Stone rose happy to be dark horse
Passing by tranquil detached houses and fences gleaming white in the bright morning sun, I'm more minded of Wisteria Lane than a Winter Olympics.
But step inside the Olympic Centre itself, the venue for the curling competitions at the Vancouver Games, and that all changes.
The temperature plunges to the point where cameramen filming the action can be seen jogging on the spot behind their cameras to keep their circulation going. Canadians wrapped in flags must wish they had brought blankets instead.
Team GB, however, will be feeling the heat. The British men's and women's curling teams are both expected to challenge for medals here, and the women began that challenge in fine fashion on Wednesday, narrowly defeating world champions China in their opening clash.
The women's skip (or captain) is Eve Muirhead - at 19, one of the youngest women in the entire British squad for the Winter Games. But she has been handed the task of leading four other curlers with a cumulative age of 140.
There is no other skip at Olympic level as young as Muirhead, and it has been practically the only topic of discussion in previews of the British team's chances in Vancouver. The British women are ranked seventh in the world, but Muirhead's profile has been such that Canadian media have warned she is a "dark horse" to lead GB to gold.
Now she is here and, alongside her vastly experienced squad, she must deliver. There is no hiding behind her age, having been selected to represent Great Britain at the highest level, and she knows it.
On the ice, she cuts a determined, focused figure. Off it, having beaten the Chinese, she bubbled with enthusiasm for the steep learning curve ahead.
"I don't think about my age at all," she told me, "and I want to be a dark horse. We've had a good season and we plan on slugging along like we have been doing.
"Getting early wins like we did out there this morning is crucial. If you get off to a good start, you don't get games that haunt you when it comes to the end of the week."
The curling contest begins with a round-robin stage where each of the 10 women's teams face each other. After that the top four progress, so Muirhead naturally wants qualification sewn up as early as possible.
But she does not bear the burden of expectation alone. For most of the China fixture, she could be seen standing alongside Jackie Lockhart, a 44-year-old former world champion and veteran of the Turin Games in 2006.
Eve Muirhead eyes victory over China on her Olympic debut. Photo: PA
Variously talking tactics, grimacing at stones in the distance or laughing to break the tension, the pair are the engine room of the British bid for gold. If you haven't watched curling before, you could liken it to snooker - it's imperative you stay three to four moves ahead, otherwise you're sunk. Watching Muirhead and Lockhart in action, you can almost hear the cogs whirring.
"This is a huge team game, not an individual one, and that's what we've definitely pulled on," said Lockhart. "We've got lots of experience and energy and there's a real dynamic to that mix.
"But I do take my hat off to Eve because she has got fantastic ability at the age of 19. I didn't have anything like her ability until I was about 30. She's got a long future ahead of her - if she can keep it up," she added, laughing as Muirhead listened in. "I'm sure she will!"
Muirhead kept her cool to win her opening contest with the final stone, and by a matter of inches at that. Dan Rafael, the Canadian who coached the Chinese women to the 2009 world title, blamed his own charges for the defeat, but told me Muirhead has a capability to cope with the Olympic stage despite her age.
"We dug our own hole and didn't get out of it," he said. "We made a mistake that was kind of big, and in this competition you can't make mistakes like that.
"For both teams this piece of ice was a little tricky. We saw a lot of hit-and-roll-outs. I think it was going to come down to who was going to hit and stay, which Eve did. She almost rolled it a few inches too far, but she was fine.
"Whether you can cope at that age depends on a person's personality," added Rafael, citing the example of Canada's John Morris. Morris, like Muirhead, won more than one world junior title, and went on to help Canada lift the 2008 men's world title.
"I saw John at 15 and he had the maturity of a 30-year-old," said Rafael. "That's what counts and Eve Muirhead seems to be very mature for 19 years of age. She'll be fine.
"When you get on the ice, anybody who can throw a rock is dangerous. It's like in baseball: if you've got a bat in your hand, it doesn't matter if you're a pitcher or an outfielder, you can hit the ball. It's the same in curling - it doesn't matter how old you are."
Muirhead laughed out loud when I pointed out that if you chose two other countries' skips at random, chances are you would come out with more than 60 years' curling experience. But those skips are not laughing. While Muirhead's age is an interesting oddity for the media, especially when curling traditionally boasts the eldest competitors in winter sport, it is an irrelevance for her rivals. They see only a threat to their medal hopes.
"She's a multiple junior world champion, she's very confident and she plays with no fear," said American skip Debbie McCormick. "We're going to have to play tough against her."
Left to right: Lockhart and Muirhead locked in thought alongside Lorna Vevers and Kelly Wood. Photo: PA
If Muirhead is to deliver on her dark horse tag, she will have to get past the Canadians, ranked number one in the world. Curling is up there with ice hockey as a sport the host nation considers a nailed-on gold medal prospect, led by skip Cheryl Bernard, who has been curling since she was eight - in other words, for the last 35 years.
But Bernard's experience may not be as big a danger as the Olympic Centre crowd. The Canadian fans generate such an almighty noise, on such a regular basis, that the cheers of British supporters are reduced to mere whispers by comparison. Throw in the Swiss fans with their cowbells and the strangulated bleats of "Haaard! Haaard!" from the curlers, and it starts to sound like the loudest farm in the world.
Muirhead, though, won the junior world title here last year, and insisted she will thrive on the atmosphere.
"The arena is fantastic," she said. "The buzz in that place is massive - we have to use lots of hand signals to communicate."
"A game is a game to us though," added Lockhart, leaning in. "It's just another game, even though it's at the Olympics. If you manage it that way, you'll manage it a lot easier."
On the ice, when Muirhead needs that advice the most in her Olympic infancy, Lockhart will be two feet away, dispensing it.