The names of this story have been changed to protect the innocent.
For those of us who have spent the past three weeks stuck in the main press building without proper credentials to cover any of the live events at the 2002 Winter Games, you learn to tune out this annoying woman's voice that begins each communiqué over the public address system with, "May I have your attention please."
While wiping the sleep out of my eyes on Thursday morning, there she was again.
"May I have your attention please, one very large artifact was taken from the Olympic museum two nights ago. We ask that it is returned, no questions asked."
The place erupted with laughter. A couple of my co-workers immediately glanced my way, and I could feel my face burning with embarrassment.
"I wonder what's that all about," said one writer sitting behind me.
At first, I thought to myself, "if the Snowlet doesn't fit, you must acquit." But the problem was it did fit and there were photos to prove it. Then I had visions of my Canadian colleagues, chanting "free the five, free the five," rallying together as myself and the four other involved were led away by the secret service.
The artifact mentioned above was a large Snowlet costume, the owl mascot of the 1998 Nagano Games. There were four cartoon owls in Nagano. First, there was Sukki, a leader-type figure who is a bit emotional and passionate and who pays a great deal of consideration to others. Then there was Tsukki, a romanticist and dreamer who tends to be a bit selfish and somewhat of a crybaby. And Nokki, impatient and very curious, who likes to be mischievous. Finally, there was Lekki, easy-going and very studious. Even though it is cautious and it falls down a lot.
Guess, which one my accomplices decided to kidnap. Yup, Nokki.
There were five of us who nabbed the little unsuspecting owl. We had been discussing the idea for about a week and after a lovely late-night meal decided Nokki needed a night free from the shackles of the museum.
He didn't make a peep. We carried him through the main pressroom and then through the front lobby. We stopped for some pictures. But other than a few curious glances by some volunteers, no one asked us to stop and return our feathered friend.
When we arrived at the front security gate, a policeman stopped us and said, "you guys can't go out this gate with that."
One my friends, asked the cop, "well, then which should we go out."
The cop replied, "I'm just kidding."
As we crossed the street, I noticed that you could actually don the costume. So I put it on and walked the 100 yards to our hotel and walked through the lobby. Most of the people in the hotel lobby laughed and wondered what was going on, but the Japanese there seemed startled, like it was some sort of a bad flashback.
Our ringleader, soft-spoken National Post columnist Christie Blatchford, was adamant that we leave Nokki in her room for the evening.
One problem, however, Nokki got stuck in her door. It took a running hip check from Globe funnyman - and sometimes hockey writer - David Shoalts to push me through. I fell down and we all doubled over in laughter. The Globe's resident sports humourist, Allan Maki, and our multi-media star, Stephen Brunt, were the fourth and fifth members of our Fab Five.
We left Nokki on Christie's bed.
The next day the story made the rounds. We figured with all the security cameras, it was just a matter of time before we were approached. But other than some extra security around the museum on Wednesday nothing happened. That is, until that annoying voice on Thursday morning.
Blatchford immediately took a leadership role and confessed. We promised to return Nokki as long as they promised to treat Nokki better. Both parties agreed and I'm happy to report Nokki is back in the museum, displaying a bigger smile.