Yikes! He has landed

Look out Vancouver, our man Buffery has arrived and he's going to need a lot of help

By

VANCOUVER -- Team Sun, or Team QMI Agency or Team Whatever The Hell We're Known As at these Olympics, arrived in Vancouver on Monday and went right to work.

The first thing you do when you get to an Olympics is locate the Main Press Centre. That's more important than finding your hotel. You can always sleep at the MPC. In fact, I remember a couple of Russian journalists sleeping at the MPC every single night some years back. The poor buggers lived on free Snickers bars and tap water and always were groggy and confused. Sort of like me on my honeymoon.

The second thing you have to do is decide which bar and/or restaurant the Canadian media contingent will meet at each evening. That's almost as important as finding the MPC. Scoff if you will, but that was THE topic of conversation on Tuesday.

Finally, figure out the transportation system. If you can't get to where the freestyle skiing is, it's difficult to write about freestyle skiing. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, the transportation system was a nightmare. Nobody knew what bus went where, or when or how, or whether the driver, who was either from Tennessee or Arkansas, had any idea where anything was in Atlanta.

My favourite transportation story from Atlanta was a French journalist calling the female American bus driver "a stupid pig", because she refused to leave early. She started crying and ran for an Atlanta cop. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and we finally departed. Unfortunately, the bus was supposed to go the main stadium, and we ended up at the pool.

My Donovan Bailey story that day wasn't great.

Of course, before you can get your bearings at an Olympics, you have to actually get yourself to the city where the Games are at. Which is easier said than done. At least, for some of us.

Back in the winter of 1992, my Toronto Sun colleague and I, photographer Tim McKenna, found ourselves driving aimlessly in the French Alps searching for Albertville, the place where the 1992 Winter Olympics were supposed to be.

We had driven up and down countless valley roads and highways, and being the good Canadian boys that we were, couldn't understand what the road signs said. I remember thinking to myself: 'What the hell does Nord mean?'

Finally, we came upon an intersection in some quaint little town and spotted a guy walking his goat, or lamb, or some such animal. I instructed McKenna to pull over.

"Excuse-em-waa, misyer," I said, laying on my fantastic Grade 7 Etobicoke middle school French. "Could you tell MOI how to get to Albertville?"

The man gave me a blank stare.

"Pardon?" he replied.

"Albertville," I said. "Albertville."

"Albertville?" the man replied again, looking confused. Of course, being French, he also shrugged his shoulders.

Finally, McKenna leaned over to my window and said: "Albertville?" But he pronounced it "Albeeeeer-veeelle" as opposed to the way I pronounced it, "Al-BERT-Ville."

"Ah, Albertville!" the man yelled triumphantly, waving his arms in the air.

He then started pointing and saying stuff to Tim and soon we were in Albertville.

I know the guy was pulling my chain. I just know it.

It's funny. I was walking down Granville St. here on Tuesday night and I asked a local where the Main Press Centre was.

"Ah, where you from?" she asked, hoping, I guess, that I was from somewhere cool.

"Toronto," I replied.

"Oh," she said, waving down the street. "Somewhere over there."

At least she didn't shrug her shoulders.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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