Whistler’s Olympic Village is a home away from home for Queenstown Winter Olympians Mitchey Greig and Tim Cafe.
“It feels like we’re chilling out in Queenstown,” Cafe tells Mountain Scene this week.
Alpine ski racer Cafe, 22, is rooming with fellow Kiwi alpine athlete Ben Griffin at the Whistler Village, two hours’ drive north of Vancouver. They’re staying next door to skier-cross athlete Greig, 21. She’s moved up from the Vancouver Village due to a current lack of snow.
“Mitchey and me grew up together, [Grieg’s coach] Angus Rose is one of our oldest coaches and then there’s some other local New Zealanders here so it’s a cool contrast between the overwhelming village and feeling like you’re at home,” Cafe says.
Despite the tight security and throngs of people descending on Vancouver, Canada, Cafe and Greig are taking the bustling environment and competition jitters in their stride before the 2010 Winter Olympics begin this weekend.
Greig, who arrived on February 4, is soaking up the atmosphere.
“It’s like a whole other world, it’s insane,” she says.
“It’s like going through airport security. To get in and out of the village every time you’ve got to put all your bags through the conveyor belt and get a check and walk through the metal screening thing just to get inside.
“There are thousands of volunteers dressed in blue running around asking if there’s anything they can do for you,” Greig says.
“[The organisers] left lots of cool little things around the place for us to make it feel like home.
“We’ve got a road sign pointing to Mount Cook…Pineapple Lumps, Jaffas, haka written on the wall, ferns everywhere,” Greig says.
Cafe hasn’t yet come across too many familiar international athletes he’ll be racing against – they’ve been gradually moving in during the week.
“The food hall’s the mixing area because everybody has to go there – you’re not allowed to make food in your own apartment,” he says.
“The gym is interesting – a diverse mix of different sportspeople ranging from giant bobsledders to tiny ski jumpers. It’s great to be amongst so many incredible athletes.”
The 16-strong Kiwi Olympic team will be split across the Vancouver and Whistler villages – depending on their discipline – with events taking place at facilities nearby.
Greig: “In Vancouver it’s the total city feeling in the middle of skyscrapers and in the Whistler Village there’s condos and houses, it’s a way more village-y feeling.”
Greig isn’t concerned about the lack of snow that’s reportedly worrying many Vancouver locals.
“They’ll pull it off for sure,” she says.
“They’re trucking and helicoptering snow in from five hours away to make our course, that’s why we’re up in Whistler at the moment. But up here there’s heaps, it’s awesome. We’ve just been freeskiing it, it’s been amazing.”
Cafe, Greig and the other Kiwi athletes will unite in Vancouver tomorrow (NZ time) to find out who’ll be the flag-bearer for the opening ceremony. Cafe is scheduled to compete in the Super G event on February 20 and Greig races on February 24.
Greig: “I’m pretty excited. I’m amping, I’m psyched for it, I can’t wait.”