Arriving in Vancouver late in the afternoon on Saturday I immediately found out that the best way to get to Victoria was to get a bus which would take you right into the city including a crossing on the ferry. The next bus did not depart for an hour, so I found myself a comfortable seat and got out my radio. Thankfully, I had worked out that a portable radio was a must.
Back in England the last station I had listened to was Radio 4 so the dial was still tuned to 93.7. When I switched it on, I was delighted to hear some wonderful country music. I was hooked. The station was awesome so out came the first of the blank tapes. There would be more taping of stations before this whole thing was done.
After an excellent journey to Victoria which takes us through the outskirts of the city, we arrive downtown early in the evening and it is buzzing. After travelling non-stop from London to Vancouver then the coach and ferry ride, I have no idea which way is up and thank goodness the taxi driver is a nice guy. Gets me to my guest house, where I meet the owner, another really nice guy who welcomes me with coffee and sandwiches.
Feels just like home except that the radio, which is on again is playing stuff like Vince Gill and Garth Brooks. Oh Baby! Boy if there were stations like this at home I would not need to buy any more country CDs. Once I settle in to my room, I tune in C-Fax 1070 and the station is playing a really good mixture of Saturday night music. I say a good mixture because it is playing all types of music from country to rock to soul. During the night I just can’t sleep and tune around the dial to see what else is on.
It is hard to believe that there could be so many good stations. Every type of music is available and I come across three, yes three country music stations, plus talk, oldies, dance, hot, 70s etc etc. Now how the heck am I going to listen to these all at once? I finally hit the sack and wake up on Sunday morning and reach for the on switch again. It’s already on. I hadn’t switched it off. C-Fax has a variety of programmes on offer including an excellent gardening programme with phonecalls and guests in the studio.
I like the sound of what I am hearing and can’t wait to get started. After a massive breakfast of melon, ham, eggs, masses of toast and coffee, I get out my map of Victoria and go walkabout looking for the station. It is difficult to describe what a beautiful place Victoria is. My guesthouse is about five minutes walk from the centre of town and to get there you must go past the harbour which is a joy to behold. Small boats bobbing in and out while larger boats and yachts are tied up on the quayside.
Every so often a small sea plane takes off or arrives on the water. It is about lunchtime and the quayside is full of people. Obviously there are flags and welcoming signs everywhere as the wind up to the games is well on the way. One of the first things I see is a sign saying welcome to Victoria and to the 1994 Commonwealth Games. Then there is a countdown to the games. My heart beats a little faster. Finding your way around the city is really easy as it is based mainly on squares, but with street names and according to my information the station is on Broughton Street which I find without too much trouble. Later, I find out that you do not need to say street, you simply use the name so you are either on Quadra or Broughton or whatever else.
One of the first things I notice is the size of cars. Canadians like big cars and limos, and the numberplates show that they are from all parts of not only Canada but the USA as well. Each numberplate has the state discription on it. So you see things like Florida the Sunshine State etc. Flash cars are everywhere. Open top busses are flitting around with tourists on board getting the full view of the city. I notice cyclists with carriages taking people around the streets as well. It is all just too fantastic for me. I find the station and my heart picks up the pace again. Here I am standing outside the number 1 station in a different country and I am going to be working there for four weeks. Oh Baby!
My original plan was to go to the station on Monday to begin work so, I decide to just look around the outside then take a leisurely walk back to my digs. Monday morning cannot come quickly enough for me. On my way back to the guesthouse, I again stop off at the harbour to take in some of the atmosphere. What an atmosphere it is. There are now street musicians playing all types of music. The small boats are doing some kind of water dance and a dj is talking us through what is going on. I find it difficult to drag myself away and my camcorder is now working overtime. I am going to get everything I can to remind me of this trip. On Sunday night I decide to have an early night but first the music then the fireworks combine to stop me getting to sleep. I’m told there were 40,000 on the harbour side for a classical concert. 40,000 and this is before the games even start! Monday morning, and despite the lack of sleep, I am up bright and early to get to the station.
I cannot wait. Breakfast is a blur until my landlord, tells me that today is a special day in British Columbia and most businesses are not working, it’s BC Day! “WHAT”!!!! “You’re kidding aren’t you”?? No he is not kidding. I don’t believe it. I tune in and C-Fax is on the air but with a bank-holiday feel about it. The presenter on air is Terry Spence, oh well that’s good news. At least I know he is there and he was the one who arranged for me to come to the station so I’m going there anyway.
I arrive to find the building totally locked up. No receptionist no nothing. I bet his show is on tape. Damn!!!! I decide to ring the bell anyway and within a couple of minutes a giant of a man appears, “hi..” I stutter, “I’m Mike Shaft from the UK I’m supposed…” ” welcome Mike” he says, “I’m Terry Spence operations manager. I’m the one you wrote to.” It is him, I think to myself as he takes me up to the studio giving me a tour on the way. This is fantastic. What a setup, massive studio packed with equipment. After a piece of music, he gets back to his phone-in and introduces me on air as a special guest from the UK who is here to help C-Fax with the Commonwealth Games coverage.
Before long I am on the air with him talking to callers and telling them all about the old country. I just sit there listening to all these wonderful accents. This is just fantastic and the calls are interspersed with really high quality adult contemporary music, including country. After the show, Terry takes me for something to eat in a sports bar round the corner. I’ll just have a burger and fries. “Holy smoke” I say as it arrives. It is a massive portion. Boy I am going to like it here.
After lunch he gives me a lift home taking in all the sites and giving me a running commentary including my first view of some of the sites where events will be taking place during the games. Everywhere the message is ‘Catch the Spirit’ the official slogan of the games. C-Fax, ‘Victoria’s News Authority’ is playing in the background and just for a moment I think Life does not get any better than this. He finally drops me home and says, “I’ll see you tomorrow”, I think to myself you bet you life you will. I actually say “Yes, I’ll see you then.” Now it’s Sunday evening and I decide to leave the radio taping and check out the television. Boy I wish I hadn’t. So many channels that the tv guide requires a PHD in something or the other to understand. I head for CNN at least I know that.
After a while I tune around and I’m amazed by the number of programmes that I would not bother to watch in the UK. I could see no reason to watch them here. It was not long before the volume was turned back up on the radio and I was back in the groove. Some of the station names were just wonderful. ‘The Mountain’ and ‘The Soft Rock Cafe’ were just two of the standout ones. Tuesday morning and this is it. Another big breakfast and I am off. I arrive to find the doors open and the receptionist in place Her name is Rebecca and she is the face of C-Fax, happy and smiling all the time. The whole building seems to be buzzing as I am taken round by Terry and introduced to everyone.
The news room is massive with workstations for all the journalists. I am introduced to the Head of News, the legendary Alan Perry plus the wonderful Kathleen Brandsma. I meet the Sports team including Dale Dymianiw, then I am taken into the studio where Joe Easingwood is on the air with his newsline AM programme. Next is Mel Cooper the President and General Manager of C-Fax, who operates in an office that is dominated by awards of all kinds. Local, National and International. On to the promotions department where I meet all the staff including Kathy Baan and I meet Kevin Sing who is in charge of the Commonwealth Games Promotions department.
Terry says that he has decided that I would be based in this department with Kevin and this will give me an opportunnity to see the City and beyond and to get a feel of what was going on in the run-up to the games. Kevin was in charge of the Commonwealth Cruiser and he knew everything that was going on. I am taken down to the other end of the building where another part of their operations is based. Seacoast Sound, a recording studio where they are actually working on some of the music for the games. I definitely get the impression that I am in the right place to see everything that is going on with the 1994 Commonwealth Games. I know one thing. I am definitely going to ‘Catch the Spirit’. At the end of that first day, I head for McDonalds and have a big mac and fries with a chocolate milk shake.
I take a slow walk back to the guesthouse and boy I am feeling good. I am getting to know the city now and all the street names as well. The whole place is covered with flowers and everyone has a smile on their face. In fact as the saying goes ‘Victoria is smiling’. As the days go on I get to know more and more of the staff and of Victoria as well. As I said last time, the Commonwealth Cruiser with Kevin and I are invited everywhere.
As part of the sponsorship the Cruiser has to do 500 outside broadcasts between now and the end of the games. I get to spend a lot of time in the promotions department and see their operation from top to toe.
While at C-Fax, I made a number of good friends but non more than Kathy Baan. I don’t know what it is but we were definately on the same wavelength, and we had the same sense of humour, well I did anyway. She really was wonderful and really shot me down when she needed to. No standing on ceremony there.
The phone in her office never stopped as community groups and businesses tried to get her interested in their ideas for promotions as we head towards the games. Between Kathy and Kevin, there was no way I was not going to enjoy this.
With the countdown continuing, Kevin and I are invited to see the Preparations by the RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for their Royal visitors.
Strict security as they are about to go on a convoy to check that everything is ok. I am asked if I would like to sit in for Prince Andrew. How could I resist. We breeze through the streets of the city, everything is made to stop for us, outriders ensure this. Every one is looking on and although the cars are not moving particularly quickly, my heart is racing. When we finally arrive at the main stadium, I honestly felt very very special.
As we get nearer Day 1 of the Games, the engineering job is completed, the final adjustments are made to the programming and everyone is now really on games alert. There are various events which Kevin and I attend, some days we go to six or seven, all very different, but the one which really started the whole thing off was the arrival of the Scottish Team at the airport. As the plane touched down there was a real feeling that the Games had arrived. Masses of press present, and everyone has a mobile phone, except me. Some people actually had two. We are told exactly where we can stand and when we were allowed to move.
The RCMP, although very polite are all heavly armed so they get no any argument from me. The arrival of the plane signalled the fact that the games were about to begin, I had waited a long time for this , but I was as ready as I was going to be. The last thing to be sorted out was my press pass and another special pass for events involving the Royal Family. On the way back from Victoria Airport, we check by the accreditation building to pick up the passes. The first was no problem but the second was going to “take a little longer”. They had to make a few more checks. Oh well!!! At least I got my press pass and I am ready for the Games, but are the Games ready for me?
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