Amaz­ing Race Canada goes on the road to China

Po­lit­i­cal un­rest is a con­stant con­cern on over­seas legs of show

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - BILL BRIOUX

One can­not, to de­bunk a pop­u­lar myth, see the Great Wall of China from space.

“We looked for it,” says re­tired In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion com­man­der Chris Had­field. “It’s the same colours as its sur­round­ings. “It’s al­most beau­ti­fully cam­ou­flaged.”

The Great Wall can, how­ever, be seen on Tues­day’s episode of “The Amaz­ing Race Canada” on CTV at 8 p.m.

“It was al­ways on our radar,” says In­sight Pro­duc­tions chief and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer John Brun­ton. Fi­nally, in sea­son 5, the dream to visit this “won­der of the world” has be­come a re­al­ity.

Not that there weren’t chal­lenges, says Brun­ton, who al­ways trav­els with the teams com­pet­ing from across Canada as well as a small army of cam­era op­er­a­tors, sound en­gi­neers and other crew mem­bers.

“We started think­ing about how we could lo­gis­ti­cally go to dif­fer­ent places,” says Brun­ton while be­ing in­ter­viewed at the an­cient and pic­turesque Juy­ong­guan sec­tion of the Great Wall, about 60 kilo­me­tres from down­town Bei­jing.

“Then, hav­ing made this plan months ago, things started to heat up on the South China Seas.”

The ac­tual race was filmed last May, just as U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was threat­en­ing a mil­i­tary re­sponse to North Korean lon­grange bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests. The dis­tance from Bei­jing to the North Korean cap­i­tal of Py­ongyang is just over 800 kilo­me­tres — roughly the equiv­a­lent of Toronto to Que­bec City.

Brun­ton says Chi­nese of­fi­cials started get­ting con­cerned about peo­ple en­ter­ing the coun­try, “par­tic­u­larly with a cou­ple of tons of equip­ment and a whole bunch of boxes that have to be ac­counted for.”

Ev­ery­thing brought in had to be taken out, Brun­ton adds. The pro­ducer had to post a $300,000 bond to as­sure Chi­nese of­fi­cials noth­ing would be left be­hind.

Po­lit­i­cal un­rest is a con­stant road­block on over­seas legs of “The Amaz­ing Race Canada.”

Plans to visit Kenya this sea­son were scrapped af­ter risks on the way to sa­fari lo­ca­tions were as­sessed.

“It’s a lit­tle bit trick­ier in some coun­tries than it used to be,” says Brun­ton, “and that’s a con­stantly shift­ing sit­u­a­tion.”

Teams com­pet­ing this year were thrilled to make it to the his­toric wall, even if they only caught a fleet­ing glimpse.

“From what we could see it was ob­vi­ously gor­geous,” says Ryan Lachapelle, who teamed with Collingwood, Ont., pal Ken­neth McAlpine as the al­ways pos­i­tive pair known as “Team Give’r.”

As view­ers will see Tues­day, teams were given a tour guide task to per­form at the wall, chal­leng­ing them to speak a few lan­guages. Then it was quickly on to the next chal­lenge.

“This is a race,” says McAlpine. “You have to em­brace where you are, but if you stop and stare at the sights too long, teams will pass you by and you could be at the tail end of the pack.”

The other chal­lenge for teams run­ning through Bei­jing: pol­lu­tion. Mon­treal sib­lings An­drea and Adam Cava­leri were shocked at the air qual­ity.

“It’s the first thing we no­ticed,” says An­drea. The fact the series took them di­rectly from the pris­tine moun­tains and fresh air of B.C., she adds, only made the con­trast worse.

An­other complication dur­ing the Bei­jing leg of the race: sand­storms.

“They said the air qual­ity was five times worse than nor­mal when we were there,” says Toronto’s Sam Lam­bert, run­ning with part­ner Paul Mit­skopou­los. “You’d walk out­side the ho­tel and breathe in the air and think: this is far from re­fresh­ing.”

Ed­mon­ton hus­band and wife Karen and Bert Richards also choked on the air but praised the streets of down­town Bei­jing as vir­tu­ally lit­ter-free.

“The sky is so pol­luted but the ground is so pris­tine,” says Bert.

Rac­ers vis­ited other venues in Bei­jing in­clud­ing a stop at the Na­tional Olympic Sports Cen­tre, a Chi­nese herbal medicine shop, and the lo­cal Cana­dian Em­bassy, one of Canada’s largest in the world. There they wit­nessed — what else? — a ball hockey game.

By the time sea­son 5 is over, the fi­nal­ists will have raced more than 50,000 kilo­me­tres from start to fin­ish.

“The Amaz­ing Race Canada” re­turned for a fifth sea­son ear­lier this month and the de­but was by far the most-watched show of the sum­mer. The first episode drew 1,888,000 view­ers, ac­cord­ing to rat­ings gath­erer Numeris.


Volatile in­ter­na­tional sit­u­a­tions make film­ing this sea­son of The Amaz­ing Race Canada a “bit trick­ier,” says ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer John Brun­ton.

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