“Please can you tell me,” the Serbian journalist asked me, “is this jewelry store company based here? Or is it more… East-coast?”
“Birks?” I replied. “It’s based in Montreal.”
“Ah. So, East-coast,” he said, with an I’m-a-man-of-the-world, you-don’t-have-to-spoonfeed-me glint in his eye. “Well, closer to the East coast, anyway.”
My Serbian colleague, who soon introduced himself as Vladimir Petrovic from DSL Sport newspaper, was, with me, one of the very few men attending the unveiling of a new Jennifer Heil line of silver jewelry at the Vancouver Birks flagship outlet on West Hastings. There was Starbucks coffee in silver puts. There were smoked-salmon canapés. There were many online style writers. “Oh yes! I read you on Twitter,” one said to another.
Making small talk, I asked Petrovic how many athletes there are on the Serbian Olympic team. “Eleven,” he said. “I’d have thought Serbia could field a hockey team,” I said.
“Slovenia can. Under the old Yugoslavia, 90 per cent of our hockey team was Slovenian. Now we don’t have enough,” he said. His paper used to be called JSL Sport, for Jugoslovenski Sporti List, or Yugoslavian Sporting Newspaper. Now it’s called Dnevni Sporti List, for Daily Sporting Newspaper.
I was scribbling something else in my notebook so I set out to reassure Petrovic. “I’m not taking notes about this.”
He shrugged and smiled. “Oh, you can make jokes about this! I don’t mind. I make jokes all the time. In Salt Lake City, Grimaldi, from Monaco, he finished the bobsled race on his head. He was one of a two-man bobsled and it turned over and he ended the race on his head. With the sled on top of him. And he still finished ahead of the Serbians.”
The main event, of course, was the arrival of Jenn Heil, whom the Birks publicity material identified as Gold Medallist Jenn Heil. Not incorrectly, either: she won gold in Turin. Here of course she won silver, Canada’s first medal of the games, and when she showed up, all bright eyes and wide smiles, she was wearing her medal, which was about the size of a pie plate and had an uneven, curvy surface.
Fiona Forbes, a local TV personality, approached a lectern near the coffee. “Please turn off your phones,” she said. “Especially if you have a Lady Gaga ringer.” Busted.
There were remarks from assorted jewelry dignitaries. Turns out this is the first time in Olympic history that the Games have designated an official supplier in the category of luxury jewelry. Really, you’d have thought they’d done it earlier. It turns out, too, that Jenn Heil’s line of products is in silver, but that this was going to be the case even before she fetched up silver at Cypress Mountain. There were no gold or bronze contingency plans.
She designed them herself, “in collaboration with the Birks design team.” Everything’s based on five rings, which is Olympic-ish and also reflects five “core values” Heil wanted to promote: courage, joy, focus, team and hope. “We are constantly inspired by her,” one Birks guy said. “As genuine a human being as you’d ever want to meet.” A Birks PR lady from Montreal pointed out to me that a line of jewelry associated with a 26-year-old athlete is pretty handy for the company, which doesn’t want to seem old and fusty.
Heil made grateful remarks and unveiled two new products—stackable bangles and stackable rings. There were many, many photos. The wee Olympian stayed cheerful through it all.
“She’s clearly, how do you call it, a hot dog,” Petrovic said as we watched the mogul star. “That’s why she can do her sport. It’s why she enjoys this.”