Vancouver Welcomes the World

British Columbia readies for its Olympic debut

By: By Janeen Christoff

Meet the Mascots

Since the 1968 Winter Olympics, Olympic mascots have been a symbol of good luck during the Games. In Olympic tradition, mascots usually reflect the nature or culture of the host region. This year, Quatchi, Miga and Sumi will represent Canada as the mascots for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Quatchi is a young sasquatch who comes from the mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends.

Miga is a young sea bear who lives in the ocean with her family pod, beyond Vancouver Island, near Tofino, British Columbia. Sea bears are part killer whale and part bear. (Miga is part Kermode bear, a rare white bear that only lives in British Columbia.)

Sumi is an animal spirit who lives in the mountains of British Columbia. Like many Canadians, Sumi’s background is drawn from many places. He wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the mighty thunderbird and runs on the strong furry legs of the black bear.


2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games
The XXI Winter Olympic Games will take place Feb. 12-28, and the Paralympic Winter Games will be held from March 12 to 21.

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Excitement is building in Vancouver, Canada. A few weeks ago, the official countdown clock at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which gives an up-to-the-second countdown to the start of the XXI Winter Olympic Games, hit the six-month mark.


Olympic venues dot the Vancouver skyline, including the Olympic and Paralympic Village. // © 2009 VANOC

And now, the gears are shifting as the final stages of planning begin, said Mary Fraser, director of media relations for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC).

“It is busy, but exciting,” said Fraser. “There is a lot of anticipation. Everyone can feel that the Games are coming.”

Vancouver was awarded the bid in July 2003, and the city has been in planning mode ever since, with a bevy of projects lined up to prepare for the Games. Now, with new venues constructed, highway upgrades completed, a new train line, a hotel construction and renovation boom and an up-and-coming culinary scene, Vancouver is ready to welcome the world.

For Vancouver, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are more than just a competition — they are a celebration, reflecting Olympic values in the spirit of sport, culture and society.

Tewanee Joseph, who is the CEO and executive director of the Four Host Nations First Nations Society has been working on the 2010 Olympics since 1997, when the city first began developing its Olympic bid. As the the Games draw closer, he is beginning to feel the Olympic spirit.

“It is incredible to be involved,” said Joseph. “The First Nations people have always been involved in athletics, and what’s incredible is that this is the Olympic Games. We are proud to be a part of that, which is generating a groundswell of support.”

The First Nations community of four host nations in British Columbia is the largest indigenous group ever to be involved in the planning of an Olympic Games, and it is important to Joseph and the First Nations community to make an impression. As an official Olympic partner, the Four Host First Nations have been working tirelessly with VANOC to plan and prepare for these Games.

“It will be us telling our story. No one will be speaking for us,” said Joseph. “The elders and the chiefs can’t believe that we are an official partner in a world event. There’s a lot of pride from both the young people and the elders.”

One thing that everyone in Vancouver wants people to know is that the city will be open and accessible to visitors during the Games.

“We are open for business,” said Arlene Schieven, vice president of marketing for Tourism Whistler. “There has never been a better time to visit.”

Therefore, when planning an Olympic visit for clients, be it before, during or after the Games, there are some key points of which to be aware.

Olympic Basics
Three cities lay the foundation for the core of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Canada is the host country. Vancouver is the host city. Nearby Richmond is a venue city, and the town of Whistler serves as the host mountain resort.

Opening and closing ceremonies will take place at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium. Under normal conditions, BC Place is home to many major events such as BC Lions football games. However, during the Olympics, the stadium, which is now undergoing minor renovations, will be a hub for celebration. In addition to the opening and closing ceremonies, the downtown venue will hold nightly victory ceremonies.

Curling is one of Canada’s favorite sports and the brand-new Vancouver Olympic/Paralympic Centre, built for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, is a 108,000-square-foot arena that will host the men’s and women’s curling tournament, as well as wheelchair curling during the Paralympic Games. In its post-Olympic life, the venue will serve as a multipurpose community center, with an ice hockey rink, a gymnasium and a library, as well as curling ice.

Other existing Vancouver venues will host events during the Games. At the core of these venues is the Pacific Coliseum at Hastings Park, which will host figure skating and short-track speed skating events. Upgrades to the coliseum, which included an expansion of the ice, were completed in 2007.

Ice hockey tournaments will be held at both Canada Hockey Place and the UBC Thunderbird Arena. While the Canada Hockey Place had very little to do in preparation, the Thunderbird Arena underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation that included a flexible facility design to accommodate a variety of uses.

Two major undertakings for VANOC were improvements to the SkyTrain Transit system, which now provides service from the Vancouver International Airport in Richmond to the heart of downtown Vancouver, and upgrades to the Sea to Sky Highway, a major artery to Whistler.

Nearby Cypress Mountain, which is adjacent to West Vancouver, will play host to freestyle skiing and snowboarding events during the Games. It has undergone extensive improvements and upgrades funded by both the Canadian and British Columbia governments in order to ready the resort for its Olympic debut.

The newly revamped Sea to Sky Highway makes getting to Whistler even easier. The resort municipality of Whistler, which grew out of the idea that the resort would one day host the Winter Olympic Games, will fulfill its legacy. Whistler is home to three Olympic venues — the new Whistler Sliding Center, which will host the bobsled, luge and skeleton events; Whistler Creekside at Whistler Blackcomb, which will be used for men’s and women’s alpine skiing events including downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G and super combined; and the Whistler Olympic Park/Whistler Paralympic Park is the site for the biathlon and cross-country skiing.

In Richmond, the Richmond Olympic Oval, purpose built for the Games, will be home to the speed skating competition. Located on the banks of the Fraser River, one of its most notable features is that it is the first Winter Olympics venue at sea level. Beyond the Games, the oval will be transformed into a community center.

The Four Host First Nations will welcome visitors from around the world to share arts, crafts, food, stories and culture in a pavilion topped by a 65-foot-high, air-supported snowball.

“It is an 8,000-square-foot aboriginal longhouse built for the Olympics themselves,” said Joseph.

The pavilion will feature special theme days celebrating aboriginal groups from all regions of Canada. Visitors will be entertained by live events, including Inuit throat singing, Metis jigging, First Nations hoop dancing, as well as contemporary aboriginal performances. Visitors will also experience a state-of-the-art multimedia show projected on the surface of the sphere itself — both inside and out.

With the Olympics fast approaching, a mini hotel boom has also taken place in Vancouver. Luxury options such as the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and the Sutton Place Hotel have now been joined by some prestigious new properties. The Loden Vancouver opened in 2008, followed by the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver in January. In the fall, the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel will open its doors and, in 2010, just before the Games, a new Fairmont, the Fairmont Pacific Rim, will debut.

An Olympic Visit
The one thing that tourism officials are emphasizing is that Vancouver is not only going to be one of the most accessible cities during the Olympics, but all sectors of tourism throughout the province are encouraging people to visit before and after the Games, as well.

“You don’t have to come during the Games to have an Olympic experience,” said Fraser.

Clients arriving before the Olympic Games have some unique opportunities.

At the Richmond Oval, clients can skate on the ice that will be used for Olympic speed skating through the fall.

Once the snow starts falling in Whistler, runs like the Dave Murray Downhill will be open for skiers and snowboarders to see how fast they can make it down the hill. In fact, Whistler Blackcomb will be open to skiers and snowboarders throughout the Games, and only four runs will be closed to hold Olympic events.

At Cypress Mountain, only 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, clients can ski and snowboard like an Olympian. Runs like Fork (on which a new Olympic event, the snowboard cross, will take place) and Trumpeter (which runs down what will become the snowboard parallel and giant slalom) will be available to visitors.

During the Games, celebrations will take place throughout the city. Nightly celebrations will occur at BC Place. The Robson Square – GE Ice Plaza outdoor ice rink will be open during the Olympic Games. In Yaletown, the David Lam Park Live Site will feature giant screens for event viewing, as well as a nightly laser light show and a water show. The park will also link to the new Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line for easy access. Larwill Park will be another live site and will feature giant screens, live performances and sponsor activities. The Francophone community is expected to make Granville Island a central gathering place. Bombardier, a Canadian aeronautical company, will offer a streetcar to shuttle visitors from the Olympic Village station on the Canada Line to the island.

Clients can round out their Olympic experience at the Cultural Olympiad’s many festivals and events. From Jan. 22 to March 21, clients can see some of the best artists in the world in Vancouver. Canadian and international artists will take over the city showcasing a variety of artistic talent that will stretch the imagination. More than 600 free and ticketed performances will take place during 60 days of programming that will include world premieres and one-of-a-kind events., the official Web site for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, is a hub of information. The Web site serves as one of the best resources for information on ticketing, torch relays, the Cultural Olympiad, education programs and more. Tickets for all Olympic events can be purchased through the site. Agents will also find information on how and when to buy tickets, a downloadable ticketing guide and prices.

With all that’s on the horizon in Vancouver, even if clients are visiting the region for other reasons, it will be hard not to catch a little bit of Olympic fever.