Welcome to the (not-so) Winter Olympics.
For the next 17 days, I'll be posting daily on the sights and sounds of the 2010 Games for RealClearSports. I'll be reporting from Whistler, where -- unlike Vancouver, at sea level about two hours' drive south, it's actually winter.
Right now, I'm on a bus making the 2 ½-hour trek from Whistler to the city on the stunning Sea to Sky Highway, which winds its way along the coastline. We're descending in thick fog, and it's raining. I have to thank Canadian taxpayers and the Olympics for my peace of mind.
That's what helped pay for, and push through, the $800 million (Canadian) it took to straighten and widen this road, formerly known as "Killer Highway" for all the accidents.
With one day left until the Opening Ceremony, here's the buzz:
1. The weather. Winter Olympic host Vancouver has no snow, and nothing but rain and temps in the 40s for the foreseeable future. Blame the El Nino weather pattern that hits the Pacific Northwest every few years, bringing warm weather.
2. Cypress Mountain. Venue for snowboarding, ski cross and freestyle skiing (moguls, aerials), just outside Vancouver. Organizers gambled by putting some snow-based sports at such low altitude and so close to the sea. It looks like they lost. Too warm to make snow, even at night, workers have been trucking in snow for weeks. Ski courses now have enough for training, but they're surrounded by brown. There are major worries the halfpipe and ski/snowboard cross courses won't be up to snuff. Officials fueled concerns with a media blackout last week, when some training runs were cancelled and moved to Whistler temporarily. You know you're in trouble when there's not enough snow to use the chairlift. In training, athletes have been whisked to the top via snowmobile.
3. In Whistler, it's winter, though the place could use a fresh dose of the white stuff. Record early season snow helped the Games. But the notorious Whistler fog, along with some snow today, has forced training delays of men's and women's downhill the past two days.
4. That's good news for Lindsey Vonn. Her bruised shin is the biggest Olympic leg injury since Nancy Kerrigan. Vonn, slated for multiple medals here, can only hope for more time to heal. She was on the mountain this morning for training -- her first time on skis since she fell during training in Austria nine days ago, when her boot top slammed into her leg, causing a six-inch deep bruise.
5. Who'll light the Olympic flame tomorrow night? Think of the most famous Canadian athlete (Wayne Gretzky?), then figure it won't be him or her. Olympic organizers like to make it a surprise.
6. Where's the flame going to be? Source of much speculation, since the Opening Ceremony will be the first held indoors in any Games. We're guessing a dual approach, with one inside and one outside. It was a well-kept secret until a mysterious, three-story-high white box-like structure appeared on the Vancouver waterfront, a couple miles from ceremony site Canada Place. A local news organization hired a helicopter to shoot film from above, which revealed what appeared to be gas pipes inside the structure.
Or maybe it's where they're hiding Gretzky.