Fun and games
In many former Olympic host cities, there are still plenty of opportunities to enjoy the action, reports Tiana Templeman
COMPANY executive thunders down an ice corridor at 100km/h in Turin while a daredevil plumber swings off Munich’s Olympic stadium and an accountant trains with an Olympic ski coach in Salt Lake City. There is no need to be a world-class athlete to experience what it feels like to clean and jerk 100kg, bobsled like a pro, fly through the air like Alisa Camplin or take your place on an Olympic medal dais.
After the medals are awarded and the athletes have gone home, many host cities keep the excitement of the Olympic flame burning. At the following venues anyone can experience the magic of their own Olympic moment.
Utah Olympic Park, Salt Lake City, US: When freestyle ski coach Jerry Grossi insists he can teach skiers to perform backflips in one day, I know he is not talking about me. He pauses to give Australian ski sensation Jacqui Cooper a few tips then returns to our conversation. Of course they won’t be perfect,’’ he deadpans as she whooshes gracefully down the jump.
The first time someone gets air’ they either love it or it scares them to death.’’
The training splash pool favoured by Olympic champions such as Jacqui is also used for public freestyle camps where anyone can give the sport a try. Skiers as young as six wait their turn at the top of the smallest specialist freestyle ramp, known as a kicker, before zipping down it and splashing into a pool.
Camps designed to suit every level of ability range from half a day to five days. Professional skiers put on a 30-minute freestyle aerial show at 1pm every Saturday during summer.
To experience the thrill of freestyle skiing without getting wet there is Xtreme Zip, the world’s steepest zipline, which runs along the K120 ski jumping hill. The padded red zipline seats look relaxing apart from the fact they are travelling at 80km/h.
Torino Olympic Park, Turin, Italy: At the beginning of the bobsled run at Torino Olympic Park, it seems that everyone screams for Taxi Bob, the professional driver who takes visitors for hair-raising rides down the Cesana Olympic track.
Here the cool Italian drivers retain their rock-star allure, even when calming nervous passengers who emerge at the other end exhilarated and buzzing with adrenalin (for most of them one trip is not enough).
Adventurous types keen to ride solo under race conditions can join bobsledding greats such as Claudio Cavosi and Fabrizio Tosini for driving lessons with a difference several times a year. Package deals combining a ride with Taxi Bob and entry to the ice skating rink are good value.
For pure fun without the fear factor there is snowtubing, which involves sliding down a ski jump landing ramp on a tyre with handholds. At (about $19.50) an hour this activity provides plenty of affordable thrills.
Team sports are available, although visitors who join a game of broomball will likely provide locals with a few laughs; imagine playing field hockey on ice with a broom but no skates. Anyone is welcome to join the fun, although beginners spend more time sweeping the floor with their behinds than sweeping the ball into goal.
Munich Olympic Park, Germany: When Munich hosted the games in 1972 there was no abseiling off the stadium, but this is just one of the activities now on offer at this revitalised Olympic park.
Visitors with a head for heights can drop 40m from the stadium roof or clamber over it on a climbing tour. I am told the 8ha roof built to symbolise the Alps offers fantastic views to Bavaria and beyond, but decide to take their word for it.
Fortunately visitors such as myself, who like keeping both feet on the ground, can opt for less daring activities.
Walking around the 80ha site costs nothing and provides the perfect excuse to stop for a refreshing bier along the way. A modest secures a place on a 90-minute sightseeing tour filled with Olympic memories, but those with limited time may prefer the selfguided MP3 audio option as it bypasses the need to wait for an English-speaking guide.
The hour I plan to spend at Munich Olympic Park turns into three due to the stunning architecture, which remains surprisingly contemporary and enhances, rather than dominates, the site. An Architec-Tour, which must be booked in advance, gives visitors a true appreciation of the cutting-edge architecture.
It seems the more you discover about this facility, the more amazing it becomes. Munich Olympic Park was always considered ahead of its time and with the range of activities on offer, this looks set to continue.
Seoul Olympic Park, South Korea: The first thing visitors to Seoul Olympic Park see when they emerge
Peace Gate: Seoul Olympic Park, South Korea from the subway station is the Olympic flame, still burning at the centre of the World Peace Gate.
The Torch of Peace, as it is now called, sums up this post-Olympic experience, designed to be shared. It seems every structure, activity and artwork celebrates humanity and the Olympic community spirit.
More than 200 sculptures are scattered through Seoul Olympic Park, one of the top five sculpture parks in the world, and at its centre is the SOMA Museum of Art, which houses avant-garde video installations and more traditional works paying tribute to Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic games.
Nearby is the state-of-the-art Seoul Olympic Museum, which is far more exciting than it appears from its exterior and is seldom crowded.
This is a bonus as there is virtually no queueing in the Sports Experience Hall, which resembles a space-age video arcade with machines that simulate Olympic sports. Here it is possible to lift 100kg in a virtual clean and jerk without raising a sweat.
Tourists who discover the green oasis that is Seoul Olympic Park often return, but most visitors are local. Children play hide and seek in the zelkova tree forest and chase each other across vast green lawns, while parents chat and prepare lunch. Don’t be surprised if you are invited to join them; the Olympic ideal of global friendship lives on.
Sydney Olympic Park, Australia: Running down the athletes’ tunnel at ANZ Stadium to the sound of 80,000 people cheering is an amazing experience. Even though it is a recording and I am no Olympic champion, the wall of sound still makes my legs pump faster.
A trip to Sydney Olympic Park is a patriotic and sometimes emotional experience for most Australians, especially for those of us who missed out in 2000.
When the guide on our stadium tour describes the electric atmosphere during Cathy Freeman’s 400m final, it is all I can do not to shed a tear about not being there.
Away from the sporting field we play at being VIPs in the members’ lounge and visit restricted athlete areas for a behind-the-scenes glimpse (and smell) of the locker rooms, before running down the athletes’ tunnel.
An Olympic medal dais awaits at the end for photo opportunities, where everyone wins gold. Segways (electric self-balancing stand-up scooters) are used for zippy Olympic Park tours that are great fun, although most visitors have to conquer the urge to speed.
Outside ANZ Stadium, the famous Olympic cauldron, since turned into a fountain, flashes by, as does the Sydney Aquatic Centre. This venue hosted the swimming and its Olympic facilities remain, along with a terrific kids’ play area with waterslide, rapid river ride and spurting volcanoes.
The park’s self-guided bike safari — which includes bike hire, a Listen Live self-guided audio tour, bottled water, coffee and maps — also covers entry to the aquatic centre.
It is the perfect spot to relax and chill out after reliving the excitement of the best games ever’’.