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Counting Down to the 2010 Winter Games

Canadians are never too young to be fans of the 2010 Winter Games.
Canadians are never too young to be fans of the 2010 Winter Games.
Image © by www.coastphoto.com courtesy tourism whistler. 

 

TICK, TOCK. TICK, TOCK.
When you spot the gleaming countdown clock in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Georgia Street plaza, you realize the biggest event in BC’s history is getting ever closer.

As of this month, the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are just two years away. Locals can’t wait to see the Olympic flame ignited at the opening ceremonies at BC Place Stadium on February 12, 2010, as the prelude to 17 days of athletic marvels.

Vancouver and Whistler will provide the biggest stage ever for the world’s top performers on snow and ice. The numbers alone are staggering: nine competition venues, 15 sports, 86 medal events, 5,000 athletes and team officials, 10,000 journalists, 1.8 million event tickets and a global TV audience of three billion.

But there’s no need to wait until 2010. From sports to shopping to culture, visitors can get a taste of Olympic fever right now.

Dreaming of centre-ice seats for the men’s gold-medal hockey game? Sign up on the Vancouver Olympic Committee’s official website (www.vancouver2010.com) for updates on event ticket sales, which start in October. Then head to GM Place, the 18,630-capacity home of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and 2010 hockey venue, and enjoy exciting performances by Olympians such as superstar goalie Roberto Luongo. Upcoming must-see games include match-ups with the Detroit Red Wings (Feb. 23) and the Colorado Avalanche (Feb. 9 and 27). For more information, check the Canucks website (www.canucks.com).

If lutzes and loops are what you love, Vancouver has no lack of figure skating action. Up to 17,500 spectators will witness perfect pirouettes and jaw-dropping jumps at the Pacific Coliseum during 2010 figure skating events. The Coliseum hosted the 2008 BMO Canadian Championships last month, marking the fifth time this competition has graced the city. And mark your calendar for the Stars on Ice show at GM Place on May 7, featuring Canada’s Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, the 2002 Olympic pairs gold medalists, and the USA’s Sasha Cohen, a silver winner in Turin whose vibrant personality has earned her acting cameos in Blades of Glory and CSI: NY.

 

Snowboarding fun at Whistler Blackcomb.
Snowboarding fun at Whistler Blackcomb.
Image © by Toshi Kawano/www.insight-photography.com

To emulate Olympic ski champs Hermann Maier and Kerrin Lee-Gartner, make the two-hour drive to Whistler, which will host Alpine events in 2010. Savor the spectacular view of Howe Sound as you zoom along the massively upgraded Sea-to-Sky Highway to North America’s top-ranked ski resort (www.whistlerblackcomb.com; 1-800-766-0449).

Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain deliver close to a mile of vertical drop apiece, and with some 200 runs and 3,280 hectares (8,100 acres) of terrain, downhillers and snowboarders never run out of hills to carve. During the Canadian Alpine Championships (Feb. 6 to 12) and Alpine World Cup (Feb. 18 to 24), keep your eyes peeled for Olympic podium hopefuls such as local Super-G whiz Kelly VanderBeek, who became the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup medal last year in Lake Louise, Alberta.

More than 28 km (17 mi) of Whistler cross-country trails offer a fun, cardio-building alternative. On Blackcomb Mountain, check out the just-completed Whistler Sliding Centre, the venue for Olympic bobsled and luge races. And when you’re done for the day, trendy Whistler Village is a great place to dine (Araxi, Fifty Two 80 Bistro) and dance (Buffalo Bill’s, Garfinkel’s), or just dive into a luxurious hotel bed.

Another skier’s paradise is West Vancouver’s Cypress Mountain (www.cypressmountain.com; 604-926-5612), selected to host snowboarding and freestyle skiing in 2010. You can catch air on the Olympic halfpipe and shred moguls, or watch world-class competitors in Freestyle World Cup action (Feb. 9 to 10). Or you can always frolic on the 51 downhill runs or 20 km (12.4 mi) of Nordic trails.

Official mascots Miga, Quatchi and Sumi.
Official mascots Miga, Quatchi and Sumi.
Image © courtesy Jeff Vinnick/Kim Stallknecht/VANOC

Back downtown, those who believe shopping is an Olympic sport have reason to rejoice. At The Bay’s flagship Vancouver department store (674 Granville St.; 604-681-6211), snag Olympic-branded attire that includes trendy fleece hoodies, yoga tank tops, ball caps and golf shirts. Pin collectors can choose from more than 20 commemorative pins, and kids will love stuffed toys depicting Miga, Quatchi and Sumi, the cuddly Olympic mascots whose design echoes West Coast native legends. You can pre-shop or buy online (www.hbc.com, www.vancouver2010.com).

Jewellery junkies can indulge their passion at Birks (698 W. Hastings St.; 604-669-3333), which offers luxury earrings, necklaces and rings bearing the official Olympic Inukshuk insignia. For wine connoisseurs, the Okanagan-based Jackson-Triggs (www.jackson triggswinery.com) has created 2010-branded Chardonnay and Merlot wines. Both vintages are available at provincial and private liquor stores, and partial proceeds support the Canadian Olympic Team.

Cultural Olympiad 2008, meanwhile, aims to feed the soul. This festival (Feb. 1 to Mar. 21) spotlights talented British Columbian, Canadian and international artists in music, dance, theatre and other disciplines. The gala concert includes Canadian singer-songwriters such as Feist and Ron Sexsmith, plus the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, at the Orpheum Theatre on Feb. 12. Other highlights range from the Treasures of the Tsimshian aboriginal art collection to Ballet BC’s take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Many events are free. Again, check online for details (www.vancouver2010.com).

Unquestionably, 2010 will be the perfect time for Olympians to shine. But for visitors to Vancouver and Whistler, there’s no time like the present.

The countdown clock sits outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.
The countdown clock sits outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Image © by kk law

DID YOU KNOW?
• On July 2, 2003, Vancouver beat Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Salzburg, Austria, for the right to host the 2010 Winter Games.

• With a population of 2.1 million, Vancouver is the largest city ever to host the Winter Games.

• Whistler’s Ross Rebagliati won the first-ever Olympic snowboarding gold medal at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

• Nancy Greene, who promoted Vancouver’s 2010 bid and skied to Olympic gold in 1968, was named Canada’s Female Athlete of the 20th Century in 1999.

• Canada won its first gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at the 2002 Winter Games, and Vancouver’s Joe Sakic was named tournament MVP.

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