2010 Flashback: Olympics attract the Matwiczaks, judges, Jagr fan

World mingles downtown during Games

With the 10th anniversary of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, we are looking back at some of the stories that were making the news in the Courier during those 17 days in February.

This story was originally published Feb. 19, 2010

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Some people will go to great lengths to see an Olympic event.

Take Bertie and Tom Matwiczak from Roseburg, Ore. who flew into Vancouver Tuesday morning. The couple’s plan was to buy tickets for the U.S. versus Japan curling match, visit as many sites as possible and catch a flight home 24 hours later.

The Courier caught up with the Matwiczaks at noon at Robson Square, where they searched for tickets from scalpers.

“We’re going to stay on our feet until the last train goes back to the airport in the morning,” said Tom, a retired telephone company employee. “We’ve got no plans to sleep. We’ll be up until we get back home around one o’clock in the afternoon.”

Roseburg is about three hours south of Portland. The city, which has a population of 25,000, is not exactly a curling mecca. But the Matwiczaks caught the bug after watching the sport on television during the 2006 Winter Olympics.

“It’s a bizarre sport,” said Bertie, a bookkeeper. “It’s really fascinating to watch them and how they can manoeuvre those stones around with those little brooms.”

The couple last visited Vancouver 10 years ago when they took a cruise to Alaska. The pageantry and festive mood on the street Tuesday made them feel welcome.

“People are so friendly, so nice,” said Tom, whose allegiance was easily recognized by the small U.S. flag stuck in his ball cap.

“And the weather’s great,” said Bertie, squinting into the sunshine. Added Tom: “We were going to bring in our little bucket of snow to kind of help you along but we don’t have any either.”

When the Courier left the couple, they hadn’t found tickets. Face value price for tickets was in the $70 range. Scalpers were asking more.

“We heard they might be a hundred bucks a pop, so we’ll see,” Tom said.

Markus Germann proudly strolled through Robson Square Tuesday afternoon wearing his Switzerland jacket. The previous night, Germann was one of nine judges at the pairs skating event at the Pacific Coliseum.

China won gold and silver.

“I made them win,” Germann joked. “I’m finished my duties now. I had my roundtable discussion about judging this morning and now I’m a tourist.”

Germann has judged figure skating for 40 years and competed as a skater at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. He’s travelled extensively but this is his first trip to Vancouver, “one of the nicest cities I’ve ever seen.”

The art collector planned to visit the city’s art galleries, shop and tour Stanley Park.

“This is one party—the whole town is a party,” he said, noting his Switzerland jacket has attracted attention. “People say to me that Switzerland is such a nice country. But when I ask them if they’ve ever visited, they say no. More people should come.”

Michael Spiroch, in his limited English, talked hockey at Robson Square Tuesday. Dressed in a Czech Republic jersey, Spiroch was the minority in a sea of hundreds of people decked out in Team Canada jerseys.

In Vancouver for one month on a work visa, Spiroch said he timed his visit with the Olympics. He plans to travel to the Yukon after the Games. For now, it’s hockey talk.

“We have a very good team.”

Sure, but can Jaromir Jagr and friends beat Sidney Crosby and Canada’s all-stars?

“Of course. Maybe even gold medal.”

 mhowell@vancourier.com

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