Sunday, August 25, 2013

Canada Games 2013

Well, I've had a week at home  after a pretty crazy week in Magog and Sherbrooke at the Canada Games and I think my head has just about stopped spinning. As those of you who follow me on the Facebook or the Twitters will have read, I needed a week off to get over my week "off". At least I've ploughed through that load of zebra (read black 'n white) technical laundry.

As with all major triathlon events, with maybe the exception of London in three weeks, the pool of Technical Officials (TOs) was too small. Three from one province, two from that one, none from these ones.  I'm sure there's some deeper political meaning to these machinations, but I'm too dumb to get it.

Cue obligatory finish-line TO's picture. It's kind of a tradition.

The TD for the event was Janice Turner from Newfoundland.  We've worked together before and she seems to get on really well with la belle, which is good as I reckon those two are TriCan's Rio-bound officials right there. Race Ref was David Markham, who is pretty much an officiating God as far as we are concerned. I could't shake the feeling we were being assessed for the whole week!  There's a whole lot of leadership right there.   From Quebec we had Lise Dube and Eric Pregeant, both of whom I've worked with before too, and a new NTO, Sophie Yergeau.  Eric always makes out his English isn't very good, but he always gets the job done and even understands me, and that's not something every anglophone Canadian could say.  All three were at Mont Tremblant on Sunday, whilst Lise et Eric were also at the Magog Age-group Long Course the day before we started off at CG.  Talk about hard workers.   From BC there was Chief Race Official (and motor-pool car booker, social events coordinator and Resto St Hubert convert) Troyce Beglaw and also the guy who is running the risk of becoming my triathlon mentor, Andrew Armstrong (a fellow Brit).  I reckon most of the National and International races I've worked, I've worked with him.

Go and see British Andrew in Transition.

New Brunswick sent Marilyn Gergeas and Linda MacLeod, the latter of whom seems to be wearing both NS and NB crowns and along with la belle came hot-foot from World Du's which, apparently, to call a gong-show is doing a great disservice to gong-shows.  To round out the group we had Cathy Meara from MB and Terry Hooper from SK. Interestingly Cathy and Terry both had children in the Games, in triathlon!

It sounds like a lot but when you divide the event into seven sectors; swim, bike, run, registration, penalty, transition and finish, then suck away three TOs with "oversight" roles (TD, HR, CRO) and put another one in as announcer/MC then the pool gets pretty thin.  The upshot of being understaffed is that you get to do a whole bunch of jobs, which is pretty cool.  As an NTO you are supposed to be able to do all parts of an event from Registration to Medals and that was very much my experience at CG. 

My major gig was Chief Run, which is always the best seat in the house.  Let's face it, modern, draft-legal triathlon is very much a game of sit-in in the swim, sit-in on the bike, sit-in for the first half of the run and then cane it all the way home on the last lap. As Run, I was leading the run pack and was there to see, in real time, Emily Wagner put the boots to Emy Legault in the ladies, and similarly see Xavier Grenier-Talavera run some of the best Canadian U-23s off his heels in the mens. I mean, really sports-fans, who wouldn't want to see that? TSN should put a GoPro on the back of my bike next time!

Plus, I was assigned to a whole slate of secondary or assistant jobs. I was paired up with Andrew Armstrong again as Assistant Transition which means, basically, bike-check. What? You mean I get to play with carbon bikes with fancy wheels and Di2?  Sure thing boss.  We confused a whole bunch of Francophones who were told at some point over the week "Go and see British Andrew in Transition". Yup, that narrowed it down!  I was also given Starter for the relays. This was super-awesome. You see, for the last few years la belle and I have been to enough ITU races to have heard more than once the Pirates of the Caribbean music and the heartbeat that are the hall-marks of an ITU event and once, at World Du's in Gijon, were even luckier to be in an age-group start corral when it was played. With la belle as announcer, for the relays we were given the music and a mic and told to get on with it. Then I also got to help with the line-ups for the medal ceremonies.  As with St Andrews, pretty quickly you can go from being a bike-mechanic to FOP official to show-producer in the space of 90 minutes.

Speaking of relays there are a couple of youtube videos already for the relays (here and here). I, for one, find them pretty interesting as I get to see things I never saw on the day. Sure, I got to see the front of the run, but I saw little of the swim, the relay hand-over or TZ.

At Gijon, we heard the Pirates music every ten minutes as the Elites were racing, as it would be played whenever the pack came into the stadium, In between blasts of Pirates they played Rihanna's "Only Girl In The World" and J Lo's "On The Floor" on a continual loop!  I left Spain convinced ITU's soundtrack had been picked by a 14 year-old girl!  At this Games, the official song was Chantal Kreviazuk's Supersonic, which sounds like Clocks by Coldplay, but isn't.  Supersonic permeated the Games, the awards ceeremonies and the closing ceremony and I really don't want to hear it again!

The level of bilingualism, always high, was even higher given we were in Quebec. On our first day of competition I headed out onto the run course on Old Bess only to find myself briefing the volunteers, aid-station people and one cop in some kind of bastard Franglais.  Even better was dealing with some of the locals as they tried to drive through road-blocks onto the closed bike course.

"Non, non monsieur. Cette route est barrée. You must suiviez la voiture blanche"

I was so discombobulated one of my radio calls later in the day was

"Lead men heading out on their deuxième tour"

Spoken like a true New Brunswicker!

My level of linguistic discombobulation was nowhere near la belle's. As announcer she had to stick to the Games protocols as well as providing full commentary in English and French.  After the individual event she was somewhat criticized by Games staff for not being fully bilingual. Her crime was to introduce anglophone athletes in English and Francophone ones in French.  The RD described this nit-pickiness as "s'enfarger dans les fleurs du tapis" or literally tripping over the flower pattern on the carpet. It made me wonder if they didn't have one of those clocks they have at chess labelled Eng and Fr and were hitting buttons every time she switched language and if both clocks didn't show the same time at the end of the event, fire the MC. 

Clearly they weren't at the cycling, which I was able to get to, where the commentator was both fully Francophone, barely bothering with English, and totally biassed towards Quebec athletes to boot.  Or indeed the closing ceremonies.  Most dignitaries stumbled through a speech in both their preferred and non-prefered official language (the GG's accent is particularly gruesome, even to my ears) except the Parti Quebecois Minister for Education and sport, Madame Malavoy who spoke only in French and, according to la belle, managed to avoid saying the word "Canada" once in her allotted five minutes.  It was so bad some of the athletes (I think) started to chant "Anglais, anglais" as she spoke but were quickly hushed! If the idea was to piss off the best and brightest in English Canada, mission accomplished. The fireworks were pretty though.

The venue was brilliant; this was my fourth year at Magog and every year René and his team have risen to the challenge of putting on a bigger and better event. Unlike some RDs we've all worked for, Rene's default position always has been "sure, we can find a way to do that".   After the team relays we had only one complaint; the lake wasn't precisely the same colour blue as the ITU carpet.   He's going to see what he can do about that!

Unfortunately, our digs at the University de Sherbrooke weren't up to snuff. At least they had the vision to put most of the triathlon officials in adjoining rooms so when we all got up and were banging around  at o-dark-thirty on race morning, we were only disturbing our own.  The state of the rooms was, charitably, awful and the bathrooms were worse. Our shared bathroom was two-tone, with the institutional blue paint originally applied in 1972 peeking out from holes in the institutional beige paint last applied in 1989. As predicted in my first post, la belle had a major meltdown (my only surprise was she arrived on Sunday but it took until Monday night) and for the rest of the week was one silverfish away from packing up and leaving and driving in from Drummondville each morning if necessary. Breakfast was even worse. I saw a tweet from the athlete village at Bishops, with three smiling (and likely bilingual) volunteers standing in front of a warming tray with piles of bacon, eggs and other tasty comestibles. In the Major Technical Officiels breakfast hall we had a francophone Seinfeldt-esque soup-Nazi. You could have coffee OR fruit-juice.  A banana OR a muffin. Sure, unlike the athletes we weren't doing 5000 calorie days but still, it felt a bit much.

We didn't have a lot of time to ourselves to be honest, a couple of afternoons here and there and we had to attend to family business, with la belle's parents living within two hours of Magog. It'll be the same in London, but with my lot not hers.

That was pretty much how it was for us; a succession of early mornings, even earlier mornings, athlete briefings, bike-checks, course familiarization, dorm-related Blitz spirit, Franglias, St Hubert chicken and Pirates of the Caribbean. God, it was fun. 

À bientôt 


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