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September 2008

Taylor gets Olympic experience in Beijing
The Ontario Curling Report (November 2008)
Bob Weeks

It may seem a bit odd, like a fish out of water, but this past summer Scott Taylor, coach of Glenn Howard’s rink, traveled to the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, to get some training.

Huh?

Why would the coach of one of Canada’s top curling teams head over to China to see the Summer Olympics?

“I can see where some people might think it’s strange,” said Taylor, who helped guide Howard’s rink to the 2007 world championship.  “But it was extremely worthwhile.”

Taylor, along with nine other coaches from teams that participate in winter sports, made the trek to China to get a first-hand look at what happens at the massive event known as the Olympics.  From dealing with accreditation to security to food, Taylor and his fellow coaches had a whirlwind tour that will hopefully lessen the shock if they find themselves in the same place in February 2010 in Vancouver.

The idea for the trip came out of an Olympic conference held in Whistler where coaches with no previous Olympic exposure were given the opportunity to make it to Beijing.  Taylor joined Jennifer Jones’ coach Janet Arnott in making the 13-hour flight to the Games.  Both were coaches of rinks that have already made it as far as the Canadian Curling Trials.  The group was there to take in as much as possible during their short stay, but not much of that included the actual sporting events.

“We went to the Canada-U.S. softball game and we were there for one inning, which was rained out,” said Taylor

Instead, the coaches were shown behind-the-scenes logistics, such as just how important accreditation is. That was emphasized by the necessity of handing over a passport in exchange for the much-coveted pass. And that was just the start of the security process.

“To get into most places, there was more security than getting on an airplane,” Taylor reported.  “You couldn’t bring in any water and you had to go through metal detectors.”

They were also shown the athletes village, where Taylor said every need of every athlete seems capable of being met.

“The cafeteria seated 6,000,” he stated.

Also on the tour were visits to the media centre, the International Broadcast Centre, the Canadian Performance Centre where Summer Games coaches talked about preparing their athletes for competition, and Canada House, the home-away-from-home for Canadian athletes and their families.

Taylor called the experience and knowledge gained invaluable.  Of course he’s hoping he can put it to first-hand use with Team Howard in Vancouver.  But even if that doesn’t happen, he said he’d gladly share what he learned with the successful coach.

“You get a sense that everything takes longer than you think it will and you have to be prepared for that,” said Taylor, who also operates BalancePlus when he’s not busy coaching.  “You go to the Brier and you think you’ve been to a big event, but it’s nothing compared to the Olympics.  It’s hard to understand it if you haven’t been there.”

And that’s precisely the reason for the trip.  This was a first-time endeavour for the Canadian Olympic Committee, but with overwhelming response from the Winter Games coaches who went to Beijing, planning is already underway for another such journey, this time by Summer Games coaches to the 2010 Games.

Taylor hopes that on that occasion, he might be the one giving advice.

August 2008

Ten winter Olympic sports coaches including two Canadian curling coaches went to Beijing for 3 days during the Summer Olympics. Janet Arnott of Team Jennifer Jones and Scott Taylor from Team Glenn Howard. This is part of a Canadian Olympic Committee “secret plan” to familiarize potential 2010 team members and coaches with the whole Olympic hoo-hah.

Scott's daily reports sent via email to the CCA and The Curling News blog

Beijing Day One - August 12 2008
13 hour flight over was good. The new Beijing airport is fantastic. Road travel was easy using the special lane for Olympic vehicles. The sun is up but obscured by haze. Hot and humid. Off to the Olympic Village this morning.

What we have seen of Beijing is beautiful and clean. The people are very friendly. Many of them speak English, which makes it easy for us.

Our first full day kept us busy. We spent most of the day at the Athletes Village after we traded in our passports for one of the difficult to get accreditations. Security is tighter than at some airports.

It boggles the mind to comprehend the time, effort, planning and organizing that must go into a facility that houses and feeds 10,000 athletes and 4,000 support staff. We had lunch in a "quaint" setting, the cafeteria that seats 6,000.

Our athletes are well looked after. The support staff have setup facilities to help them prepare and recover. It was great to see that many athletes have their country's flag hanging from their balcony. The huge Canadian flag that has been smuggled into many closing events made it obvious where our athletes stay.

Our next stop was Canada Olympic House. It provides many services for the family and friends of our athletes. Fortunately for us we were considered friends and got the royal treatment.

Looking forward to tomorrow.

Beijing Day Two - August 13, 2008
Jet-lag is decreasing. We shouldn't fall asleep during the today’s session.

Media day! We visited the International Broadcast Centre (IBC). We found out firsthand that you can’t get anywhere if your passport does not match the info they have on file. The half of the media centre that we saw is massive. It’s unbelievable how many media people are here. 22,000. It can be a challenge for the athletes to make time for the media but how would their story get told without them?

With great anticipation we went to the Canada-USA women’s baseball game. You can’t get in if you have a bottle of water with you – just like boarding a plane. Canada took a 1-0 lead against the favoured USA in the bottom half of the first inning. Then the air cleared and the rain started. Watching the grounds crew cover the infield was entertaining. After we were soaked, raincoats were handed out to everyone. Our agenda did not allow us to wait. As we drove away on the bus the rain cover was being pulled off to resume play. My dream of seeing Olympic athletes in action has been fulfilled. Turns out the game was eventually called off, and our women's team will have a double-header tomorrow.

Back at the Canadian Performance Centre we got to hear from Canadian head coaches about how they help their athletes prepare for their Olympic performance. We took a tour of the Centre and outfitting areas. We had a dinner meeting tonight to cap off our 13-hour day... and it’s still raining!

Beijing Day 3 - August 14, 2008
The weather is outstanding today. Clear dry air and blue skies. Jet-lag enabled me to get up early enough to watch the locals in the park doing their daily martial arts exercises including sword routines.

We had a breakfast meeting with members of the COC.

Then we travelled to BC Canada Place. They have an amazing Canadian exhibit that is open to everyone to improve their knowledge of Canada. One of the goals is to have them visit our country. The second floor is dedicated to creating business opportunities between Canadian and Chinese businesses.

We spent our lunch break walking around Tian'an Men Square and The Forbidden City. More Security, Armed Forces and Police than I have ever seen.

We spent the afternoon in Shinyi talking with the leaders of our Canoe and Rowing teams. It was great to hear their thoughts about being at a satellite venue and not staying in the Athletes' Village.

We finished off the afternoon back in Beijing at the Canadian Performance Centre discussing what we learned and how the information can be used by all sports in future Olympics.

We hope to have the opportunity to mentor summer coaches at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

We said our goodbyes to our fellow coaches, excursion organisers and team leaders at a group dinner.

The trip was very worthwhile. Tomorrow is travel day. Everyone is looking forward to getting home but not the 13 hour long flight.

No one will ever forget; the GREAT people of China and how friendly they are, the beauty of Beijing and the surrounding area and last but certainly not least their first OLYMPIC experience.