The Main Press Centre and My Birthday Memorable Celebration

Main Press Centre

One of the major perks of having an Olympic Identity and Accreditation Card (OIAC) is being able to to access Olympic venues and zones.

Having an ace film crew follow you around for four days doesn’t hurt your street cred, either.

The Main Media Centre (MMC) is located within Canada Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre on the city’s downtown waterfront. It houses the Main Press Centre (MPC) and the International Broadcast Centre (IBC).

My accreditation through Microsoft Office ’10 grants me access to the MPC. On Tuesday, I got a tour of the facility from Bob Condron. Bob started as a volunteer and he has served as USOC’s Director of Media Services for 14 Olympics.

The man knows a thing or two about the Games.

Bob had too many responsibilities so didn’t need to smile

The Main Press Center includes a press workroom with approximately 600 numbered workstations with complete live televised coverage of the Games, printed results and associated sport-specific information. It also has press conference rooms, a general store, laundry drop-off, an Olympic store, and a food court.

Basically, it’s just like a huge cruise ship.

But it’s a lot less fun.

Main Press Centre Lobby

Reporting from the Olympics is a big deal and these journalists mean business. Deadlines need to be met and revelries are understandably kept at a minimum.

Main Press Centre

In addition to the tour, I’ve attended some media events and press conferences there. On Thursday, Robin sent me to the MPC with a different assignment to learn the stories of a few journalists. I did better than that: I chatted it up with a cool Aussie and scored an in-demand ticket.

Not bad for a rookie.

I had a great conversation with a journalist from 1160 SEN in Australia who eagerly showed me the intricacies of sending radio reports, told me what Aussies are medal contenders and also where he gets his information (from

The next man I chatted with was watching nine flat-screen televisions broadcasting various Olympic sports. Overwhelmed, I asked him how he chose which one to watch.

“The answer,” he said, “is always hockey.”

It was a dead giveaway he was from Canada.

As it turns out, he is not a journalist but is the Communications Director of the Public Affairs Bureau for British Columbia and has been assisting VANOC during the Games. At the end of our conversation, he asked me if I had the chance to ride the zipline in Robson Square. This free attraction reportedly has people waiting in line for four hours for a 20-second thrill ride.

Tempting but no.

I told him honestly that I wasn’t willing to wait that long and that is when he offered to hook me up with a quickie zipline ride.

On my birthday.


If you will recall, at this time last year, I discovered I had lice.

Birthday #38 is already looking up.

Stay tuned for details of my birthday zipline ride! Also, if you haven’t already done it, be sure to go go to download your free Microsoft Office ’10 Beta.

Tutorial on what not to say when meeting Wayne Gretzky

It’s tough to figure out the highlight of my day yesterday.

There was the Russia vs. Slovakia hockey game where Microsoft PR pro Art and I sat right behind the penalty box.

If I look a wee bit tired, I was. I’d been up for 17 hours thanks to my morning stint at the Today show.

I was able to stay awake because we were privy to an intense game and came face-to-face with superstar NHL players like Alexander Ovechkin.

I even caught Slovakia’s winning shoot-out goal in what was a huge upset:

It was my way of redeeming myself after filming an empty ski slope instead of Bode Miller.

The USA House was brimming with superstars today.

Shaun White celebrated his gold medal in the men’s snowboard halfpipe competition.

Then there was cutie pie bronze medalist in the same event, Scotty Lago.

Tony Dungy also dropped by. Not familiar with him? He is a former football player who was the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl. He is now a prominent analyst for NBC.

Impressed? Don’t be. Robin tipped me off about him and fed me all this information. Wikipedia did the rest.

Former Olympians were also in abundance like Scott Hamilton.

But there was none greater than The Great One. You may have seen him broadcast to millions as he lit the Olympic cauldron.

I grew up with Wayne Gretzky who spent much of his career playing for the Edmonton Oilers, my beloved Calgary Flames’ rival. He was the superstar we loved to hate, the one who threatened us the most and demanded our respect with every play.

And the man who Robin introduced me to without any warning or preparation on my part.

Did I tell The Great One I still remember when the Oilers beat the Islanders to win the Stanley Cup, their first of five in seven years?

Of course not.

I instead blurted out, “I have to confess to you I’m a Calgary Flames fan.”

He was taken aback at first but in a forgiving tone, he proclaimed, “That’s OK.”

There’s a reason he’s called The Great One.

Be sure to check out athletes’ bios and the latest Olympic news at

How Matt Lauer Ruined My Moment in the Spotlight

I’ve been a longtime fan of the Today show. It stems back to when I was a broadcast journalism major in college and my pinup boy de choix was Matt Lauer.

Y’all can have your Brad Pitts.

Visiting the set of the Today show was on my to-do list at these Games. The main drawback is that the show is broadcast in Eastern Standard Time, which means they go live 4-7 a.m. in Vancouver.

An even bigger complication is the show is broadcasting from the top of Grouse Mountain ski area. The drive to the base is about 30 minutes, the gondola ride to the summit another 15.

I am older, wiser and happily married now so decided even Matt wasn’t enough of a motivation for me to wake up at 2:30 a.m. Robin, publicist Natalie (who replaced Krista) and I compromised with a 5 a.m. meet-up. We would get there in time to be a part of the third hour of the show.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when we boarded the Skyride but it certainly wasn’t the $45 per person fee. If we’d arrived there well before 4 a.m., the first 100 people were free.

Nope, still not enough to get my butt out of bed.

At the raw hour, the sky was ebony-black and it was tough to distinguish land, water and sky as we were swept 3,700 feet above sea level.

Awaiting us at the top was a winter wonderland. The outdoor set was around a fire pit and children were playing hockey on a small rink as camera and lighting crews buzzed around the small crowd.

Because in case you needed a reminder, it was still the middle of the night.

Matt, Meredith, Al, Ann and Natalie were warming themselves around the fire. I told Robin, “I’m going in” and casually strolled over. My black hat with white flowers was seen on television peeking up in the background. Next, the crowd moved over to hurl Meredith, Ann and Natalie into the air in a giant blanket toss.

Robin is always thinking of our next move and asked an NBC staffer where the anchors would be going next.

“Back to the fire pit,” our informant snitched.

The national spotlight was almost mine. I raced over, planted myself front and center and at around 9:31 a.m., I was finally going to be seen on the Today show.

Until Matt came over and parked himself right in front of me.

Back in college, this would have been a dream come true. I would have subtly touched his coat, maybe swiped a hair or two. But here’s the deal: Matt Lauer is tall and I am not. I almost joked with him, “Hey Matt, you’re blocking my shot.”

And I totally would have meant it.

In between takes, the anchors took the time to casually banter with the crowd. Both Natalie and Meredith complimented me on my hat, Ann talked to Natalie about Portland and I posed for a picture with Al.

Following our Today show debut, Robin, Natalie and I had breakfast at the summit. We watched the hues of the sky shift, like pigment seeping into paper from black to navy blue to midnight blue to bluebird. From our vantage, we saw Cypress Mountain, Lion’s Gate Bridge, Stanley Park, the Coastal Range and a hint of the United States in the distance.

We silently watched the steady cadence of waves stroking the shore and Vancouver Island’s wide swatch of green. At one point, Robin groggily commented to me, “You know I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, Amber. I have to either be invited or really like that person.”

Let’s hope after dragging him up 4:30 a.m., it’s still a bit of both.

Stay tuned for the inside scoop on the Main Press Centre and Short Track Speed Skating.

Social Media at the Games

Social media has been one of the stars of the 2010 Olympic Games. I experienced the paradigm shift at the Vancouver airport when I was approached by a publicist from Flint Communications. She overheard me talking about winning the Microsoft Office Winter Games Contest and had heard the buzz surrounding it on Twitter.

There are two factors that are not surprising: 1) She eavesdropped on a loudmouth like me. 2) She was familiar with the contest.

Despite being used by millions of people, Twitter is a surprisingly close-knit community. This woman’s PR company was hired to train the speed skating team in social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook.

The lesson here is simple: there is no more powerful publicity vehicle than connecting the athletes directly to their fans.

Organizations are starting to understand that. The United States Olympic Committee has a Twitter feed of the athletes on their Press Box site. The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) has branched out to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, as well as other offerings such as podcasts and photo galleries. The tools I am using with the Microsoft Office ’10 Beta allow me to upload my posts from Word directly to my blog.

Microsoft Office’s publicity gurus came up with the brilliant plan for me to host a casual meet-up for Vancouver mom bloggers. We met at Trafalgars Bistro, a quaint restaurant with a dessert menu that made me gain five pounds just by looking at it.

The women and I talked blogs, tech and kids. They clued me in on where to find Wi-Fi in Vancouver (in the parking lot at Best Buy, Safeway and Future Shop). And we dished about desserts. We were, after all, at a dessert emporium.

One of the women attempted to explain it all to me.

“Well, if I was given a choice between chocolate and vanilla, I’d choose chocolate. But put chocolate up against a carrot cake? I’d choose carrot. So basically, chocolate is not an addiction but it could be considered an issue.”

The same could be said for my attitude about social media.


Check out these lovely Vancouver bloggers and twitterers: Nicole @nicole013; Stephanie @thetsunamimommy, Gwen @leftcoastmama, Cari @canigetrecipes, Kerry @crunchycarpets, Naomi @namtastetravels, Krista @KristaU.

Why my Olympic experience with Bode Miller was not bodilicious

Bode Miller at the men’s downhill

Even in the womb, my son Bode had an Olympic connection–we named him after Bode Miller as we watched the Torino Games.

Since that day, I have dreamed of getting Bode’s autograph or posing for a picture with him. My dream finally became tangible when serendipity (a.k.a. the USOC) handed me tickets to the men’s downhill where Bode was competing on Monday.

Our Whistler accommodations at Creekside Village are not only luxurious but they’re also conveniently located at the base of the downhill run. We were given the option to take the chairlift or hike up the mountain.

I’ll let you guess which lane was more popular.

I’ve never attended a downhill event and was surprised to be almost outnumbered by Europeans in the stands. The Swiss, in particular, were in abundance toting their over-sized cowbells and reacting to every nuance on the mountain. Loudly.

View of the Men’s Downhill

Bode was scheduled to ski eighth. You’d have thought I was his own mother for how nervous I was for him. He was the overall World Cup champion when he went to Italy in 2006 and he came up short in five Alpine events. This was his chance for redemption.

The great thing about attending the downhill is you don’t miss a thing. Cameras capture the skier’s every move at the top of the mountain and it is broadcast live on a Jumbotron, I decided I would film the big screen and move to the actual ski slope as he barreled across the finish line.

The first part of my plan went accordingly. The second did not. There was a minor glitch: when I moved my Flip Video Camera over to film him directly, I couldn’t find him. I ended up capturing a really nice looking ski slope without anyone on it.

Evidently, I do not have a future in broadcast journalism.

It took Bode 54.40 seconds to achieve a measure of redemption for the Torino Games and win the bronze medal. He held a press conference later that afternoon and come hell or high water, I vowed to be there.

Or rather, come “dumb” and “dumber,” which was what happened to me.

I had spent the afternoon at the USA House getting interviewed by KOA radio and CNet about my Olympic experiences using the Office ’10 Beta. I was supposed to Skype in to Fox31 /Channel 2 in Denver but my continued Internet connection problems plagued me and I was running behind because of it.

I arrived at the Whistler Media Center with 10 minutes to spare. It was my first visit there and I spent the next few minutes trying to find the press conference room. I finally asked someone for directions.

You know. Because I’m female and I am allowed to do that.

Turns out, the press conference was at the Whistler Media House, which was on the other side of the pedestrian village. With mere moments to spare, I did what I do best: I freaked out and then sprinted to the WMH.

In my Sanitas clogs.

Through throngs of people.

And yes, it was every bit as ugly as it sounds.

I arrived breathless, sweaty and frazzled but most importantly: on time. I kicked back and listened to my son’s namesake field press questions.

Bode Miller Press Conference

Bode Miller has been vindicated by the media for his renegade attitude, particularly as it relates to commercialism at the Olympics. At the press conference, he was different than in Italy, penitent even, having finally achieved a sort of truce surrounding the inevitable pitfalls that come with this sport.

He blew off questions about his Olympic legacy, saying it could have been anyone’s day out there and he was 0.09 seconds behind the winner and 0.02 from second place. This margin between first and third is the smallest in Olympic history.

“I was really getting myself wound up and emotionally involved in what I was doing. It’s part of why I came back and raced. I was amped up.”

With this bronze medal and the two silvers he won eight years ago in Salt Lake City, he is the most decorated American in Olympic skiing.

An impressive Olympic legacy, even if he claims he doesn’t care about having one.

My plan was to approach him following the press conference but I did not anticipate he would be rushed away to attend the medal ceremony. Dejectedly, I left the building. As I was standing outside licking my wounds, I was approached by Kevin Neuendorf, Public Relations Manager for the USOC. Kevin has been integral in securing me event tickets and we had not yet met. He had recognized me from my blog.

The Hair is always a dead giveaway.

We chatted about my Olympic experience thus far. At one point, I lamented I had missed my opportunity to meet Bode Miller. It got worse when he said, “That’s really too bad. If I’d known you were coming, I could have had you meet him backstage following the press conference.”

The moral of this story is two-fold:

Sometimes it’s better just not to know what might have been.

And don’t judge a woman until you’ve run a mile in her clogs.

To follow Team USA updates and your favorite athletes’ Twitter feeds, be sure to go to Also, download your free copy of Microsoft Office ’10 Beta at

The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games: In Pictures

Today, we are mourning the loss of the USB cord for my camera. Until I find a replacement, here are a few pictures to tide you over.

I will eventually download them all on Flickr but my persisting Wi-Fi problems have made this an impossibility. So pervasive have been my problems with finding a reliable connection that the phrase I use most often wherever we go is:

“Sounds cool but do they have Wi-Fi?”

You know. Because posting stories to my blog directly from Microsoft Office ’10 is the entire reason I’m here.

This picture was taken on Day 1 when I attended the press conference for the Proctor and Gamble Family Home. The P&G executive gave a great overview of the facility but it was his glowing recommendation of the Charmin in the bathrooms that caught my attention. So much so that I had to pose in Said Bathroom.

And it was every bit as exciting as he promised.

Sure, the Olympic Superstore is best known for carrying The Hallowed Red Mittens. But it also offers so many hip items in its official product line.

This ear-muffed hat is not one of them.

I took this picture at the torch run. There is nothing that says “Crazy Canuck” like wearing a hockey jersey with the Canadian flag tied to a hockey stick.

And wearing The Hallowed Red Mittens, of course.

I’m sure you’ve heard the controversy regarding the fenced-off Olympic Cauldron. Organizers of the Vancouver Games expect to unveil a plan tomorrow to make it more accessible to the public.

Until then, it just bears a striking resemblance to Gumby from afar.

This final picture is my personal favorite. When I was in the Media Press Centre, I dropped by the United States Olympic Committee’s office. I was amused to see about 15 clocks on the wall, many just a few inches apart. The head-scratcher? They all displayed the same time zone.

Possible explanation: the Olympic Games are the center of the universe and who cares what time it is in the rest of the world, anyway.

Getting (Beaver)Tail in Whistler

On Valentine’s Day, we drove to Whistler. Visiting this fabulous ski town has always been on my bucket list.

I guess that means I can finally die now.

If you’ve tuned into the 2010 Vancouver Games, you know they’ve had a snow problem. Or rather, a lack of snow problem. As we toured Whistler’s crayola-hued village, it started raining.

At the Winter Games.

Canada’s weather is confused.

One of the casualties of the conditions is the Snowboard Cross on Cypress Mountain. Some 8,000 ticket holders have had their tickets canceled because heavy rains have made the general admission standing room area at the Cypress snowboard stadium unsafe for spectators.

When we started touring Whistler Village, conditions were clear. Within 30 minutes, we got caught in a torrential downpour. We found shelter…and solace in The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s patriotic caramel apples.

That evening, Robin scored me a ticket to the Victory Ceremony. To celebrate, I got myself some tail.

Beavertail pastry, that is.

This is, after all, Canada.

Even if it is confused about winter.

There are Victory Ceremonies in Vancouver and Whistler each evening where the athletes receive their medals. A concert follows.

The exuberance was palpable. All over Whistler, Canadians partied at the news that Alexandre Bilodeau became the first Canadian to win an Olympic title inside his own country’s borders.

Tickets for the Victory Ceremonies are in demand and I crammed into the plaza with hundreds of people from all over the world.

I saw Apolo Ohno officially make history by tying Bonnie Blair’s record and I laughed at bubbly Shannon Bahrke’s exuberant reaction to her bronze medal in the moguls.

Not to be forgotten is my run-in with the giant beach ball during the pre-show while I was tweeting.

Yet I still managed to snap a photograph before getting taken out.

We all have our moments of Olympic glory.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update and my greatest disappointment of the Games involving my son Bode’s namesake.


I’ve been working with Microsoft Office to demonstrate technology in action! Be sure to go to to download your free Microsoft Office 2010 Beta. Looking for breaking news on the Olympic? Go to

Hangin’ With Olympic Legend Bonnie Blair at the USA House

On Friday, I visited the USOC-run USA House. It is not open to the public and has become the stomping grounds for athletes, sponsors and dignitaries.

USOC Director of Corporate Partnerships John Pierce gave me a tour. The hip facility includes the USA Team Store, a media work room, the AT&T All-access Lounge with complimentary Acer laptops, Panasonic flat screens with a constant stream of the Olympics, Wii entertainment, the Bud Lounge with full bar facilities and a constant flow of free food.

My husband would have threatened to move in.

The USA House hosts both past and present Olympic athletes and at one point, I chatted with Olympic gold medal gymnast, Shawn Johnson.

Shawn Johnson at the USA House

OK, I mostly acted like a giggling groupie when I asked to take her picture.

The true highlight was meeting one of my idols: Olympic legend Bonnie Blair (see my interview with her here).

She was instrumental in helping me win the Microsoft Office Winter Games Contestand we spent an hour together talking about Office ’10, her Olympic experiences, and visiting Allstate’s Hall of Fame Tribute Wall where she will be included amongst the chalk murals. Bonnie told me the reason why I was her choice for winning the contest is because she loved the humorous perspective I share on my blog about motherhood.

Just another day on the job interviewing Olympic legend Bonnie Blair

Following our interview, we watched speed skating on the 105-inch Panasonic television in the Bud Lounge.Bonnie gave me the insider scoop on the behind-the-scenes action and we were reprimanded for being too loud.

Microsoft Crew with Bonnie Blair at the USA House

It was then I knew she was my kindred spirit.

It was fascinating to watch the qualifying heats of the 1,500m Men’s Short Track as Apolo Ohno strove to tie her record. I entitled this photo: “I’m coming for you.”

And he did later that night when he won the silver medal. He now shares Bonnie’s record for the most medals awarded to an athlete at the Winter Olympics.

She was, of course, gracious about his victory. I was so inspired and entertained by her that I knew I’d be her BFF if we lived in the same town.

Or I’d most certainly be her stalker.

Cool tidbit: The USA House had a smattering of guitars autographed by the AT&T Team USA Soundtrack Bands such as Sugarland, Hoobastand and others. To download these songs, go to or text USA to 2257. All proceeds benefit Team USA. Also, be sure to go to to download your free Microsoft Office 2010 Beta.

A Glimpse Behind the Opening Ceremony Curtain

One of my sources of frustration leading up to arriving at the 2010 Vancouver Games was my lack of itinerary.

When I arrived here, I understood why. Microsoft has been working directly with the United States Olympic Committee on securing me event access. The USOC is juggling 25,000 members of the international media.

It would be safe to say they have just a few things on their plate.

That said, they still managed to score me tickets to the Opening Ceremony. The plan was for me to go with Kevin Neuedorf, USOC Public Relations Manager and sit with the press corps.

Then The Tragedy of the Track happened when Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritaschvili was killed during a training run. Kevin needed to be there so I flew solo.

Or rather, I rode the media bus. One of the perks of being an accredited member of the press is shuttles are provided to many events and media accommodations. I underwent an airport-esque security screening at the Main Press Centre (MPC) prior to boarding the buses to BC Place Stadium.

The entrance for the press was behind heavily veiled curtains, befitting of the Land of Oz. But on the other side were the same over-priced food booths that were found in the public concourse.

Such the anti-climax, just like The Wizard.

The press section was two-tiered. Media who were reporting live were given tables and Wi-Fi. The rest of us were ushered to a seating area located just above the main performance floor and a stone’s throw away from the presentation balcony.

We were given an embargoed media guide with background information and descriptions of each segment with supporting images and text. Everyone in attendance received an Audience Kit that kit that contained a small Canadian flag, battery-powered candle, an LED flashlight, a drumstick, and a blue, white or lavender poncho.

Mine was blue. I think. It was dark and my post-Lasik night vision sucks.

The hour prior to the Opening Ceremony, the audience practiced our role in the performance. There were 230 audience leaders positioned throughout the stadium who cued us, demonstrating when and how to use our props.

And then the Opening Ceremony was underway. Ecstatically, I joined in the wave during the countdown and threw myself into the audience-participation portion of the program.

Until I looked around. Only one-third of the media had bothered to wear their ponchos. Even fewer opened their Audience Kit.


If you watched the Opening Ceremony, you know it was a visual spectacle that highlighted Canada’s distinct cultures , music and art. Oh, and in keeping with national patriotism, there may have been one or two (thousand) maple leafs that rained down on us.

It was every bit as magical as it appeared on television. A few highlights

*Seeing the athletes’ faces as they entered the stadium for the first time, their Olympic dream finally realized.

* A 20-metre LED light covered bear dropped out of the sky to the main stage in a cascade of falling stars.

*When the audience recreated a northern light sky with thousands of LED flashlights. Giant projectors transformed the night sky into a star chart.

Hands down, the most powerful moment of the evening—something that could never be captured on camera—was when the athletes from Georgia walked in. A blanket of emotion enveloped the crowd as we uniformly stood to honor their teammate who had tragically died earlier that day.

Final respects were made. Tears were shed. And it was a sobering reminder of the dangers as well as the glory that can only come from being a part of the Olympic experience.

The Torch, The Traveling Penguin and The Olympic Superstore

Our first item of business on Friday was seeing the longest torch relay in Olympic history. The torch spent 106 days on the road with 12,000 torchbearers who covered 45,000 kilometres of the sprawling Canadian landscape and visited 1,036 communities 300 metres that may be done on foot, in wheelchairs, canoes and dog sleds in rural and urban settings, in snow, sleet and extreme Arctic cold.

Not bad for a 3.5-pound torch.

The previous evening, I was introduced to my official entourage (Anthony (Microsoft Office’s PR Manager a.k.a. “The Godfather”), Robin (He Who Has Every Important Person On Speed-Dial)and his videography crew Rich and Brandon (The Stalkers).

The latter three men have been assigned the dubious task of filming Microsoft Office ’10′s technology in action. That’s not the dubious part.

The dubious part is that I’m the one putting it to action and my every move is being recorded.

Let’s get something straight: I’m not shy. But I’ve also never been the star of my own reality series and the constant attention has made me cognizant of just how ineloquent I can be.

Though I like their description better: “You have a lot of energy.”

We joined the jubilant crowds to cheer the torch bearer while basking in the revelries of the maple-leaf-adorned spectators.

Olympic parade followed by the torch bearers

The Olympic Torch Bearer looks like I was going to swipe his torch. Maybe I was.

From there, we hit the streets, wandering around downtown Vancouver.

We checked out the countdown to The Games clock in the B.C. Pavilion where Rich instructed me to walk by the fountain and ruefully look at the water. OK, so maybe he never actually said “ruefully.”

But if he had, you’d better believe I’d have known how to deliver after all the acting practice I’ve been getting.

We visited Robson Square where we chatted with a young hockey team who had been torch bearers. As we were leaving, a plastic penguin-toting couple stopped me in my tracks. Turns out, The Traveling Penguin has accompanied them to 26 countries thus far.

I tried to console myself that a flightless bird has somehow flown the coup more than me.

The true highlight of the morning was visiting the 21,000-square-foot Olympic Superstore located in the Hudson’s Bay Company. The line to get in stretched down the block and upon being granted entry, we bee-lined it for the hot-ticket item at the Olympics: The Hallowed Maple Leaf Mitten. These warm little numbers are priced at just $10 a pop and the demand is great. So great that as of Friday (before the Olympics had even began), they had sold 2.6 million.

Buying out the Olympic mittens

Rich, Anthony and Robin contributed to at least half of total sales.

Olympic Superstore

In my next update: My golden ticket to the Opening Ceremony.