Get behind our Olympic athletes in Sochi

IMG_4096It’s that time again.

The Sochi Olympics have already begun, and the Opening Ceremony is Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

This is the first winter Olympics I’ve missed being at since Nagano. I was the Star’s Olympics assignment editor and on-site web person for all the Games from Sydney in 2000 up to Vancouver in 2010.

Vancouver was a magical way to finish my Olympics career. I spent pretty much 15 to 16 hours a day at the Main Press Centre, organizing assignments and covering the odd press conference and writing sometimes eight or 10 stories a day for our website and for the daily paper. It was a grind, but a fun grind.

For three weeks or more, you’re at the centre of the world in terms of big events and I love how the Olympics are a confluence of sports, entertainment, culture and politics.

As I said, I spent almost all my time at the Main Press Centre and only occasionally got out for a bite to eat. I only saw one or two live events during the Games, actually. I saw a little bit of curling and I also was at the short track speed skating one day to see Canada win some medals, which was awesome. But the piece de resistance, as it were, was my snagging a ticket for the Gold Medal hockey game.

I reported and tweeted on the game as it went along. Most Canadians, of course, watched it on TV. But there were a lot of folks overseas, in places like Korea and even Africa, who were following my game accounts on the Star’s website and keeping up with my Twitter updates.

IMG_4093It was hugely cool. And I was in maybe the 15th row at the blue line in the U.S. end of the rink when Sidney Crosby scored his goal. I’ll never forget the feeling and the jubilation and the joy in the streets.

Which is a long way of saying that all of us who love the Olympics can take part in a way by checking out some of the great work the Canadian Tourism Commission has done in advance of the Sochi Games.

There’s a wonderful Pinterest bit where you can go to the hometowns of our Olympic medal favourites and share content and wish them luck. Very cool.

“The CTC wants Canadians to flood the digital world with Olympic-related stories and photographs, showing glimpses of home to the nation’s athletes as they compete in Sochi, Russia,” officials said. “A Pinterest board celebrates “Canada’s 2014 Heroes” by mapping the hometowns of the medal favourites. The public is invited to share the board and spread enthusiasm for Canada’s stars as they aim for gold, silver and bronze.|”

Also, as part of the campaign, CTC will publish daily bilingual tweets to congratulate winning athletes. Its four main Twitter channels (@ExploreCanada, @Explorezsansfin, @ctccct and @cctinfos) will be exceptionally active throughout the Olympics, which run until Feb. 23, 2014.

That’s not all: CTC has compiled a fun series of 20-second YouTube videos , filmed in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., which showcase Olympic winter sports along with tips—some of them from past Olympians—such as how to become a snowboard star and how to bobsled to victory.

The videos feature “Expats,” a soon-to-be-released song by Toronto rockers The Manvils. Keeping with the patriotic Olympic spirit, the song is about the many Canadians who have journeyed from abroad to prosper here.

“Even in those years when the Winter Olympics aren’t in Canada, Canadians can show that we are the No. 1 destination in the world for winter sports,” says Adrian Brijbassi, CTC manager, Social Media & Advocacy. “Through social media, our nation can come together like never before.”

I don’t necessarily buy into this Canada is Winter stuff, but I’m thrilled to see Canadian athletes doing so well on the world stage. And to see them acting like we belong. Because this is a damned great country, and sometimes it’s okay to say so.


VSPC_Stock2010_D3-0329Check out this fun news bit from St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida, where they’ve been pushing Canadians and New Yorkers and other folks freezing up north to come see their great beaches and other sights. I particularly like the lines about “waking up in a city that never sleets” and how they use salt for “margaritas, not sidewalks.” Amen to that.


Yes, we’ve seen a number of high-end hotels open in Toronto the last few years, among them the Ritz-Carlton, the Trump, the Shangri-La and the new Four Seasons. Now comes a somewhat cheaper option: the city’s first Studio 6, near Kensington Market. Rooms later this month were listed at $99 a night when I checked yesterday.

Here’s what officials had to say in a press release:

Realstar Hospitality today announced the opening of its first franchise Studio 6 in Canada, located in downtown Toronto. Ideal for travellers who need accommodations for more than a few nights, the modern six-story building will offer 72 extended stay studio units.

“Studio 6 – Toronto is a perfect addition to our portfolio of hotels in Canada,” said Farhan Kassam, Vice President Operations, Sterling Group Inc. “We were impressed by the brand’s ability to fill a void for travellers seeking extended stay accommodations by offering rooms that combine a modern edge with comfort and value.”


Renovated guest rooms feature fully-equipped kitchens that include cooking utensils, a microwave, stove top, refrigerator and coffee maker. Along with the comfortable, residential feel, guests will enjoy free Wi-Fi Internet access, 32-inch flat-screen HD TV with expanded cable, multi-media panel with A/V connections for mp3 players, video game systems and laptop computers. Guest laundry facilities and on-site parking are also available.


“Together with its convenient downtown location, we’re confident that the fresh new design of this hotel will help guests feel more at home during their time at Studio 6 – Toronto,” said Irwin Prince, President & COO, Realstar Hospitality. “To optimize the use of space, the owners have made a substantial investment in this property with over $1 million in extensive renovations including the guest rooms, lobby and all other public spaces,” added Prince.

Close to Kensington Market, historic Chinatown and Toronto’s Entertainment District, guests will enjoy convenient access to restaurants, entertainment and area attractions. Studio 6 – Toronto is located at 165 Grange Avenue. Reservations can be made by visiting staystudio6.com or by calling 1-888-897-0202.



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