Vancouver hits back
When I arrived at the International Broadcasting Centre today, my pass was checked by the woman on security as usual. The difference on this occasion was that she told me that I couldn't come in.
I'm not going to deny that during my career I have, maybe once or twice, blagged my way into places where I probably shouldn't have been - a 2002 World Cup semi-final springs to mind - but I'm happy to say that in Vancouver I'm a fully accredited journalist.
The broadcasting centre is my base during the Games. So you can imagine my surprise when she stopped me in my tracks.
I looked at the lady and I could see that she was smiling. "You're British," she said. "You lot have all been rude about our Olympics, I'm not going to let you in." Luckily, I could see that she was joking, I gave her a slightly nervous chuckle, and then continued on my merry way. Behind her jovial comment, though, lay a serious point. Many Canadians have been really hurt by some of the criticisms in the British media.
Access to the Olympic flame has been difficult for many. Photo: AFP
For the past few days, I've been trying to persuade the Vancouver Organising Committee (Vanoc) to offer me a senior figure to interview. I wanted to give them the chance to stick up for themselves.
The list of complaints is quite a long one: The problems with the lighting of the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony, the criticism that members of the public were only able to see the cauldron through a fence, the weather, the cancellation of 28,000 tickets to events on Cypress Mountain, the breakdown of the ice-surfacing machine at the speed skating venue. The list goes on.
There is, of course, also the issue of the death of an athlete, which has cast a huge shadow over the Games, but it feels totally inappropriate for me to add that to a list of other criticisms, as it makes everything else seem insignificant.
For the past couple of days. it's seemed that the Vanoc was happy to let all the criticism go unchallenged. That all changed this morning. My producer received a phone call telling him that John Furlong, the man in charge, the CEO of the Games, would be happy to speak to us in half an hour.
I'd never met him before, but from seeing him on television I'd always thought of him as fairly relaxed. He wasn't when he arrived this morning. Here was a man who'd clearly decided that enough was enough. He'd come to the conclusion that it was time to defend his reputation, to defend his Olympics.
In his hand, he carried a piece of paper with a few notes. He knew what he wanted to say and made his point very eloquently. He described some people in the press as "caustic" and "angry". You can see the interview on this page and judge for yourself, but it was his passion which made the greatest impression on me.
After the interview, once the camera was switched off, it was as though I was speaking to a completely different man to the one who'd arrived a little earlier. Furlong had got everything off his chest and he clearly felt a lot better for having done so.
I'll be interested to see your comments on the interview. It's hard not to feel some sympathy for him, in particular regarding the weather. It's hardly his fault that Vancouver is in the middle of its mildest winter for a century. But what about the other issues? Have the British press been too hard on Vanoc?
I think that it's only fair that I make one point in defence of these Games before I sign off. Furlong talks at length in the interview about the atmosphere in Vancouver. There's a lot of truth in the saying "seeing is believing". Anybody who's walked through the city centre during some of the events, or managed to get up to Whistler, couldn't fail to get caught up in the excitement of the Canadian people.
Some of those who've written articles criticising these Olympics have done so from thousands of miles away. If those same people had been on Cypress Mountain when Canada won their first ever gold medal on home soil, they might have written a rather different story.