Getting into the 2012 Olympic Games in London was a little different than it was to get into the 2010 Games in Vancouver and Whistler, according to Whistler's Ashleigh McIvor. For one thing, London is the largest city in Europe with over 8.2 million residents — and it felt big.
"London is so huge that everything is spread out," said McIvor. "At home, I felt there was more of a citywide buzz, whereas (in London) you had to go to specific Olympic venues or places where they set up big screens in parks and places like that to realize that the Olympics were even on. It's just because of the size of the city geographically, and I think Vancouver did a good job to encourage people to come out and get involved whether they had tickets or not."
By way of comparison, the mayor of London and Games organizers were warning people about crowds and congestion, and as a result people — including the usual tourists — stayed away.
"They told people to plan ahead for increased traffic and the campaign was so successful that the city was actually quieter than it normally would be," said McIvor.
An Olympic gold medallist in the sport of ski cross, McIvor was invited by the organizers of Canada Olympic House to be an ambassador at the Summer Games. She attended events, met with business leaders being enticed into doing business in Canada, hung out with athletes and their families, and reconnected with a few mentors who had an impact on her own career, including past Olympians Marnie McBean and Charmaine Crooks.
It was also a good experience for McIvor, who is coming off the injury list this season after three knee surgeries and will be looking to earn points, win at the world championships and return to the form by February 2014 that won her gold in 2010.
If the Canadian Olympic Committee didn't call her to work at Canada House, there's a good chance she would have gone to London anyway.
"If my plans to go to London had fallen through, my coaches were planning to send me over anyway to reignite the fire within, so to speak," said McIvor.
In a sense, it worked. But McIvor also took something else away from the Summer Games — perspective .
"You'd think it would add to the sense of pressure that athletes are under and make you more nervous in a sense," she said. "But for me, it alleviated some of the pressure I think I'll have heading into the next Olympics because it makes you realize that it's so much more about competing for your country than it is about your own personal goals.
"I was a spectator with little connection to the athletes personally, and if they did well then great and if not... I still had a lot of respect for what they did to get there. I wasn't quite as disappointed as a person as I thought people would be with me if I didn't perform — if that makes any sense."
As well as her time in Canada House, McIvor did get out to see some events — swimming, beach volleyball, basketball and, her new favourite sport, BMX. "I just loved it, it's so similar to ski cross," she said.
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