July saw me heading to Calgary for the Canadian Open. Flying out on Sunday for a tournament was unusual, but the organisers had asked that we arrived Sunday as they had arranged a trip on Monday before the briefing. Unfortunately both flights (I had to transfer in Toronto) were delayed by at least 1 hour (not a lot in the scheme of things I know) meant that I arrived at about 10pm – and it was still daylight.
The hotel was across the road from the Olympic Ski jump – remember Eddie the Eagle? Even though it apparently can’t be used any more because advances in technology means that the jumpers would be landing in the middle of the highway, it was still impressive and slightly terrifying.
7am Monday saw the visiting Technical Officials on a coach to the Rockies. It stared a bit bumpy as the back of the coach actually scraped and stuck on the slope out of the carpark. I know that those of you who know me well will already be blaming me! As we got closer to the Rockies the scenery got more impressive. It was slightly disconcerting to be told that we weren’t visiting the trail that was planned as it was closed due to bear activity in the area.
We arrived at our destination and a small intrepid group decided to tackle the harder trail – I took the “easy” option, on Ptarmigan Circuit. Due to the altitude it was hard enough, but well worth the view at the top. On the way back, we were fortunate enough to see 2 grizzlies at the side of the road. A work colleague described them as teenagers which was a pretty good description – not babies, but not adults. We also stopped at the upper lake on the original plan, which was the “traditional” blue lake with mountains in the background. Some of us even went paddling in the lake.
Monday evening saw the umpires briefing, which was followed by the “White Hat Ceremony” – all umpires were presented with a white cowboy hat and took the oath. Tuesday was the start of the tournament with qualifying to start. As there had been several withdrawals, not all umpires were required, and I took the opportunity to go into Calgary to look round, and got up to the tower – although I didn’t stand on the glass floor!
Monday evening and all umpires were required, and this was the case for the rest of the week – after all we were there to umpire badminton! The hall was quite cold – it was actually an ice-hockey rink, and the announcer also did the PA in the ice hockey matches so was very good! There were a number BWF, BEC and Canadian umpires involved – including the coach driver from the Rockies trip. The shuttles provided by Yonex for this event are unique - due to the altitude of Calgary, they provide speed 1 shuttles and also speed 0 (we didn’t use those). We had to be “liberal” with the clothing regulations, as a number of players had luggage issues (i.e. it hadn’t arrived), but this was common sense. There were a couple of dramas – at one point every microphone in the hall went off, just as I had gone on court to umpire, I’m sure that was my fault! The bigger drama was the power cut – I did not pull out the plug – there was a very impressive thunderstorm that evening, and play was suspended for 15-20 mins and the hall was in complete darkness for several minutes. Apparently Calgary is relatively well-known for thunderstorms. There was also a Hawkeye issue in a match I was service-judging (sure that will have been my fault also given my reputation!). Not many English players entered the event, but despite their best efforts, all went out in the early rounds.
I was fortunate to be on court for the first semi-final on Saturday, which meant that with a couple of colleagues we were able to get to the Calgary Stampede – The greatest show on earth! Really was a great experience, and something I didn’t think I was going to be able to see.
Many umpires had flight issues going home. I was fortunate that I was only delayed by about 1 hour from Calgary and only a couple from Toronto, but being served an airplane meal at gone midnight was not the best experience! I arrived back in Manchester just before a thunderstorm hit there (don’t think it was the same one from Calgary!) and was straight back into work the next day due to having a shortage of leave available, complete with jetlag.