview with Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation." But this was no last-minute drop-by. The 18-minute satellite interview required days of coordination between our Washington bureau, the White House, and our lead producer here in Vancouver, Bruce Rheins.

The sheer amount of logistics that needed to be worked out was incredible. Among those involved were the Executive Office of the Vice President, the Advance Planning team, and various security agencies, including the Secret Service, Royal Canadian Mountain Police, and the Vancouver Police. We also needed to alert the administration in our building that we needed our third floor workspace to be on lockdown for part of Sunday morning.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

"What was most surprising was the irregular, 24-hour nature of this whole thing," Bruce told me. His first meeting with the Vice President's office was at 10 p.m. on Thursday, with a large contingent of the security and advance teams. The advance team literally goes places "in advance" of the president and vice president. They checked out our facilities to make sure they were suitable and tried to iron out details of the location for the interview.

The prettiest shot here is from our rooftop overlooking Vancouver. But would that be safe? And what about the weather? Would it be possible to have two live shot locations set up simultaneously? What about other contingent plans? These were just a few of the questions that needed to be resolved.

On Friday night -- after a day that started at 12:30am -- Bruce was woken up at 10:30 p.m. for another meeting with the advance team and the traveling press secretary. At that point, Mr. Biden's representatives decided they wanted to do the interview indoors, in our third floor workspace.

The next logistical challenge? Playing moving men. "Our crews worked all day Saturday to turn a normal-looking lounge into a satellite studio/faux ski cabin/Vice Presidential retreat," Bruce said. Couches, tables and even a pool table needed to moved around. Wood paneling, lamps, books, and flags were brought in to dress it up.

(Speaking of flags, the Vice President's office provided us with something we didn't know existed: the Vice Presidential flag. Supposedly, there are only four in existence.)

(CBS)

Left: Vice President Biden and various members of his staff and CBS News personnel, including "Early Show" producer Lauren Danza.

After a Secret Service sweep of the area at 6 a.m. local time, we were good to go. The Vice President arrived with a staff of about ten people, not to mention the dozen or so security agents.

Thankfully, the interview went off without a hitch. We even got a good photo out of it!

Monday, Feb. 15

"Eye-Opening" TV Coverage in Canada

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

I'm a big fan of Canadian television. Growing up outside Buffalo, I watched the Olympics and Hockey Night in Canada (perhaps even the occasional episode of "Degrassi Junior High"!) regularly on the CBC. But this year, I wasn't the only one surprised by something that appeared on a national broadcast right in the middle of an otherwise elegant lead-up to the opening ceremony: body shots, beer games, and stripping.

The background: Five years ago, many Canadians were stunned when a consortium led by CTV (one of the national broadcast networks akin to CBS or NBC or ABC in the U.S.) won the broadcast rights for the Olympic Games, beating out the CBC, the longtime carrier. CTV, it is said, overpaid ($90 million U.S.), so they could snatch the Games away from their closest competitor. Not so surprising, I guess. This is Canada. It's the Winter Olympics. They're in Vancouver. It's a broadcaster's dream event (as evidenced by the ratings: the opening ceremony became the most watched event in Canadian television history).

No doubt, a great deal of thought, money and planning went into coverage, but at least one portion of it may not have been sufficiently screened. This is what happened as I was watching last Friday afternoon (again, before the ceremony, but not too far away): The broadcast cut to Whistler Mountain, site of the skiing, snowboarding, and sliding competitions. A young reporter on a snowboard slid down a hill before tossing to a colleague in a hot tub not far away. He was surrounded by very young women in bikinis. I didn't hear the content of the report too clearly; I was still slightly taken aback. The next correspondent was positioned inside. She narrated as two people did body shots off a young person's torso. This was followed by a drinking game demonstration -- the point of which, I gather, was to win beer by taking off clothes more quickly than the other competitor. It was all reasonably odd, arriving at this moment of great and dignified Canadian national pride (I'm sure, by the way, that all of this video is on YouTube or some site somewhere if you're truly interested). When the body shots were done, the network resumed its regular pre-ceremony coverage, back to correspondents positioned in more traditional locations, or anchors behind a desk.

Don't get me wrong. It was by no means the most outrageous piece of programming that's ever aired. But given the general tone of coverage, it was more than a little eye-opening. The segment, I later saw, was widely slammed by Canadian TV critics and viewers.

I understand, I suppose, what they were going for: an injection of MTV/"Jersey Shore"-style teenage appeal in what could potentially have been a slightly staid run-up to the big event. But this one... just didn't work.

To read more, go to Page 3.

Monday, Feb. 13

by Grant Burns

For the next two weeks, I'm going to be interning with the CBS News team here in Vancouver. I'm Canadian and I'm a journalism student at the University of British Columbia, in the Graduate School of Journalism, one of Canada's largest and most prestigious research institutions.

Though I don't have much experience in broadcast journalism, I know a non-rights holder at the Olympics faces challenges. If you can't show the sports and have limited access to venues and athletes, what do you show? Creativity becomes the order of the day.

I suspect, in my capacity as an intern, I'll use my Canuck perspective to help cultivate original angles on Olympic stories. Either that, or I'll remain a curiosity, a sounding board off of which inquiries about Canada and Canadians can be bounced.

Embedded in an American news team, I've had to explain a few things about this country, namely the mystery of ketchup chips. As I understand it, ketchup-flavoured potato chips are not available in most places in the U.S. The flavour, though, competes with barbeque and salt and vinegar for the best-selling variety north of the border. As a kid, I don't remember being particularly surprised by ketchup as a flavour. It's not all that dissimilar from eating ketchup with French fries, is it? Nevertheless, I've had to justify my country's seeming obsession with condiment-doused chips to the CBS News team!

It turns out there aren't any easy explanations. Different regions appreciate different flavours. I know crab-flavoured chips are big in New England and, while I assume Doritos are a staple in the Southwest, I have no proof. For some reason, Canadians choose to take their chips with ketchup and Americans don't. I could only find one article that addresses the question. Unfortunately, the author merely proves the existence of the phenomenon, rather than answering the most perplexing question: Why?

I've come up with two possible explanations. One, Canadian ketchup tastes different. Sugar is a primary ingredient, rather than high-fructose corn syrup. Here's a discussion by some ketchup aficionados.

But, even if the recipes are different on either side of the border, the difference in taste on either side of the 49th parallel ignores the overall popularity of ketchup in America. According to the subtitle of Andrew F. Smith's overbearingly thorough history, "Pure Ketchup," it's America's favourite condiment. So, why not eat it on chips, a potato product, just like fries?

That leads to my second possibility: I read somewhere that, in the U.S., chips are often eaten as a side-dish to complement a sandwich, and therefore, just salted chips are preferred. In Canada, because chips are much more commonly consumed as a standalone snack, seasoning is required. This seems anecdotal. Why would there be so many varieties of seasoned potato chips in America if this were the case?

Lacking an answer to why ketchup chips are more popular in Canada, I throw up my hands. I don't know. They just are. Sorry, America.

I've also been asked to defend Canadians' love of curling. Obviously, it seems a little boring on television. In spite of that, it's bafflingly popular on Canadian television. Curling ratings outstrip every sport besides hockey. In early December, the Olympic trial tournament nearly swept weekend sports television ratings across the country.

Curlers, like golfers, don't appear to be in peak condition and aren't defying the laws of physics like ski jumpers. In fact, at a glance, I think most people can envision becoming good at the sport, given practice. I don't think anyone believes they could just spend a few hours on the slopes before competing for a gold medal in the Olympic downhill. Curling is unique.

But I think two other Canadian passions fuel our collective passion for curling's distinctive blend of rock sliding and ice sweeping: beer and courtesy.

Saturday, Feb. 13

Mixed Messages about Deadly Luge Track

by Jeff Glor, CBS News correspondent

In the wake of Friday's horrendous crash, I've talked a good amount with Anne Abernathy, the woman known as "Grandma Luge." She's a six-time Olympic luger, currently serving as an adviser to the U.S. Virgin Islands team. I asked her if luge is the most dangerous sport at the Winter Games. She said, "No, skiing is." But she acknowledges luge is the most treacherous of the sliding sports, faster and with less room for error than bobsled or skeleton.

Olympic officials have made the seemingly incongruous announcement that there are no "deficiencies" in the track, yet they are simultaneously making some minor changes to the track. They are going to raise the wall at curve 16, where Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed after he went off the course and hit an unpadded steel poll. They are also going to make other "unspecified" changes. Don't be surprised if one of these is a decision to not "spritz" the track before runs, a procedure usually used to smooth and speed up the course before competition.

Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010

Georgia on My Mind

by Lauren Danza, CBS News producer

There is a reason that CBS News sends a team of producers, engineers and a correspondent to Vancouver, despite the fact that we are not one of the international rights-holders to the Olympics. We're here to cover anything newsworthy to come out of the Winter Games. And when thousands of people from around the globe -- from heads of state, to elite athletes, to tourists -- descend on a city for 17 days, there will likely be events that demand news coverage. You hope they will be powerful and uplifting stories of triumph over adversity, but we know from experience that they could be centered around a security alert or a scandal. On Friday, we had to report tragedy. Twenty-one-year old Nodar Kumaritashvili, of the Republic of Georgia, was killed during a training run on the luge track. He lost control of his sled on the final curve of the course, flying off the track, and smashing into a metal support beam.

The luge track at the Whistler Sliding Center is reportedly the fastest in the world. Lugers have been clocked at over 90 mph. And it's worth noting that bobsled and skeleton athletes slide down that same track during their competitions -- though they don't achieve the same speeds. There will be lots of questions in the days and weeks ahead about whether the track was safe, and whether more inexperienced luge athletes from smaller countries were given enough training time on it.

(CBS)
(Left: Republic of Georgia's team at Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. wearing black arm bands in honor of teammate Nodar Kumaritashvili)

But there were a few more questions hounding me as I watched the opening ceremonies. What is going through the minds of the seven other Georgian athletes who are here? What did it feel like for them to march into the stadium just hours after their friend and teammate was killed? Was Kumaritashvili's family here in Vancouver or watching at home? And how do the people of Vancouver feel? I find I can't help but feel sympathy for the very kind people of this city who have dedicated years of their lives to the next 17 days. Does this ruin the entire experience for them, or will this terrible accident become just a footnote in the 2010 Winter Olympics?

I'm reminded of the tragic story we had to cover during the first days of the Beijing Olympics in August of 2008. Just hours after what was the most spectacular Opening Ceremonies, we got word that two tourists had been attacked at the Bell Tower in Beijing. We quickly learned that they were Americans, and in fact, they were the mother and father-in-law of men's Olympic volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. His father-in-law later died. A few days later, we interviewed Coach McCutcheon, and I was touched by his stoicism and dedication to his team in the face of such a personal tragedy. I was in the arena on the final day of the Games when the men's volleyball beat the Brazil to win the gold -- for themselves, their nation, and their coach.

I hope that Georgia has that same opportunity in one of their events. I know it will be a longshot, as they are such a small team: three figure skaters, three alpine skiers, and another luger. But as I watch these Olympic Games, I will be rooting for a Georgian athlete to somehow make it to the medal stand. And that, too, will be a story worth covering.

To read more, go to Page 4.

Friday, Feb. 12, 2010

It's All Wet

by Jeff Glor

Well, it's wet.

The raindrops began building on the windows of the plane as it descended into Vancouver, and when I stepped out of the airport the streets were glittering with fresh precipitation. It feels odd, coming from recently snow-sacked New York. It's mild here, humid, not a snowflake in sight, as Lauren Danza has noted.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

The flight landed at 3:30 a.m. Eastern, and we hit the ground running. Cleared customs, picked up my bag, and then got to the workspace after a 15-minute drive. We were on the air in The Early Show newsblock shortly after 7 a.m. Not surprisingly, the focus of the piece was weather.

This won't be a long post. I'm angling to catch at least a couple hours of shut eye before the opening ceremony this evening and the events that begin in earnest this weekend, but we hope you check back here frequently -- and we hope we can give you a unique (read: non-broadcast rights holder) perspective on the games, both online and on TV.

Until then...

From Lauren Danza:

The biggest challenge as a non-rights holder at the Olympic Games is our limited access to the venues and events. So here's a unique way for us (and those at home) to "see" the Olympic ski courses at Whistler mountain. The folks at Google who developed Street View have now created what I'm calling Slope View. You can traverse the trails just as the Olympic skiers themselves do. Pretend you're Bode Miller as you 'ski' down the parts of the downhill course nicknamed the Toilet Bowl, the Weasel and the Afterburner. In fact, you can check out imagery of the venues for all the sports, including luge, bobsled, and snowboard.

I happen to be a self-admitted Google Maps nerd - so this is right up my alley. To get the full story, check out this video, which illustrates how Google created a snowmobile that can record imagery 360 degrees around in order to chart the courses.

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010

U.S. Star May Be Out Before She Even Starts

by Lauren Danza

She is the most decorated female skier in U.S. history. She has been the subject of countless news articles in the last few weeks. She is the cover girl of Sports Illustrated's Olympic Preview issue, and even appears in the famous swimsuit issue this week. But now, a serious injury is forcing alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, dubbed the "Michael Phelps of Vancouver," to face the reality that she might not be able to ski at these Olympics at all.

While she still flashed that winning smile, you could hear the disappointment in Vonn's voice. During a press conference Wednesday at the Main Press Center here, the 25 year-old explained how a nasty crash during slalom training in Austria last week had caused a deep bruise in the muscle of her right shin. She was unable to walk for two days and has yet to put on skis. She called it "excruciatingly painful" to even put her foot in a ski boot.

"A week ago ... I was feeling great, I was feeling healthy, I had no problems," Vonn said. "And now I'm sitting here today questioning whether I'll be even able to ski. So it's not where I want to be, by any means."

Vonn has her first training session at Whistler today and says she'll know more about her ability to tolerate the pain by then.

This isn't her first injury in advance of an Olympics. A crash during a practice run in Torino in 2006 put her in the hospital. Forty-eight hours later, she came back to race in the downhill event, finishing eighth. This time, however, the golden girl of Team USA may be finished before she even starts.

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010

So, Where's the Snow?!

by Lauren Danza

Opening Ceremonies are on Friday night, and this city by the sea is preparing to be in the international spotlight for 17 days of Olympic competition and festivities. According to the United States Olympic Committee, 5,500 Olympic athletes from more than 80 countries are expected to participate from over 80 countries; more than 10,000 journalists are covering the Olympics; and approximately 3 billion people will tune in around the globe to watch.

Despite those impressive numbers, the one that many people are focused on is this: 32. As in, 32 degrees Fahrenheit - a.k.a., freezing. Vancouver hasn't seen 32 degrees in quite some time. In fact, the city experienced its warmest January on record. On Monday, as I drove into the city with a huge suitcase full of sweaters and long johns in my trunk, Vancouverites were walking around in short sleeves! They experienced a high of 51 degrees that day.

The unusually mild temperatures are forcing the Vancouver Olympic Committee to scramble. At Cypress Mountain, the venue hosting freestyle skiing and snowboarding events, snow has been delivered by truck and helicopter. Crews are working around the clock to keep the conditions up to par.

Despite that, organizers say they'll be ready for the first competitive event on the mountain -- the Women's Moguls on Saturday. And American skiers say they're not concerned. Late Tuesday, after a practice session, the reviews started coming in. "The course is in beautiful shape," said 2002 Olympic moguls silver medalist Shannon Bahrke. "As soon as it gets a little more skier traffic, it's going to be perfect."

The forecast for the rest of the week isn't promising. High temps around 50, with rain. Of course, the irony of it all is that my friends and colleagues back in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. are digging out of another major snowstorm today. Any chance they can send some snow this way?

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