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The pre-Olympic free fall

Confession: as a child, I was petrified of falling forever.

I had this deep-rooted, gut-wrenching fear that one day the Earth would cease to exist, disappear straight into thin air, poof , and everyone would be left in Outer Space. We'd be sitting at the dinner table one night, trying to avoid our peas and broccoli, and next thing you know, we'd be hanging out with six billion people in an almost empty vacuum.

OK. I know. Dumb fear, right? If such a thing were to miraculously happen, we'd all die in a flash. Probably wouldn't remember a thing.

But no - hear me out.

To add a twist to my Prophet of Doom scenario, I had yet to grasp the concepts of oxygen and gravity. In my six-year-old imagination, even though the Earth wouldn't be around any longer, humankind as a whole would still be kicking it. As a result, we would be falling forever in an infinite, endless body of space full of shooting stars, balls of gas and cratered moons... Forever downward through a sea of Outer Space.

The thought was terrifying.

Beyond the pure horror of imagining what it would feel like to never touch land again, I also had basic questions about free falling that I couldn't wrap my head around. Like, for starters, how would you go to sleep while belly- flopping through the universe? Would you simply close your eyes and dream away while dark matter went whizzing by?

Or what if, while falling, you spotted your best friend also plummeting only 100 metres to the right of you? How would you get over to her? Could you somehow move your stomach muscles spastically and navigate your way to the right?

Thankfully, with age I've gotten wiser to the universe.

I now get that while oxygen and gravity exist on Earth, they don't want anything to do with Outer Space. I also get that if the world did conk out on us, it wouldn't be in a split second, Houdini-like flash. It would be a painfully slow demise from global warming or toxic pollution levels.

Yet, despite these realizations, recently I have been getting that same ache in the pit of my stomach. Only this time, it's not about Outer Space.

At first, I ignored the pain and hoped it would go away. But it was there all the time, and it seemed to be getting stronger each day. It wasn't till this July, while walking past Celebration Plaza, that the root of my ache finally hit me: It's only seven months until that big event actually hits.

Seven months! Until that big event hits! The one that everyone has been talking about for five years in abstract terms but is almost impossible to imagine in day-to-day terms!

In almost half a year, my world will be taken over by armies of world-class athletes, media pundits, stuffy IOC officials and other Big Sporting Event aficionados.

Every corner of Whistler will be swollen with Olympic madness: the parking lots will be closed to the public; driving to Vancouver will be a lost cause; even the grocery stores and liquor stores might not operate as usual.

This though is terrifying.

Of course, some credit is due to the men and women behind the Olympic operation; over the past year, they have done a reasonable job releasing details of what they imagine Whistler will look like during the Games.

Yet despite their statements on the transportation plan and security operations, I'm not left with a nice, warm feeling inside. All of their projections are nothing more than speculation, and things will likely change once the big event hits. In fact, if Murphy's infamous law holds any water, if anything can go wrong in 2010, it will.

But at least I'm not alone in my fear.

Since the infamous Globe and Mail article came out about a month ago, it's become clear to all of Canada that most people in Whistler are anxious about how their lives are about to unfold with the Games.

The town is wrapped up in pre-Olympic tension and we are all, collectively, holding our breath, turning blue, and trying to imagine what will happen when the biggest sporting event to ever hit Canadian soil arrives on our doorsteps.

Yes, we are "cranky, cantankerous," and straight up worried. The whole idea of what it means to live in a resort municipality during the Olympics is mind-boggling, and we have no clear idea of what the ride is going to be like from here until Feb. 12, 2010.

We are free falling in an endless, gravity-filled vacuum with nine-months to go until our feet touch land again.

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