Jon Montgomery Golden Boy Says Olympic Girls Rock!

"You don't get to compete on this, the greatest of athletic stages without that fire, that passion," said Jon Montgomery, 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist, Skeleton. He won the first gold medal in Whistler for Canada.  He's been dubbed Manitoba's "Golden Boy," a moniker that is so apropos on Manitoba Day, celebrated today, during the Olympics up in Canada. It's the name taken from the statue that sits atop the Parliament Building in Winnipeg, also called "Golden Boy."

Montgomery has been busy these past six days since winning the Gold Medal...doing what Canadians do... going to hockey games.  "I had the opportunity to go check out the hockey games at Canada Place in Vancouver. I got to meet the Great One, Wayne Gretzky. I just taped a segment for Oprah that will air tomorrow [Friday Feb. 26th]."  He's been busy - but not too busy to notice how well the Canadian women are representing their country during these Olympics. "You can't hold back those Canadian women. They're reppin' Canada real well. So thank you very much to the ladies."

"Girls Rock!"  Is the message Clara Hughes had to give the world the day after her Bronze Medal win in her self-declared final Olympic competition. Hughes is a big supporter of Right To Play, an organization that supports female athletic competition and involvement. "I have a lot of opportunities as a Canadian female athlete. My travels throughout the world has shown me that."

For Hughes, competing in the Olympics, each of them, has been a dream she worked to make come true.

"The mythology of the Olympics. I feel so connected to it. It allows for human beings to strive for excellence. I've gone to each Olympics and have not been afraid, no matter where I've been in the world," said Clara at a Canadian Olympic Committee press conference.  She added that she can't wait for to bring home her Olympic Medal.

"I am bringing my beautiful Bronze medal home to the Maple forests of Quebec," she said.

She spoke for some time about her husband's involvement, as a teacher, with the Take A Hike Foundation, a non-profit that gets city kids out into nature and the "great outdoors."  She likens the nature experiences for the kids to what sports did for her as a child.

The program reminds her, she said of when she was a "misdirected teenager" and how getting involved in sports really focused her.

"At 14, 15 years old I was smoking a pack a day of cigarettes and then I watched the Olympics and it focused me.  That's what sports and programs like Take A Hike can do for kids," said Hughes.  Clara Hughes won her sixth Olympic medal in the 5,000 meters at the Richmond Oval in Vancouver this week.

She is only the fourth person in history to win medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games.

Some advice from Clara Hughes:  To Kids: Don't be afraid of anything. Every time I have stepped onto the Olympic stage I've brought my very best. That's what gives me a sense of satisfaction that is out of this world.

To Parents: I encourage all parents to get involved , to water their kids seed of curiosity.  My mother, family have been very supportive.  Especially when I was young and getting into all sorts of trouble.

Her parting comments?  "It's been quite a ride these past 20 years. I think I need a long vacation."


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Johnny Weir Says Vancouver Green And Clean

Vancouver is a great host city for the Olympics, said Johnny Weir at a press conference this afternoon. "Vancouver is so green and clean. Everyone is in love with this city and the fact that the games are here."

The Olympic contender for Men's Figure Skating called the press conference in response to the media frenzy fomenting around the derogatory comments a couple of on-air reporters made about Johnny regarding his sexual orientation while he was in the middle of his competitions.

"I grew my beard out today to show that I am a man, at the end of the day," said the 25 year old USA competitor. He told the assembled press that he's still in Vancouver preparing for the World Championships and training with his coaches who are all still up in Vancouver, B.C.

"I look forward to performing all around the world this year. I hope I can skate to Lady Gaga very soon," said Weir, referring to the song, "Poker Face."

"Out of ugly, the most important thing in life is to make something beautiful," said Weir. "The only thing I ever wanted from this figure skating craziness was to perform, to perform my art."

Weir opened the press conference by thanking his fans for their outpouring of love and support. He also said that when he heard the derogatory comments made by the two reporters, he felt "pissed off" and defiant. He admitted to feeling that way because the criticisms were directed at him personally and not at him as an athlete and Olympic contender.

He said he chose to speak out about this issue not because he wants an apology, he believes, he said, in freedom of speech and that people have the right to voice their opinions, but he said that he felt it was important to set a strong example for the boys and girls who will follow.

"No one should be made to feel like a freak or a weirdo," he said.  "I just hope that more boys and girls have parents like me who allow their children to be an individual.  It's definitely the time for freedom. Time to be unique and to believe in themselves," he said expressing that this is the message he feels is most important to impart to the younger generations.

As for his thoughts on the quad?  He said that he is "so excited that Evan won [Olympic Gold Medal] without doing a quad."  Weir conceded that the judging in figure skating has always been suspect. "And when you're on the receiving end of it, it can be not nice, to lose to people who fall down, who make glaring mistakes, he said.

At attending member of the press from Canada's Quebec Province asked Johnny Weir if he was aware of the tremendous outpouring of support for him that has come from that province, where two radio announcers originally made the offensive comments. Weir said that a good friend of his from Montreal has already told him as such.

"Out of ugly, the most important thing in life is to make something beautiful," said Weir. "The only thing I ever wanted from this figure skating craziness was to perform, to perform my art."

He said he has plans to pursue a career in fashion design at some point.


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Ice Matters

By Paige Donner

Winter Olympics 2010, The Green Games
Up in Canada where ice is integral to lifestyle and where, during these 2010 Winter Olympics, it's all about ice - ice hockey, ice skating, curling, luge, skeleton, skiing, bobsleigh ... and more ice...Ice really matters.
But there's a whole other reason why ice matters and matters in a big way. And that's because ice is melting.
James Balog, Artist, Scientist, Explorer and Adventurer has produced his Extreme Ice Survey, a compelling time-lapse photographic presentation depicting the world's ice melting at a speed heretofore unimagined. Balog is Olympic 2010 sponsor, Samsung Corporation's, Eco-Ambassador.

James Balog Presents Extreme Ice Survey at Samsung Rendezvous to Vancouver School Children, Winter Games 2010
On February 16th, Canada's Federal Government Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice [Twitter @JimPrentice] announced that they would offset the estimated 7,600 tons of GHG emissions created by the thousands of government employees participating/volunteering in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter games.
“Canada is proud to be the first host country in history to help offset the greenhouse gas emissions of its Olympic Games,” said Minister Prentice. “This commitment is one of many ways our Government is contributing to sustainable Games and meeting our global climate change responsibilities.”
And while we all know, somewhere in our brains, that these numbers are significant and meaningful, it's the visuals that really sink in.
And here's where James Balog, a world-renowned nature photographer, can communicate the urgent nature of the state of our affairs so graphically. With his Extreme Ice Survey.
“Ice is the canary in the coal mine," said Balog in his TED Global talk delivered in Oxford, England a few months ago.  More recently at Vancouver's Live City he explained, "We are able to communicate the reality of Climate Change through our Extreme Ice Survey (.org) time-lapse photography essays."
"We are encouraging government leaders to allow us to bring out the story of what the cameras are seeing," noted Balog.
Balog has shown his Extreme Ice Survey to audiences as varied as sophisticated scientific minds at NASA to academics at Oxford from Vancouver's Mackenzie Elementary School (pictured above in their February 23rd Eco Classroom led by Balog).
"When people see my photography of landscapes melting, they understand it immediately. From the time you are one-years-old, everyone understands melting ice. From the moment you feel an ice cube melt on your tongue, you understand the concept that warmth melts ice," explains Balog.
Why does the melting of glaciers matter? Because they offer a tangible, visible manifestation of a dramatic change in climate that's underway.
It's a worldwide change; Glaciers are the visible manifestation.
Photographic documentation also provided undeniable evidence for these claims. Evidence that flies in the face of the Climate Deniers.
"Climate Gate was a ridiculously absurd and overblown event. It was a campaign of confusion and misinformation. The Climate Change deniers stepped up their game right before the Copenhagen Conference," said Balog.
"Scientists are not wild-eyed radicals. They are everything but. History is going to judge the Climate Deniers as irresponsible, criminal even."
"There are people who say that Obama is selling off the future of the U.S. with his big spending campaign. Climate Change Deniers are selling off the the future of our Earth's resources," says Balog. "You can liken the campaign of today's Climate Change Deniers with the cigarette companies of a couple decades ago. The more the status quo makes money in their status quo industries, the more they want to preserve the status quo."
Even giants such as Microsoft's Bill Gates has gotten on board with the cause of climate change. At lat week's TED conference in Long Beach, California, he said that climate change is the world's "most vexing problem," and expounded on the need to find a cheap and clean energy source, saying it is even more important than creating new vaccines and improving farming techniques.
For artist-adventurer James Balog, with the backing of a global electronics leader such as Samsung, he now has the means to spread his message wide and far.  His EIS has already been the subject of  a Nova/PBS TV special and a new book, Extreme Ice Now.
Balog on Photography:
We've been finding that visuals presented properly can captivate people in a way that the qualitative cannot. Visuals makes it real.
Eyes are the primary organ of human perception.
Numbers are an abstraction. Numbers must be processed by the brain and then interpreted. Only a small percentage of the population really speak the language of numbers easily.
Everyone gets the eye/visual thing.
Balog says that  British Columbia is one of the world's regions on the front lines of climate change.  A private foundation recently funded a reconaissance aerial tour to observe the area between between Mt. Garibaldi and Mt. Waddington.  He admitted that he was "stunned" to discover the amount of glacial retreat there was.  He said he had never seen such dramatic change in landscape. “I have seen a lot of changing mountains but I have not seen such a change like this,” said Balog.
With his Extreme Ice Survey organization, James Balog monitors other key areas of the globe:  "We have time-lapse cameras posted in the Andes, Alps, Iceland,Greenland, N. Rockies U.S., and Alaska."
Canada's Minister of Environment Prentice said, “In addition to promoting sustainability at the Games, these innovative approaches will also showcase Canadian environmental technology and ingenuity to the world.”
More of VANOC's [Vancouver Olympic Committee] and Canada's Olympic environmental initiatives:
  • Environmental assessments of Olymipic venue sites to reduce the ecological footprint of the Games;
  • The Canada Line representing 19 kilometers rail transit system that links downtown Vancouver with central Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport funded under the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Program;
  • The BC Hydrogen Highway project showcasing hydrogen and fuel-cell technology including fuel-cell vehicles and fuelling stations, and;
  • The wave roof of the Richmond Oval made from recycled wood from trees destroyed by pine beetles.
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