Heidi Howarth and her daughter Jen Zimmer will be heading Sochi, Russia for the upcoming winter games.
(BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
While millions of Canadians will be watching the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, from the comfort of their basement couch, two Brandonites will have front-row seats for all of the action.
Heidi Howarth and her daughter, Jen Zimmer, leave Canada Feb. 14, destined for the greatest winter sporting event in the world.
"When the Olympics were in Vancouver, I was glued to the TV until midnight every night for two weeks," Howarth said.
Following the closing ceremonies, which featured everything from famous Canadians to giant beavers and tied a neat little bow on an event that captured the nation, Howarth knew she had to go to the Olympics.
"It’s special and you want to share it with someone," she said. "I want to fill my bucket list dreams with others in my family."
Sitting at her desk at work with a bight red sweater on that reads "Canada" across her chest, Howarth leafed through what she calls her "Olympic Bible."
You see going to the Olympics isn’t as easy as grabbing a few tickets online and hopping on a plane to travel halfway around the world.
Visas, hotel rooms and tickets fill the binder. Throughout the entire process, the people at the Canadian consulate probably know Howarth by name.
By the end of the Olympics, every Canadian athlete might know her, too.
The Games have a way of bonding people. It’s about more than sport, bringing the entire world together on a global stage that has as much to do with harmony and sportsmanship as it does competition.
Howarth intends to cheer on Team Canada with the moxie and zeal that is intrinsic in her personality.
"It will be fun to be a part of it, be proud to be Canadian and support the teams."
And she’s already talking like an athlete, knowing the fans become more a part of the team at the Olympics than any other sporting event.
"Hopefully we come back with a whole bunch of gold," Howarth said.
Beside her at her desk are bags packed full of Canadiana. A red and white scarf, Canadian flags, even a Canadian cape that she plans on wearing while she’s in Russia.
She’s also taking pins and earrings featuring the red and white in order to leave part of Canada and herself behind.
The mother-daughter tandem have tickets for two hockey games, including the bronze medal match, curling and the closing ceremonies.
For $800 a ticket, the closing ceremonies are the most expensive show they’ll see, but if your going to go, you go big.
"Who knows? I might never get to another Olympics," Howarth said.
In the back of her mind, however, there is something that pulls at her a little.
Sochi is in the southwestern part of Russia, located right on the Black Sea. Regions closest to the area include Dagestana and Chechnya, two areas linked to terrorist groups within Russia.
"I think you have to be aware of it," Howarth said. "I think it will feel like we’re flying into Afghanistan with all of the military that is going to be there, which is good."
The 1972 Olympics in Germany, which became known as the "Munich Massacre" and the bombing at the 1996 Games in Atlanta do little to curb fears.
"There are always threats at the Olympics. Does it scare me? I’m a little concerned," Howarth said. "I still feel it’s going to be safe and there are always going to be a few radical people that are going to try to do something."
Her daughter feels the same way.
"I’m excited to go, but I’m also really nervous," Zimmer said. "Some athletes aren’t sending their families so it’s nerve-racking."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 1, 2014